The overarching vision for the Kawatiri Coastal Trail has been to link and engage communities and catalyse economic, social and cultural opportunities in the Buller District. Support for the project has been strong from its inception, and this is evident from the ever growing number of contributors.
Work to date could not have been undertaken without the dedication and commitment of many volunteers, young and old. To bolster funding received for full construction of the Trail, Sponsorship was sought to enhance the Underpass on the Pūwaha Section.
Sponsorship contributions were received from ESL – Electro Services Ltd, Valspar Paint NZ, Martin’s Mitre 10 Westport, and Buller District Council Creative NZ Community Fund for the painting of a mural on the Underpass walls.
Part of the funding brought street artist Claire Rye to Westport to run workshops and painting sessions in late 2020. One workshop saw 40 children and local artists Karyn Roberts, Lance Kerr, Ruth Vaega, Lisa Halsall and Anita Halsall-Quinlan working on designs and themes.
Claire finalised the concepts, design layout, and sketched the site, and was then joined by some of the artists and youth as painting commenced. Iwi were also involved, with Mahana Coulston and Caleb Robinson from Ngāti Waewae offering advice as to how the Kowhaiwhai patterns of Ngāti Waewae and Ngāti Apa could be used in the project.
Where are you from and what is your creative background?
I am a British born community artist and a Creative Arts Therapy Masters student at Whitecliffe College. I graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fine Arts from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001. I have since created in a multitude of community settings in England and Aotearoa-New Zealand and was given the opportunity to run art workshops in France and Finland too. I have exhibited my artwork in art shows in the UK, New York, Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand.
What is your creative process for community engagement projects?
My approach to community mural making is highly collaborative. I value creative process and community connection as primary parts of the project. I focus on building connections with the artists I co-create with, whatever their experience level may be.
How does the collaborative aspect work?
I aim to let everyone’s creative voice be seen within the final mural. I do add extra details, and often find myself outlining or tidying up lines at the end, so that the mural can look its best. The final murals can look eclectic. I also see vibrancy, creative inspiration and empowerment in them. Through rigorous co-designing, we are able to weave many voices together into one cohesive design, which is then painted by the group or community.
How did you find working with the children and youth of Westport?
It was lovely to see tamariki of 3 and 4 years old painting alongside high school students, local whānau, professional artists, community workers and senior citizens. We experienced the full spectrum of West Coast weather in the week we had to paint the tunnel.
You travelled a long way to join us. What memory will stay with you most?
It was a pleasure and privilege to meet so many people from the Kawatiri community and wonderful to facilitate the painting process. The community is warm and friendly and made me feel very welcome. I really appreciate the hospitality shown to me by everyone I met. Thanks for having me! Ka kite anō!
Video Produced By: Claire Rye
Additional thanks are extended to Buller District Council’s Community Led Revitalisation Fund which contributed towards spray paints and travel expenses. The youth of the Kawaitiri including Buller REAP, Steven Woodcock and his team for preparation on the underpass. Keron Gold and Craig Neill for attending to equipment undercoats and seals. Local painter and decorator, Terrence Amies kindly donated his time to provide a sealant coat to the Underpass. Harakeke Homestay and Trudy and Carl Harrington for hosting Claire Rye. Also Mahana Coulston and Caleb Robinson from Ngāti Waewae and Ngāti Apa Ki Te Rā Tō for their contribution. Buller High School, Westport North School, Granity School, St Canices School and Westport South Schools were also involved with the painting.