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Tauranga School Kids Helping Create Giant Rope Artwork About Marine Science

This week (10–14 May), daily workshops are happening for 450 local school students from seven Tauranga schools, where they will use art to learn about the relationship between our marine environments and the risks of environmental and climate changes.

The students will be looking at the tides and seafood (kai moana) species in the sea (moana) near Tauranga and historical land reclamation. The children will use rope to ‘draw’ what they learned.

Each rope drawing will then be added to The Unseen – a giant community artwork made from rope. The artwork will be unveiled at Tauranga Art Gallery on Saturday 22 May, with a free public talk at 11am. The speakers will be artist-researcher Gabby O’Connor, who led the creation of this collaborative artwork as part of her PhD research, and Associate Professor Karen Fisher, Gabby’s PhD supervisor and a research theme leader at the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge.

Gabby 's research has shown The Unseen successfully uses art to communicate the relationship between our marine environments and the risks of environmental and climate changes.

Since 2017, Gabby has hosted workshops with more than 2,000 school students and 200 community members around New Zealand.

The Unseen is an art-science collaboration that allows people and communities to participate directly in making art and accessing scientists and scientific research,” says Gabby. Her PhD supervisor Associate Professor Karen Fisher (Sustainable Seas Challenge/University of Auckland) agrees. “The Unseen helps to build trust and connect people with the science in a way that is meaningful to them. It is especially compelling when it’s relevant to their local area.”

The Unseen grows with every workshop. This latest iteration of the artwork – incorporating the latest rope drawings created by Tauranga school kids – will be exhibited at the Tauranga Art Gallery from 22 May until 14 September.

“When you see this massive intricate artwork and you know that you’ve been part of that – you are a little piece in the puzzle. That helps you relate to your place in the world and how you engage with your local marine environment and the wider ecosystem,” says Karen.

More than 700 workshop participants have provided feedback so far and 96% of respondents mention the science concepts. “This is astounding from a research perspective. Having such a high percentage shows us art is an impressive medium for growing community engagement with our marine environment and the science that supports it,” says Gabby.

Gabby is now taking this growing collaboration on a final exhibition tour around New Zealand. It was exhibited in Wellington earlier this year.

Local schools involved in next week’s workshops:

Students from Otumoetai Intermediate, Matua School, Omanu School, Pillans Point School and Ohope School will attend workshops held at Tauranga Art Gallery. Two workshops will be held at Bethlehem and Aquinas College with Associate Professor Kura Paul-Burke (Sustainable Seas project leader/University of Waikato).

The Unseen (Tauranga):

  • Public talk: 11am, Saturday 22 May, Tauranga Art Gallery
  • Date: 22 May – 14 September 2021
  • Time: 10am – 4pm daily
  • Location: Tauranga Art Gallery, 108 Willow Street, Tauranga

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