A challenge is put to council

HIGH HOPES: Oi You! organiser George Shaw wants Nelson City Council to get behind his popular street art exhibition.
HIGH HOPES: Oi You! organiser George Shaw wants Nelson City Council to get behind his popular street art exhibition.

The man behind a hugely successful inaugural street art exhibition in Nelson says it's up to the council now to back its growth into an international event.

Another spectacular success of the Nelson Arts Festival – the Piki Mai sound and lighting installation on the Church Steps – is also seen as having potential to "put Nelson on the map" if it gets the right backing.

Oi You organiser George Shaw said his urban art exhibition attracted about $15,000 in donations from 20,000 visitors during the month it's been staged at Founders Heritage Park.

Visitors had included representatives from other councils who had expressed an interest in hosting the exhibition in their regions, and potential sponsors, he said.

"We've proven we've got something that's a world class event here in Nelson. Our dream would be to have an annual event. The wheels are whirring in my tiny little mind of what I want to do next year in here."

However, there needed to be a partnership formed with the Nelson City Council for that to happen, he said.

"It comes down to cold hard cash. In my mind it needs a commitment from council that covers the cost of everything it needs to manage putting something like this on."

Mr Shaw said he "didn't have a clue" how much that might be, nor does he have plans to initiate talks with the council. "I think really the ball's in their court. We've put it out there. It would be nice if the council could come and be proactive like councils are in other parts of the country."

Mr Shaw said people came to Nelson especially to see the exhibition from as far afield as Australia, and one man from Christchurch who did a return visit to Nelson to see it for a second time because once wasn't enough.

"The highlight for us has been the feedback – the way it's been received. We have a couple of people almost in tears saying, `thank you for putting it on'. It's been so humbling." Nelson City Council festival director Sophie Kelly said Mr Shaw's exhibition had been a "coup" for the festival and Piki Mai had exceeded all expectations.

The end of Trafalgar St had to be closed to cater for the thousands of people who came to view the show each night.

"In terms of community engagement, I think we really cracked it on that one." It attracted people who never usually attended festival events, she said.

The show was only made possible with $50,000 funding from a government fund associated with the Rugby World Cup, coupled with a further $40,000 from the Nelson City Council. There was no chance that it could be repeated at future festivals based on the budget they operated on at the moment, she said. "Hiring the projector alone costs $35,000."

But Ms Kelly said it would "be wonderful" if it could be built upon in future.

The Nelson Mail