Covering concrete with imaginative works of street art

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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The bare concrete walls of Huatoki Plaza will morph into works of art this weekend under the spraycans of artists from across the country.

Get Up is New Plymouth's first urban street art festival and will be attended by 30 artists whose objective is to beautify the city's urban culture and promote street art.

Organiser Cam Shennan was buzzing yesterday as the first splashes of colour began to appear around the plaza.

"I'm well chuffed," he said.

Shennan was inspired to bring the festival to New Plymouth by Up Fest in his hometown Bristol, UK, which showcases the work of 250 street artists and draws about 20,000 visitors.

New Plymouth District Council got behind the idea and Shennan and partner Jade Miller had 2 months to organise the festival.

"It's been mental."

He said the artworks would do wonders for the Huatoki Plaza which was a space with huge potential.

"The number of times I've come in here and there's no one sitting here.

"These are beautiful pieces of concrete, you've got to cover them with something beautiful."

He said the council told him they would remove the artworks after the festival if they did not like them.

"I said ‘trust me, you'll like it'."

Mr Shennan said Taranaki already had a vibrant arts scene and the input to the festival by local artists confirmed that.

Despite some negative perceptions about it, street art was accessible to everyone, he said. "That's what I love about it, it doesn't matter if you're 6 or 96, everyone can enjoy it."

Prominent local artist Peter Lambert was decorating the wall outside Espresso cafe with stencils and spraypaint. He did his first street art in 1980, an illicit work called The Dancing Bottoms on the side of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. "It was at 1am and we even had a lookout. Luckily the director at the time, Dick Bett, liked it so he didn't sue us."

Painting next to the Huatoki Stream were husband and wife Charles and Janine Williams from Auckland.

Mr Williams said Banksy had helped popularise street art and made things easier for artists.

His artwork was a way of identifying with his Maori roots, which he did by painting native birds. "It's the meanest singer," he said of his partially-finished tui. "And also it's a honey eating bird. For me it sings promises, it sings hope. Releasing that is what I try to do."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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