How the locals like it

Barb Thoms,

My relationship with Mandurah began over 40 years ago with relaxed family holidays full of crabbing and beaches. Every time we took one of these holidays we would say “one day we are going to live here.” In 2005, we did just that.

Barb Thoms

People say you should be wary of moving somewhere based on holiday experiences but in this case, the reality of our move to Mandurah far exceeded our expectations. I can’t imagine living anywhere else that offers such a sense of community, anchored by a strong arts and culture scene. The local creative community is dynamic, adding a sense of vibrancy. There is always something happening in the region.

Over time, either as an artist, or in my previous role as Art Development Officer for the City of Mandurah, I have been involved in many local art projects, programs and art festivals.  As one of the founding members of the Mandurah Plein Air Artists, I have been part of its transition from a handful of artists in 2011, to become one of the most dynamic art groups south of Perth. Rain, hail or shine we meet every Tuesday to paint outdoors, or as the French would say “en plein air”.

The group welcomes all skill levels and all mediums – the object is to paint the landscape and enjoy the company of like-minded people.  Plein air painters love to travel and paint, and with this in mind, Mandurah’s Plein Air Down Under Outdoor Painting Festival was born. 

This three-day spring festival, which showcases Mandurah’s natural and built environment to perfection, attracted over 100 artists in its first year. Another significant project I enjoyed leading was Wearable Art Mandurah. 

This quirky competition started in 2011 with eleven locals creating sculpture for the body. Last year, there were over 100 entrants and a competition prize pool of over $15,000. The theatrical spectacular known as the Wearable Art Mandurah Showcase attracts a local, national and international audience, followed by the exhibition at Contemporary Art Spaces Mandurah.

At the heart of my personal art practice sits my love of plein air painting. Spending time outdoors, being in the moment and capturing beautiful surroundings is good for the soul. It focuses the senses and allows me to connect directly with my subject. The Peel Region provides endless inspiration with its beaches, inland waterways, forests, and everything in between and although I love to travel and paint, there is no place like Mandurah.


  • Great for photography too! Creery Wetlands Mariners Cove Natural wetlands, bird-life, a marina and Nourishing the Soul Café – one of my favourites. 
  • Mandurah CBD There are so many options:  Administration Bay behind Simmos, anywhere along the eastern foreshore, around the boardwalk precinct. Spoilt for choice! 
  • The Thrombolites at Lake Clifton. Painting the thrombolites during low tide, from the elevated boardwalk, is quite an experience.

how the
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