This isn’t a couple of cute billboard-type pieces put up in obvious places. This is a thing.
There is even a map which shows where the major outdoor artworks in this city are located. That outdoor art even requires a map gives you a sense of the scale of the city’s street art.
After a string of earthquakes that decimated the central city in 2010–11, that centre needed cheering up. A rebuild is years in the planning: how do you gladden hearts, and fast? With art. People needed cheering up and art is good for the heart and, well, will you look at that.
Picasso said every child is an artist (he would, wouldn’t he) and hey, we all get crayons at kindy, but could you execute some of what’s on display?
Some consider ‘street art’ to be a euphemism for tagging or graffiti-based creations and, as you’d expect in any major city, Christchurch has its fair share of that. But the best of its outside art – and some of it is spectacular – is serious, considered work executed to a high and exacting standard.
Official, sanctioned initiatives such as the RISE festival and projects such as From the Ground Up have helped ignite the idea. Its achievement is manifold. Slabs of broken wall and decaying grey concrete have received a drench of colour. Much of the art is, as you’d expect, centred around the ‘rebuild Christchurch’ theme, expressing hope, solidarity, empathy.
There’s plenty of humour, too, some expressed in typography, some of it visual and obvious. A Victorian woman in a gilt frame is astounding. The Maori girl with the silver fern in her hair on Worcester St: arresting. Stencilled, sprayed and painted, it’s all something to behold.
With the addition of street sculpture to the mix, the best way to see it is to take a tour, take it in and marvel at the resilience of the human spirit.