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Unitec creative design team awarded grant to create Wairaka Public Art Trail

Unitec’s School of Creative Industries has been awarded a $10,000 Neighbourhood Arts Funding grant to develop the Wairaka Public Art Trail.

The Wairaka Public Art Trail project will follow on from the Avondale Pavillion, which is a sucessful public art project curated by Unitec lecturer Dr Bobby Hung

This is one of 13 projects funded by the Mt Albert-Eden Local Board which supports local initiatives to create opportunities for artists and communities.

The design team led by Dr Bobby Hung Dr. Rebecca Wood, Dr. Leon Tan, and Paul Woodruffe will create two pātaka (raised house) type structures made of steel and clear polycarbonate as temporary public art platforms.

The project involves the development of a temporary public art trail, and the curation of a multidisciplinary programme of site-specific exhibitions and performances along public access ways within the Wairaka site.

Once completed, these structures will present a range of objects and artworks sourced and curated by local arts practitioners within the Eden Albert area.

The area named Wairaka was formerly part of the Unitec campus and is now owned by Ministry of Housing and Development (MHUD) for the development of new housing and communities.

The aim of the project, says Dr. Woods, is to contribute to positive experiences of change and place in Wairaka, as well as to encourage community engagement with the significant heritage, cultural and environmental qualities that manifest the wairua or spirit of the site.

Unitec's Māori name —Te Whare Wānanga o Wairaka comes from the stream and its spring – Te Wai Unuroa o Wairaka (the long drink of Wairaka) that rises and flows through the campus.

As semi-permanent placemaking platforms, the pātaka-type structures will have minimal impact on the environment and visual landscape. Paul Woodruffe says a key design consideration was that they were highly resilient and low maintenance structures.

The sites of the two public art platforms will also take into consideration the distinctive histories and features of the site, and be decided in consultation with the Ngā Kaitiaki, who have been engaged over several years in the rehabilitation of Te Wai Unuroa o Wairaka and the six pā harakeke at Wairaka.

This project aims to foster breadth and depth in community experiences and understandings of place that can be facilitated through encounters with public art, says Dr Tan.

"We want to create unique opportunities for creative and interdisciplinary (e.g. art and science) practice within the Eden Albert public realm. By connecting different communities on the site, local schools and the public who access the site for transportation or recreation, the Wairaka Public Art Trail will serves as a vehicle (and model/prototype) for socially and environmentally responsive placemaking and place activation."

Dr Hung hopes the trail will be the start of a longer term project with the Unitec team developing the public art platforms, curating a programme of public activity and engagement, and developing and maintaining digital content for the mobile format website for a for six months, after which new curatorial teams can step in to ensure the continued refreshing of the public art programme.

The team plan to have the platforms completed in early 2022.