Topic: Tauranga’s Public Art Issues

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It was great to see a turnout of over 100 persons at the public art forum held on the evening of Tuesday 14th May at the Tauranga Art Gallery to discuss Tauranga's public art issues. Story by Pete Morris. The reason for calling this forum is the need to formulate a Tauranga City public art policy to decide what art we residents should be living with and what public art best represents our city to others.

Looking wrong? Archived version here.

Public art often tells the story of the city, but often pieces are commissioned solely because they bring joy and add to the richness of our lives. The iconic kinetic sculpture we know as the 'Bucket Fountain' in Wellington's Cuba Mall is a good example of this.

The atrium of the gallery was filled to capacity by a diverse representation of people including Tauranga's art community, Tauranga City Council and other interested parties.

The evening was well structured and began with a very informative address by University of Auckland Associate Professor Linda Tyler, who has a background in art and in matters concerning public art.

'Three Whales' - sculpture by Peter Cramond outside the Papamoa Library.

Following this it was most interesting to listen to the views of other invited speakers amongst whom were Creative Tauranga's Grant Sowter, Councillor Terry Molloy and Mary Stewart from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.

The open discussion and questions that followed were both encouraging and illuminating.

I was most impressed by the fortitude of Erin Plummer, who spoke at the forum.

My impression after the meeting was that we have a group of councillors headed by Terry Molloy, who are genuinely interested in this issue and are keen to engage after seeking guidance from the art community.

Some members of the art community let it be known that the council should be showing leadership and should have been more proactive in formulating policy as part of the city planning they have responsibility for.

After listening to some of the strongly voiced the opinions offered by those members I sensed a prickly combative tone, probably born of historic issues, that didn't seem particularly helpful given the circumstances and the need to move forward.

If the politicians are paying lip service to this issue it will become apparent very quickly.

It seems to me that the way ahead is to form a focus group consisting of Councillor Terry Molloy and interested councillors and a group representing the community to work on putting a public art policy together based on the experience and work of Associate Professor Linda Tyler.

With the wonders of modern communication it might be an idea to ask for her guidance during the process.

The Community group could comprise someone with an art background, someone with a knowledge of procedural matters, someone representing local Iwi, an artist who doesn't seek public commissions, and importantly someone representing the young people who will lead the city in the years to come.

'Graffiti Writing' - street art by Ras.1. - Tauranga Harbour Bridge.

Oh the chin wagging and huddled debate that would result over the composition of such a group representing the art community!

It would be good to have new faces and not what could be described as members of our 'art establishment' (good folks who have a long list of busy commitments already) on that focus group.

With a constructive partnership and the will to work together anyone interested in this issue would be keen to see a workable process regarding applications and decisions regarding Tauranga's public art put in place.

Many cities have done this already and there is agreement that a policy and process is long overdue in Tauranga.

This would ensure that quality public art is what Tauranga City is known for and that more public art becomes something for all to enjoy.

To find out a little more about public art visit , and google Reuben Woods art.


There was considerable public debate when the first painting of Owen Dippie's 'Renaissance Project' was stopped by opponents of the artwork and Iwi. At the time I did wonder how iwi felt about the popular and very expensive Hairy McLary project soon to be gracing our waterfront.

Anne Pankhurst and others involved in the 'Renaissance Project' must know that until a public art policy is put in place that project has been effectively put on hold.

Council will regard the project as 'too hot to handle' and will have a safe 'fall back' position until such a policy is in place.

In street art parlance Tauranga's Owen Dippie is a 'character' painter. His talent has to do with the scale of his works executed without the aid of 'gridding' or projection. Like many artists he often works from photographs. Owen is probably New Zealand's top artist in this particular style of street art.

When we consider all the styles of street art artists BMD from Wellington take street art in an entirely different creative direction. The work of these two young artists can be found at

The position of Owen's well known C.F.Goldie painting opposite the Tauranga Art Gallery has focussed much needed attention on public art and has certainly caused plenty of excitement amongst some of those we employ at our gallery.

The painting may well have done more to introduce young people to the work of Charles Goldie than the gallery ever has.

Unfortunately many young people between the ages of 15 - 25 are completely disengaged with their public gallery at the present time.

Maybe the gallery could offer an exhibition showing the many different types of street art to draw this demographic in.

by Pete Morris (2013).

Pete Morris is an occasional painter and an art lover. He is a freelance writer with a particular interest in promoting the visual arts in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty.


This page archived at Perma CC in November of 2016:

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Tauranga’s Public Art Issues