Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Oriental Parade about to Become Virtual Aquarium

Wellington City Council’s Community Arts Programme has Partnered with the Department of Conservation to Commission an Exciting New Mural Project

Wellington City Council's Community Arts Office continues its creative partnership with the Department of Conservation’s Wellington Conservancy, and the result will add a dynamic new mural to the Oriental Bay Beach experience.

The project, entitled “Oriental Bay Seascape”, has been designed to reflect our harbour and coastal marine habitats, local conservation issues, and Wellington’s distinct sense of place. It will be unveiled in June, and celebrated as part of the August 2004 Conservation Week programmes.

“The Council is keen to see more creative partnerships like this seascape mural”, said Mayor Kerry Prendergast, “because projects like this one begin with a creative premise, build innovative relationships, and then encourage the community to interact and share in the results”.

The Oriental Bay Seascape Mural involves creating the major scene along the entire surface of the wall, and then commissioning several artists to design illustrations of marine life and plants. These are produced on plywood cut-outs which can be bolted in place. Over time, additional fishes, invertebrates, and seaweed cut-outs can be added to the seascape, allowing for a dynamic and ever-changing underwater scene.

“Instead of just commissioning a static and purely artistic mural, we decided to design this project to first educate the community about marine ecology, then involve a good number of artists, and finally be able to change its appearance every so often”, said Eric Holowacz, Community Arts Coordinator for Wellington City Council. “One term we the mural might feature cut-out illustrations of divers and crayfish and kahawai, and the next term it might be populated with dolphins and seals”.

Local painter Ellen Coup has been commissioned to design a 70-metre long underwater scene for the curved retaining wall, and she plans to begin painting in early May.

“I’m so excited by this project, and how it combines art, science, and community”, she said. “It’s the best kind of public art that engages the viewer, tells them something new or interesting, or makes them think about the world. I hope this mural will do all three”.

Four additional artists have been engaged to create the first set of illustrations, which will feature everything from molluscs and sharks to kelp and crayfish. A unique and intentional feature of the Oriental Bay Seascape project is the interaction between the creative and scientific worlds. Each of the participating artists will meet regularly and with marine science experts and ecologists from the local Department of Conservation’s Wellington Conservancy. This consultation, during preliminary and production stages of the mural, will ensure that

“I’m looking forward to learning much more about what’s under our harbour”, said Coup, adding that it is hard to really know what marine seascapes actually look like. “For a lot of us on land, the marine environment is a supreme mystery, and maybe the Oriental Bay mural will make it a little easier to comprehend”.

To ensure a strong science and education foundation for the project, Holowacz depended on the Department of Conservation and Community Relations Programme Manager Dairne Poole.

“We’ve been working together and planning this project for several months”, said Poole, “and over a half dozen scientists and staff have been involved in the process”.

When completed, the mural will beautify the new Oriental Bay Beach footpath and liven up the pedestrian experience. More importantly, it will provide an educational opportunity to learn about paua, kelp, barracuda, jellyfish and the abundance of life below the waterline.

“As a dynamic and changing seascape, the mural will allow us to focus on important and timely conservation issues affecting our community”, said Poole, “And it will become a new facet of Sea Week, Conservation Week, and other outreach events.

The Oriental Bay Seascape Mural will be unveiled in June, in advance of Conservation Week 2004. Anyone interested in learning more about the project should contact Eric Holowacz, Community Arts Coordinator at Wellington City Council, on 385-1929.

To find out about Conservation Week 2004, and other community programmes, contact Dairne Poole, Programme Manager at the Department of Conservation, on 472-5821.