Public art – who said those words?


If the length of time Creative Tauranga has needed to finalise community funding for the outstanding Hairy Maclary and Friends Waterfront Sculpture Project (honouring the internationally acclaimed and loved work of Tauranga children’s author Dame Lynley Dodd) is any indication of our Tauranga community’s wish for public art we don’t have a dog’s show. Ironically at the recent Business @the Library I heard Dave Burnett CEO of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce acknowledge that people thinking of venturing to Tauranga are looking for an enriched environment.

The Tauranga City Council has facilitated public meetings to discuss public art – one was on the 29th of October 2014 in the Council Chambers, Downtown Tauranga, at 5.30pm. So interested in this issue am I that I sent one of the ARTbop writers along on the 17th. Writer and organising editor of ARTbop alternative (hitting you all in February 2015) Dhaivat Mehta went along on the 22nd October to the meeting in Mount Maunganui/Papamoa. What happened – Dhaivat clarified that the workshops are about public art on council land; not public art.

I hoped those opposed to territorial authority funding of art galleries and museums don’t use this as another excuse to confine local councils to funding sewage schemes and reducing the garden and street maintenance costs.

Recent there was an afternoon of radio talkback about “graffiti” and “tagging” two distinct things. A Christchurch resident rang in to tell us about Project Legit – council funded and organised public street art (graffiti). And what do I see happened in Taupo over Labour Weekend Graffiato, Taupo – a street art festival.

I look forward to hearing what you all decide! What a pity the public meeting clashed with the Breast Cancer Trust art auction at The Cargo Shed.

PS After the excellently presented Breast Cancer Trust auction at The Cargo Shed I “snuck” into the closing half hour or so of the Tauranga City Council’s public art workshop.

Although a couple of people had apparently left earlier, I was dismayed to see so few people taking this opportunity to liaise with the Tauranga City Council. While I appreciate that a draft policy will be put out for public consultation in early 2015 it was still very interesting to see who attended. Was this the result of lack of interest or a lack of awareness the workshops were taking place? I’ll leave that to the Council to clarify.

In the time that I was there I thought it was a very professionally facilitated workshop which enabled everyone present to speak – and that doesn’t always happen. For me it was interesting to hear the differing views on a potential structure and decision-making body and the repeated references to perceived successful public arts policies in other New Zealand towns. Irrespective of what is formally established my expressed view was that there should be ongoing community consultation about proposals. This is easily able to be done online on an ongoing basis. This doesn’t mean “the community” decides the fate of each piece and proposal but it allows the community to be involved in the public art process and therefore be more engaged in the wider arts community. It also affords any decision-making body an indication of public support and opinion for individual projects. As I said in the workshop; I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving decisions about public art exclusively to perceived art experts.

Who finally decides – well it seems to me that unless an independent public arts trust is established, to select, fund and maintain public art with a licence to occupy public land – it’s the elected territorial authority that will ultimately be accountable to “the public”. If another charitable trust is created there should be absolute transparency about who are the trustees, how they can be independently contacted, the trust’s funding and its ongoing operation. Trustees should be regularly rotated out after say a three-year period (so there are new and experienced trustees at all times) and I agree with the suggestion that all trustees should be nominated and seconded and nominations publically advertised prior to appointment (or election). Sounds like another little quango bursting forth.

My overarching opinion about public art is the same as my opinion about art and creativity. I believe that apart from enriching our personal lives and increasing social engagement it has a financial and commercial element: it’s a business; it’s tourism; it’s employment; it’s money into the community.

Rosemary Balu

ARTbop’s Rosemary Balu reviewed Lou Chamberlain’s book, Street Art Melbourne in Enviro & Political Art, April 2014. There’s a link to the Melbourne City Street Art Tour at the end of that review. You might also like to take a look at The Guardian (UK) Australian Culture Blog, James Norman 16 May 2014, Then and Now; the evolving story of Melbourne’s Street Art and Cave Paintings in Indonesia suggest art came out of Africa. Ian Semple, Science Editor, The Guardian Wednesday 08 October 2014 – the inherent human desire to express themselves through art.


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