Harvesting red-zone letterboxes for art

20:54, Oct 20 2013
Shane Waller and Evan Smith
HEAVY LIFTING: Shane Waller and Evan Smith harvesting red zoned letterboxes.

Armed with a spade, a crowbar, a screwdriver and a trailer, two Christchurch men are "harvesting" letterboxes from red-zoned houses before they are due for demolition.

The letterboxes are becoming a hotly contested resource as several local artists want to use thousands of them to build sculptures, a graveyard, a commemorative wall, and a mobile cathedral.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) received several requests to collect letterboxes in the red zone and gave permission to collect them to the Avon-Otakaro Network, a group of Christchurch residents and organisations dedicated to creating a reserve and river park in the Avon River residential red zone.

Other artists were told to work with the network.

Network co-chairman Evan Smith said each letterbox was telling the story of a lost home. He wanted to rescue them to tell these stories in the shape of about 10 sculptures on the lower Avon River.

Former residents of the land who lost their homes after the Canterbury 2011 earthquake would help artist Malcolm Waller design the sculptures.

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Waller has an even bigger project in mind - he wants to design a mobile cathedral made from the letterboxes. This ambitious project will require about 5000 letterboxes.

Waller and Smith, sometimes with volunteers from the community, are still at the harvesting stage. It takes time as letterboxes have to remain on the property until the house gets demolished for contractors to find the right address.

The pair are particularly interested in quirky letterboxes with special meaning for their owners.

So far they have taken about 200 letterboxes and are already running out of storage space in their backyard. They are looking for volunteer letterbox harvesters, and a garage or warehouse space to store the boxes.

The Press