Plaza set for arty makeover

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014
Jade Miller
ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX NZ
PAINT THE SPACE: New Plymouth woman Jade Miller is one of the event organisers of Get Up, an urban street art festival, set to hit the Huatoki Plaza next month.

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The often-criticised Huatoki Plaza is about to get an arty makeover.

The $3 million plaza opened in early 2009 and ever since has stirred controversy among city residents.

It has borne insults like "concrete jungle" a "concrete wasteland" or an "unfinished concrete mistake."

While the New Plymouth District Council has said the plaza is finished from its point of view, a group of street artists are about to colour up the walls of the under-used asset.

Get Up, a newly-established urban street art festival will feature 31 artists from across New Zealand painting up the plaza from March 7 to 9.

They have been given the go ahead to take over 44 "urban canvases" in and around the plazabut asked not to paint on the yellow canopy, or the wall of the privately owned King's Building.

Get Up is funded by private sponsors and will not cost the council a cent.

Event organiser Jade Miller, 34, said artists involved included well known Taranaki painter Peter Lambert and New Plymouth street artist Damin Radford Scott, known as Milarky.

Bay of Plenty artist Owen Dippie will paint over the collaboration work between artist Mikaere Gardiner (Eno) and Austrian artist Knarf that is currently on the Colliers building.

"That's the way with street art. Sometimes you are lucky if something stays up for three months." Ms Miller was hoping the festival would draw crowds to the plaza, and said the temporary walls would stay up until after Womad.

New Plymouth City Retail Group spokesman Bill Roy from Dalgleish Jewellers said the plaza had been totally under-utilised since it opened in 2009.

"It certainly needs more life in it," he said.

The Get Up festival would help to get more foot traffic into the heart of the central business district, which all retailers would appreciate, he said.

"If the council allowed this sort of thing to happen more then the plaza could be used for events both during the day and the evenings, and that would be great.

"We need to bring more people into town," he said.

Mark Bruhn of the New Plymouth District Council said the council was supporting the Get Up festival, which was likely to become an annual event.

He said on average three events were in the plaza every week, including markets.

The council would still like to see retail stores open up onto the plaza, but that was a decision they needed to make, he said.

Mr Bruhn said there was no money budgeted to be spent on the plaza in the next 10 years, except for routine maintenance.

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