Artist restores Noakes murals

Dunedin artist Jemima Pedro reflects on the exuberant public art, including these flying pigs, of the late Broad Bay artist John Noakes. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Dunedin artist Jemima Pedro reflects on the exuberant public art, including these flying pigs, of the late Broad Bay artist John Noakes. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Bus shelters painted by the late John Noakes are not only popular with Dunedin residents they are also attracting plenty of favourable comment from tourists, Dunedin artist Jemima Pedro says.

English-born Mrs Pedro has learned quite a bit about Noakes bus shelters - she has already worked on six of them, mainly restoring their murals, through a civic improvement project funded by the Keep Dunedin Beautiful Committee. Dunedin people identified closely with their neighbourhood bus shelters and those featuring murals by Mr Noakes, a former Broad Bay artist, were viewed as ''very special''.

She has recently been hard at work repainting art by Mr Noakes at a seventh shelter at Oyster Bay, near Portobello, on the Otago Peninsula.

''It's quite an honour to be able to preserve it.

''It's accessible art and I think art should be accessible.

''It's wonderful to be involved with the project.

Mr Noakes spent 15 years painting murals on 65 bus shelters around Dunedin. Mrs Pedro said his murals were often exuberant and ''fun'' and reflected a quirky sense of humour. And they gave people something to smile about -including, sometimes, a few flying pigs- as they waited for their bus.

She never met Mr Noakes but had come to ''nearly regard him as a friend''.

She had learned about him through working closely with his art, and residents who had known him also stopped to share their anecdotes.

Visiting tourists took a close interest in her restoration work and the murals.

''Lots of people stop and take photographs.''

Both locals and travellers ''hugely valued'' the art Mr Noakes had created.

Having good quality public art on display boosted community morale and made the city feel like a ''wealthy and cared for'' place.

''I think that John has started something rather magical.''

The first bus shelter Mr Noakes painted was at Company Bay in 1987.

Dunedin artist Daniel Mead last year painted a portrait of him on one wall of that shelter, in his honour.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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