Arts festival returns to Mauao streets

Eighteen large scale murals were left in the Streets of Downtown Mount Maunganui as a result of the first festival in 2015. Photos: Tracy Hardy.

An iconic street festival boasting a successful youth mentoring program, art exhibitions and auctions and the lasting impressions of magnificent murals is returning to Mount Maunganui to do it all again.

Street Prints Mauao first came onto the scene back in December 2015 as Tauranga's first Street Art Festival.

Eighteen large scale murals were left in the Streets of Downtown Mount Maunganui as a result and the response has been overwhelming.

Jah and Lovie Smith, organisers of the event, say the inspiration came from their experiences in travelling the world to different street art festivals.

“My wife and I sell art on behalf of artists,” says Jah. “We used to travel around the world to different street festivals and a lot of the cities we visited had a lot of vibe about their art and would use the festivals to liven up their cities.

“I'm from here and I thought it would be nice to do the same thing in a town which already has quite a nice beachy vibe, but one which we could also add something else that's different to, through art.”

This year marks its second festival, says Jah.

“Because of the success of last year's festival we wanted to run it all again.

“At first the Mount Mainstreet business community were a little against us doing it, but this time they're right behind it because they can see how effective it can be

“Same with the community as a whole, they felt the need to protect businesses but now they're so supportive and can see the benefit.”

Murals currently on display in downtown Mount Maunganui are set to double, with 34 in total expected to be painted by seventeen street artists and one sculptor from around the globe including Spain, Ireland, Canada, New York and Australia.

Artists will be painting based on the themes of the Maori proverb:

‘He aha te mea nui o te ao / What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata / It's the people, it's the people, it's the people.'

“Street Prints is all about us making creative footsteps in the street, which we call street prints, and collaborating with organisations at locations throughout the country.

“This year's whakatauki is all about reminding us just how important the people are, and while it has a lot of meaning it is also quite broad in that it's open to interpretation.

“Not all of the artists will be painting people, an artist might be painting something to do with the environment which in turn then means if we don't look after the environment we aren't looking after our people; if it dies, so do we.

“Similarly we have an artist who travels around the world painting murals about ocean awareness and how things like pollution affect the people.”

The event also has a core focus on youth engagement and development, he says.

“Each artist will also have a youth with them during their painting time, which gives them an opportunity to assist with the painting and learn some new techniques or skills.

“Most of these youth will be interested in the arts in some sort of way whether it's music or art itself.

“Most are either finishing high school or have had two years off, they're doing nothing and they're not sure what they want to do with their life so this can help to give direction in their life.

“That's a big part of why we do this, not only does the event create beautiful murals which stay up for a long time, but it's also helping these groups of youth.”

In the event's first year young artist, Phoebe Robinson, now known by her artist name Jeremiah, was one of many within the program, and was mentored by Sean Yoro (Hula).

“This year she's actually part of the line-up. We've got artists from Canada, Ireland, and Madrid, and then we have Jeremiah as one of our local artists who is up alongside New Zealand's best street artists.

“We've been working with Jeremiah over the last two years and she's painted five street murals in that time, with this festival being her sixth.”

Alongside Jeremiah he says they've also had one youth in the program go on to study at Toi Ohomai and another who is studying to become a doctor.

“It's not always art careers these youth take up, but it helps them creatively to work out what they want to do.”

The street print festival begins with a powhiri on Mauao Thursday morning, which is being run with the help of Ngai te Rangi. Painting is set to commence directly after.

Artists will have all of Thursday, Friday and Saturday to paint, with Sunday too if needed and Monday will include a day of workshops and with an artist talk later in the night.

During this time an exhibition will also be running at Totara St, says Jah.

“All of the artwork in this exhibition is art that's been bought from overseas artists and Jeremiah will also be selling a piece in it.”

He says while it's quite a compact event, fragments of it are expected to run through until summer.

“There's stories about every mural so there will be tours starting on Sunday, and that will go through to summer.”

Following the festival, local street artist Mr G will be accommodating the artists at Motiti Island.

“After all the painting and mahi they will get to enjoy a day off to enjoy the full Maori experience of things like a hangi, staying at a marae and diving.”

After this, he says the team immediately kicks off another event in Christchurch.

“It's called Street Prints Otautahi and it's being run in collaboration with the Christchurch YMCA.

“They've done street festivals before they've collaborated with other organisations, seen what we do and have asked us to come down there and do what we do up here, down there.”

He says a potential event is also in the pipelines for Whangarei, an area which he believes his youth mentorship program will be of benefit.

“Our whole kaupapa is trying to build something that will leave a legacy, connecting with people and getting support from communities.

“With our Mauao event, we have restaurants which are supplying artists with food, local brands like Lower and RPM who is giving them gear and making sure they're having a good time, Resene is supplying paint and we have huge support from TECT and Powerco who have completely funded it.

“Without this support and money we wouldn't be able to host this event at all and we hope to build on those relationships and show them what we can do not only here but around the country.”

Street Prints Mauao is running in Mount Maunganui, December 14-18 and is free to the community.

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