Interview with Montana Lower, Murals for Change

Title slide introducing the interview with Montana LowerCan you tell us a little bit about your background/history that has led you to this point?

For sure! I actually love this question because it’s so interesting to see ALL the different ways people get to where they are, haha.

As I sit here in the Byron Bay hinterlands about to launch a nonprofit organisation and a baby almost fully brewed in my belly, I can’t help but think how differently I would have answered this question just 12 months ago.

I come from a background of civil/environmental engineering, modeling and a looong history of dabbling in the arts for expression. I’ve spent the majority of my life living in small towns - from a village in Fiji where I was raised, to North Queensland where I finished school, a quick stint in Brisbane to complete my degree - to northern rivers hinterlands where I now call home.

I began studying and working full time at 17 to support myself and explore my passions with engineering. I experienced the construction industry, environmental design, vertical and rooftop gardens and my last engineering role was working with an epic company helping to design their sustainable wash house in Cambodia - I see they were on here recently actually (Outland Denim), haha!

What I’m doing now draws from the unique principles of EVERYTHING on my journey that I was told would never go together. I’ve never wanted to ‘stay in one lane,’ and I truly believe the changes the world is calling for needs people to at least be adaptable or more open to collaborating. And that’s what I’m trying to teach with Murals for Change.

Tell us about your brand and the inspiration behind it? 

There’s no doubt about it - the world we live in today is urging for change. Throughout history, we have expected some unique person to appear and stand up against mainstream views and behaviours, to call them out and have the perseverance to see it through. The problem is, this is a hard, lonely, long road to walk and we are calling for these people to stand up now more than EVER. So I asked myself - Who is supporting them? Who is connecting them with likeminded views and showing them they’re not alone? Who is making sure they are heard?

Murals for Change is about proving these voices matter - no matter where you live, how old you are, whether you have all the answers now or not. It’s about nurturing the inner activist inside all of us so we have the confidence and support to make a meaningful impact on the world.

It's simple - we travel to communities to understand what is important to THEM at a locally relevant, but globally scalable level. Then, we use murals as a platform to showcase activist messages, and while we work on the mural together, we teach workshops and practical skills to go forward and paint the world of their dreams - WHATEVER that looks like to them. Then, we show the internet what we have done, to inspire and connect likeminded people around the world.

Montana Lower in front of her art

How does sustainability play a role in your brand development? How important has this been to consumers?

If people didn’t care - Murals for Change wouldn’t exist. I spent a long time feeling like my passion for the environment was isolated when really, it just wasn’t a common conversation. Murals for Change is about not only raising awareness, but connecting the public with likeminded people and organisations that provide ongoing support. Sustainability is at our core - from the materials we use to create the murals (non-toxic paints, sourcing from byproducts, reusing utensils, etc), to the positive mental behaviours we instill in ourselves and participants of the program to keep it going.

What are your thoughts on the future role sustainability plays both professionally in business and in our everyday lifestyle choices, in regards to the future health of our planet?

It is no longer a choice, but a necessary way of thinking. Sustainability principles need to be ingrained at the core of decision making, not an afterthought. Anything else is irresponsible.

Montana Lower creating art

How does technology and innovation play a role in your business?

Technology doesn’t really - and that’s the greatest part. It’s about getting out there and being hands on with real people. Feeling the paint drip off our hands as we work together to spread a message that has a much longer lasting impact than a post on a screen. It’s about grass roots activism and showing that anyone, from anywhere, has the power in their hands to ‘paint’ the life of their dreams. Innovation, however, is deeply engrained in every step of the way.

What does wilderness mean to you?

Freedom. Vulnerability. Rawness.

Murals for Change working with the local community in Byron Bay

Do you have a favourite item, it may be an heirloom handed down from a grandparent, friend or relative of some kind, that has great meaning to you?

When my grandfather passed away, I received his art box that he made from scratch. It’s followed me everywhere. 

If you had to choose one place to live with only the basics available to you where would it be and what would you take with you apart from the obvious survival gear?

At the start of the year, I contemplated this question very honestly and came to the conclusion that right now - the answer is nowhere. So, my growing family and I decided to convert a little bus to be our home on the road while we roll out Murals for Change across Australia next year!

Montana Lower crafting a piece for International Women's Day

Imagine that 25 years from now you are looking back on your life, what would be the legacy that you would hope for your brand to leave behind?

That empowerment is an equal right for everyone.

What message do you have for those starting their own business in regards to sustainability and innovation?

Start small. Don’t overcomplicate it. Ask for support where you need it (and you will). Mimic mother nature as much as you can - she has all of the answers already.

Do you have a quote, saying or poem you find inspirational and what is it?

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” - Albert Einstein.

I will never forget the first time I heard this quote; I use it often! It is so important to consider the unique minds that exist in our world when we teach, and too, to allow room for what they teach us. This is the beauty about art - there are no wrong answers!

What brands do you admire? 

The ones that are doing the right thing because it feels right, not just for the marketing - ha!

Group of kids engaging in Murals for Change's programming in Byron Bay

How important do you think transparency and authenticity in brands is to consumers?

To the right consumer - it means everything. It’s really easy to find what you want in terms of products and services these days.. What sets brands apart is WHERE and WHO things came from and where they’re going. For those genuinely interested in knowing these answers and providing them - this should be very easy to find.

Can you tell us something about your product/brand/personal journey that might surprise us to know?

I never learned ‘how to be an artist’, or ‘run workshops’ and definitely no one taught me how to establish a nonprofit organisation, haha! But what I do know, is that this matters. I know that I am the person this organisation is speaking to, and there are many, many people just like me. Or at least I hope so.. Ha ha!

What is your favorite animal and why?

Sloths, forever. They’re ridiculously cute and live with purpose. Even if their purpose is very, very simple. A little bit of humour and lightheartedness goes a long way in a complex, serious world.

Examples of Murals for Change's work around Byron Bay

What is one thing you would be willing to or have already given up with the health of the planet in mind?

Ohhh there are so many things.. But perhaps the biggest one was my modeling career. Of course, I dabble in it from time to time as it is a complete honour to represent brands I align with. But making the decision to stop working with brands that aren’t asking the important questions and the massive pay cut that came with it was something I had to do if I wanted to keep being honest with myself. The first step I teach in MFC workshops is ‘Connection - with the planet, each other and ourselves.’.. If we are making as many decisions as possible from this space, the rest comes naturally.

Montana is fundraising to take Murals for Change to rural communities across Australia, if you want to support the dream and bring MFC to you - head to: https://www.gofundme.com/f/muralsforchange