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Civic street art celebrates Olympic BMX rider Caroline Buchanan

Caroline Buchanan crouches in front of a group of Erindale College students, and street artist Bohie kneels to her right. Art supplies litter the foreground.
Artistic Erindale College students are all smiles at the end of a week collaborating with Bohie and Caroline Buchanan.

Today, Friday 5 March, the final brushstrokes dried on a mural that aims to ensure Canberran pedestrians will be inspired by Olympic BMX rider Caroline Buchanan’s homegrown talent and tenacity well into the future.

One of Canberra’s most successful BMX riders, Caroline Buchanan has spent the past year training hard to qualify for her third Olympics, in Tokyo, which would be her last.

The 30-year-old’s home track is at the Tuggeranong Vikings BMX Club, and it was there she found her love for the sport, before going on to win eight BMX and mountain bike world championships.

The colourful mural at the mouth of Tocumwal Lane, Civic, says ‘Choose to Challenge’, which is one of the themes of International Women’s Day 2021.

Buchanan said the phrase held a lot of meaning for her.

“I was a five-year-old girl who grew up in the sport of BMX, which used to be a boy’s sport,” she said.

“For me, I’ve really chosen that path, to be something that I couldn’t see, so for me this really resonates for that little girl who followed that dream all the way to the top to the Olympics.”

Buchanan is preparing for her “biggest challenge yet”, having regained her form and returned to the sport after more than two years recovering from an injury.

The mural was painted by students from Buchanan’s old school, Erindale College, with the guidance of local artist Bohie Palecek (known as Bohie), who came up with the bright, bold plan.

“I was definitely trying to capture Caroline’s unbelievable energy with this design,” Bohie said.

Seven college students between the ages of 16 and 18 worked with Bohie through a series of workshops this week and spent time with Buchanan to hear more about her journey.

Before picking up their brushes to make a few final touches, students Sarah, Lexx, Callum and Emily told Canberra Weekly what they will take away from the experience.

For Sarah it was about embracing individuality.

“One of the main parts I really resonated with was embrace your identity – in terms of sexuality, culture, who you really are – and what struggles really make a person who they are,” she said.

Caroline Buchanan speaks to a group of young, up and coming ACT BMX riders.
Caroline Buchanan speaks to a group of young, up and coming ACT BMX riders.

Lexx said they were inspired by collaborating with a practising street artist.

“The thing I took away most was don’t be just one thing.

“Like, rather than deciding on one path and sticking to it, you can choose to do more than what people tell you you can.”

“You can learn anything,” Callum said. “You don’t have to limit yourself.”

Emily was struck by Buchanan’s life story, and how many difficulties the famous rider has had to overcome.

“You just saw her on TV and then she didn’t feel that real until you met her,” she said.

Bohie found the project equally rewarding.

“Working with the students, talking about gender equality and talking about breaking gender stereotypes is really important to me,” she said.

Bohie, who is also a BMX rider, said she grew up in a similar world as Buchanan.  

“It’s the same as [with] street art, we didn’t have female role models to look up to.”

Her work can be found on the PCYC building in Turner, the Kambri district at the Australian National University, Narrabundah 2 Sports Pavilion and inside the University of Canberra.

The wall featuring the mural was provided by the Canberra Centre and the project was funded by the ACT Government’s street art program.

The project received additional support from YWCA Canberra.

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