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Opotiki Mural Project
The Story of Opotiki's Youth Art Murals:
Youth Art in Public Places Opotiki - NZ's Youth Art Capital
Opotiki is no ordinary place. It has rich history and cultural significance, with many stories to tell. Opotiki's youth are now telling these stories in vibrant murals. As one artist said, "We are decorating the town with ourselves."
A unique relationship has developed between the youth and the public of Opotiki since the arrival of the mural project beginning 2008. The beginning of this association was during the painting of the Mudslide mural in the last term of 2007, under the supervision of Shona Hammond Boys, QSM, accomplished artist, Director of the Opotiki Children's Art House and founder of the New Zealand Children's Art House Foundation. Scores of citizens and visitors stepped forward to say "Well done!" to the young artists.
Opotiki Police knew they needed to find ways to grow the self-esteem of young offenders, to help them discover that they have the ability to make positive contributions to their community. Policeman Ian Dodds turned to Blue Light, a youth organisation run by police officers. Blue Light, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development and Shona Hammond Boys, developed the Youth Art in Public Places project. Under the leadership of Ms Hammond Boys, many young artists have emerged, brightened their community in a lasting way, and developed a sense of ownership in their town. They have taken pride in themselves and their community, and have done both proud!
The sense of belonging and identification which the murals have aroused is important because the work is seen as not only productive but also as nurturing what we have here in Opotiki. This project has caused a growth and flowering of pride in young citizens, while at the same time creating a positive shift in Opotiki's perception of its youth.
Youth were surprised to discover the positives: that they can have an impact, make a lasting mark on their local community, and are themselves capable of making a positive change.
The public are becoming aware that our urban community is our collective work, reflecting what we are and how we see ourselves. As the murals proliferate they are affecting our existence here in a positive way, just as every person who plants a garden makes a gesture towards making our lives more poetic and attractive.
As the town gets dressed up, the citizens see themselves differently too; they are giving form to their desire for refinement. The exterior environment reveals how people feel about themselves. Enhancement reinforces a sense of pride and dignity of belonging to a special unique place.
As attention to the environment awakens and people begin thinking in terms of the seeing their homes and neighbourhoods and locality as belonging to them, a true transformation can take place. There is every indication that the wharf mural and the environment murals at the corner shop and kindergarten are helping everyone love their community more.
The youth stayed focused and completed walls on themes which support the benefits and pleasure of living here. The artists researched their topics, gathered books and photos, and met with community members and historians. They held lively design workshops and worked to recreate scenes which are familiar, historic and specifically local.
The Opotiki youth have drawn in and out, corrected, altered and changed many of their thoughts and efforts as they worked. Many obstacles of weather, timetabling, personality and abilities were overcome in this challenging but very rewarding project. They worked hard, in all sorts of weather. They came together joyfully in a spirit of eagerness to make a bigger picture happen. They are a huge SUCCESS!
Each mural expresses its subject matter and becomes an art work that the community can call its own. As people live and react with a mural each day it becomes iconic and part of the landscape of the town. Opotiki is very fortunate to have these wonderful young people and these exciting murals, and can boast that it is "The Youth Art Capital of New Zealand!"
Come see for yourself!
Opotiki Mural Project
Opotiki's youth are now telling their stories in vibrant murals. As one artist said, "We are decorating the town with ourselves." A unique relationship has developed between the youth and the public of Opotiki since the arrival of the mural project beginning 2008. A tour of the murals is highly recommended.