Empty buildings turned into art

04:03, Apr 14 2014
CREATIVE SPACE: Penny Taylor, left, and Jules Hunt worked on transforming an old bar into an art installation called The Magic Forest.

Empty buildings in Lower Hutt are being transformed into art projects in an effort to attract people to the CBD.

The About Space programme was launched on March 7 and three empty spaces have so far been turned into art installations. Hutt City Council's CBD development manager, Cyndi Christensen, says it will make the empty spaces more appealing.

"It enhances the area and it brings people back into the CBD," she says.

The site at 11 Dudley St – a former bar that has been empty for two years – is now a fluorescent forest, created out of UV lights by adults with disabilities from Idea Services Hutt Valley.

Idea Services is a national organisation that supports people with disabilities to develop skills, find paid jobs and become volunteers.

Dudley Arthouse team leader Jules Hunt says The Magic Forest was a collaborative project.


"About 100 people were involved and all of them have a disability."

Hunt, an artist, has her own project in Margaret St called The Village, about infanticide in New Zealand.

The installation uses light and shadow, so is best viewed at night.

"I wanted to do something that was consciousness raising," she says. "It is quite a political piece of work actually."

She built it with the proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" in mind.

Christensen says the art projects make the spaces more appealing to potential lessees, as well as injecting creativity into the area. "It has certainly happened in other cities."

She has been researching programmes similar to About Space, and attended the Creating Spaces conference in Australia last week.

"Forty per cent of the people [there] were government and council members and the rest were community groups and artists. It was a nice mix."

A similar programme, Gap Fillers, was launched in Christchurch after the September 2010 earthquake and now has about 18 projects on the go.

About Space is getting good feedback in Lower Hutt. The latest installation, by Learning Connexion art students, was launched last Tuesday.

Christensen is speaking to property owners and real estate agents about securing more sites and getting other projects under way.

"I have received interest from other art and community groups and am setting up meetings this week." 

The Dominion Post