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  • Helen English Artist

Art in surprising places

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

After looking at the prominence of one of the sculptures in my city centre last week, I was talking to a couple of the community about the artwork which they notice as they walk around. They asked if I had seen the painted power boxes around the streets and said how much they love the designs on them. My answer was, “Oh, I’m so glad that you feel like that!” You see, I was involved in that project as the organizer and administrator alongside the Community Arts Advisor. It was a true community project, in that a call was made for artists.



It's a fantastic thing, if you look into it, that if you enjoy creating then your local council will probably be pleased to hear from you. They mostly have a database of artists, which you can register yourself on.


When a job is advertised, the artists on the database should receive the details fo the project which is up for grabs. Local newspapers will often have a notice of new projects or other members of the community might tell you. Interested parties are able to follow the guidelines and enter one or more designs into the pool. The designs for the power boxes were put together as anonymous entries, which eight people representing a variety of community entities, such as art institutes, youth, Maori, etc, voted on. The top 32 designs (yes, 32!!!) from over 20 different artists were selected and the applicants were given instructions, inductions, materials and overalls, in order that they could undertake the task to the best of their individual ability. It was a lot of fun to be involved in. I enjoyed meeting local artists, who came form all walks of life so much that it started my own thought processes about Masters research, which I completed over the following year.


As to the power boxes, three and a half years later and the designs are still making an impact on passers by. Unison, the power company who the boxes belong to, say that the power boxes will end up getting replaced as they become worn or the power box is upgraded to a different design. That being said, the man in charge of letting me know which ones were able to be painted had purposefully chosen locations where the power boxes were probably going to stay the longest and even replaced one which didn't have long to go so that its design would live out on the street for longer. That was quite a thoughtful gesture.


I really enjoyed being a part of that project and, following the conversation on Friday, went back and revisited some of the power box artworks around the place. They are each so different, vibrant and impactful. It’s a fantastic day when so many people are able to put their official stamp on the world that they live in.

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