Central Leader : January 8th 2014
12 CENTRAL LEADER, JANUARY 8, 2014 www.centralleader.co.nz Public artwork – love it or hate it Installing public art around Auckland has been a haphazard affair over the years but a new council policy aims to see more cohesive and equitable distribution around the region. Reporter Danielle Street finds out more. A few months ago three large amorphous blobs appeared in themiddle of Mt Eden Village. As the knobbly brown figures nestled into their new home, passersby started to question the strange shapes. ‘‘What are they? My son thinks they are birds,’’ one woman said. They are, in fact, kumara. The brick artwork, titled Tahuri, was crafted by Peter Lange as a homage to the homely vegetable that helped Auckland become a prosperous region for Maori settlers. Whether you love it, hate it, or are just perplexed by it, the sweet potato sculptures are here to stay. And they might even grow on you, according to Linda Tyler, director of the Centre of Arts at the University of Auckland. ‘‘Sometimes the public don’t necessarily like public sculpture but people only like what they know,’’ she says. ‘‘So if you put a piece of art somewhere out of the blue, it takes everyone by surprise and people relate badly at first. But after time, if it’s good public sculpture, it becomes part of their con- sciousness and part of how they relate to that place.’’ Ms Tyler says public artworks help raise the vibrancy of a location as well as becoming symbols of where you are. ‘‘In your day they can give you a chance to stop and pause. They can cheer you up.’’ Until recently, the realis- ation of public artworks on city streets has been somewhat haphazard. But in September the Auckland Council signed off a public art policy that will see a more equitable distribution of artworks around the entire region. The policy is modelled on best international practices. Programme manager Ana Ivanovic-Tongue says the key change is that the public art team will be engaged at the initial stages of any development ventures by the council. ‘‘It means we can go in strategically and look at how we can still keep a sense of local and distinctive character in the area, but that feeds into the larger picture of the programme that has a very Auckland flavour,’’ Ms Ivanovic-Tongue says. Any council-led city transformation projects now have Homage: The giant kumara sculptures in Mt Eden Village are artist Peter Lange’s homage to the homely vegetable. The piece is named Tahuri after a legendary green-fingeredwomanwho lived on Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and had kumara gardens that stretched from the mountain to Remuera. The work was commissioned by the Maungawhau Mt Eden Community Arts Trust as a way of honouring the artist who has been working in the area since the 1970s. a guideline of spending 1 to 2 per cent of the total project cost on public art. There is also a small ‘‘bucket of money’’ for projects not covered by the guideline. The policy also opens the doors for more artists to tender their work. Whereas the council for- merly used a shortlist of artists, the new approach is to call for expressions of interest through mediums like Facebook and The Big Idea website. ‘‘The shift is that rather than imposing an artist’s vision onto the place, it is getting the artist at the table to work with the people and the place to develop the concept going forward,’’ Ms Ivanovic-Tongue says. The policy also allows alternative types of public art such as street furniture, digital installations or audiodriven pieces. Ms Tyler says the move helps usher Auckland’s public art into the 21st century. ‘‘If the work has a technological element people can spend more time exploring it rather than if it was just coloured glass or something,’’ she says. Of course, not all public art is council-funded. Mr Lange’s Tahuri was paid for by Eden Arts, a community arts trust to promote arts in the suburb. Such trusts must work Soaring steel: Kaitiaki is the work of Maori artist Fred Graham. The enormous steel hawk towering over the landscape demonstrates the sense of guardianship that the birds were traditionally known for. Hawks have figured prominently in the oral traditions of Ngati Whatua and Tainui. The sculpture is part of a series of eight artworks installed in the Auckland Domain between 2004 and 2006. The project was initiated by Sculpture 2001. with the council to smooth the process and ensure a good placement. Tahuri was commissioned not only as a nod to Mt Eden’s history but also to recognise the artist’s long service to the arts. The humble kumara may seem strange at first but you might find it starts to take root in your consciousness. Significant work: One of the country’s most significant sculptors, Greer Twiss, was commissioned to create this bronze work by the Auckland City Council in 1968 amid much controversy. The sizeable sculpture on the corner of Symonds St and Karangahape Rd was intended to capture a scene of people sitting beside smooth stones, and therefore is aptly titled Karangahape Rocks. The artwork also had a water feature, however the fountain stopped working in the 1980s and was only repaired in 2012. Surreal estate: This tiny house stands about10cmtall at the edge of Potters Park on Dominion Rd. The John Radford work is titled The Sound of Rain and was commissioned by the Albert-Eden Community Board in 2006. The minuscule structure is a commentary on what Dominion Rd used to look like. The scale was Radford’s attempt to encourage viewers to make a personal connection with the piece.
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