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Watch Out! Drive By Art Hits Streets Of Wellington

Watch out! Drive by Art hits streets of Wellington

Drive by Art - an exciting new public art programme - will be launched by Wellington City Council's Community Arts Office on 18 January.

Street banners designed and created by over two dozen local schools will be installed along Oriental Parade to help celebrate summer in Wellington and add to the community's growing public art efforts.

Participants and the general public are invited to a special preview of the Drive by Art school banners. They will be exhibited in the former BAM bookstore space in Wellington Central Library until 14 January.

"The preview should provide an opportunity for parents, young artists, and the greater community to have a close look at some wonderful new banners," said Nicole Medcalf, who oversees the Council's 450 display banner sites and schedules. "We have been working on Drive by Art, and its dozens of school partnerships, for almost six months, and the result is a visual gold mine."

The Drive by Art idea first began in June when Ms Medcalf noticed that a number of banner sites, typically on power poles and street light poles, were not being utilised. Wanting to find a creative, community-driven way to revitalise the forgotten banners, Medcalf took her idea to the Council's Community Arts Coordinator, Eric Holowacz.

Mr Holowacz was then in the midst of Artsplash, the City Council's annual festival for student creativity, youth art and performance. With more than 10,000 participants from all over the lower North Island, and a visual art exhibition of more than 1000 student works, Artsplash provided the perfect inspiration for their initiative.

"Once we finished Artsplash, and began turning our attention to Drive by Art, I knew there would be no problem involving the schools and inviting Wellington's teachers and students to make new public art," said Mr Holowacz. "There seemed to be an abundance of creative energy and talent coming from all corners of Wellington."

By September, the concept and basic premise for Drive by Art had been developed: invite Wellington's teachers and schools to dream up designs for the banner format; then provide the classrooms with paints and blank vinyl; and give them the freedom to create anything. The final step, installing these original designs as public art, will launch just in time for the Oriental Bay Mardi Gras on 18 January. The student Drive by Art banners will remain on the streets until the end of May 2004.

The designs, and the time and effort that went into them, offer ample evidence that the Wellington region is the creative heart of New Zealand and the South Pacific. Participating schools include Tawa Primary, Queen Margaret's College, Te Aro, Masterton Intermediate, Hutt Central, and over a dozen others. Many designs feature summer and beach activities, while others showcase unique things about the schools and neighbourhoods in Wellington.

Varissa Patel, Samantha Morris, and Rosie Somerville, all Year 7 students at Karori Normal School, created a banner titled City to Sea.

"Wellington is a huge contrast, hills and city and harbour, all joining up to create our unique place. We are so lucky to be living in such beautiful surroundings," said the trio of talented students, reflecting on their completed banner.

Naomi Naveh, a student at Pukerua Bay School, helped her class design a banner with images of meaningful people, places, and things. "I think Drive by Art is a fantastic idea and very creative. I like the lime green and the funny looking symbols on our banner. I also like the thought that it will be dangling right over Wellington."

Ms Medcalf and Mr Holowacz, and the Council's Recreation Wellington unit, have even bigger plans to expand Drive by Art. Local adult and professional artists are being invited to create original designs on vinyl banners to bring even more art to the city's public places. Plans are also being made to repeat the Drive by Art programme every year, giving both schools and local artists an ongoing forum for new visual ideas in Wellington.

Mr Holowacz has this to say about the success of Drive by Art: "Thanks to the unbridled creativity of Wellington's educators, young people and also the adult artists, and thanks to the blessing from our innovative City Council, we will soon be putting an entire art gallery on the streets."

Teachers and artists wishing to participate in the 2004 Drive by Art programme, or those seeking additional information, should contact Eric Holowacz on 04 385 1929 or by email at

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