Street art - once treated as a form of vandalism - is now
celebrated public art in many of the world's most creative
cities, such as Melbourne and Berlin. Debbie Porteous speaks
to some who think Dunedin could also become a world-class
destination for street art and are doing their darndest to
make it happen.
When Justin Cashell talked Belgian
street artist Roa into painting a giant tuatara on the side
of the Brandaid building in Dunedin's Bath St, it started
Dunedin people had been pushing for a street art festival in
the city for a while, city council urban planner Dr Glen
Hazelton said, but it was the Roa piece that pushed the
envelope and finally got more people thinking this art form
was about more than just graffiti.
Mr Cashell said he had long admired Roa's work. When he heard
the artist was in Christchurch, he persuaded him to come to
Dunedin, a building owner to pay for his work, and a variety
of other businesses and organisations to help make it happen.
Out of that came contact with London artist Phlegm, whom Mr
Cashell managed to get to Dunedin in April to do large-scale
murals, one in Vogel St and one in Moray Pl.
While Mr Cashell remains a driver of increasing Dunedin's
quota of cool by working to get the artists here - he has
been in discussion with some for more than two years - there
is now a group of about seven people who meet regularly to
discuss ideas and share information that could assist with
projects, for the warehouse area in particular.
And they are getting traction. On the back of the success of
the Roa and Phlegm works and the work done to bring other
artists to the city, Mr Cashell is planning Dunedin's first
street art festival for September-October.
He hopes it will involve four international and four local
artists, who will over a few weeks transform eight blank
Dunedin walls to create a permanent street art trail.
The festival will tie in with a Vogel St street party on
October 18, celebrating the recent changes to the warehouse
precinct, which is to be part of the Otago Festival of the
Phlegm has already signed up to return and do a piece for the
street art festival. Italian street artist Pixel Pancho will
paint the side of the Chipmunks building facing Jetty St and
Mr Cashell is crowd-sourcing funding through the givealittle
website ($5000 is required) to bring Chinese artist Dal East
to paint another wall.
artist Be Free is pencilled in to do a wall of the Forno's
building, which belongs to heritage advocate Hayden Cawte. Mr
Cawte has also commissioned former Dunedin artist Sean Duffy,
aka Ghstie, and Jon Thom, who is going to do his first
outdoors work, to do other works on his buildings during the
Mr Cashell said the international ''guns'' gave the art the
credibility needed to draw attention to the city and convince
building owners to part with the $5000 to $10,000 needed for
While he does most of his work getting artists here on his
own time, outside his job in branding and marketing at
Enterprise Dunedin, and has even hosted some artists to make
projects happen, some of his professional work is focused on
helping establish the street art trail.
''I don't mind doing it. It gives me great satisfaction
knowing this work is going to be only a hop, skip and jump
apart and local artists getting the leverage of their work
being in among it.''
There is no doubt in his mind Dunedin could become known as
the street art capital of New Zealand, and he is confident
the support to make it happen is out there.
Lawrie Forbes said people came by to see Phlegm's fish on his
Vogel St building every day. He believes they are seeking it
out specifically and the interest is increasing as pictures
are shared on the internet.
Mr Cawte said large-scale street art appealed to him as a
warehouse precinct building owner, because it was a
relatively cheap and easy way of increasing the vibrancy of
the area, which would draw people there, benefiting everyone.
It also appeals to people like his Bond St office staff,
average age 26, who want something a bit different and
appreciate that sort of art.
''Art for them is no longer gallery hunting and still images
on a wall in a gallery. It's far more interactive.''
The heritage architecture of the warehouse precinct needed
the contrast of something new and modern, he said, and the
ultimate goal of a walking tour should encourage interaction
among the businesses there.
Mr Hazelton said as people saw the artists' work and the
reaction people had to it, owners were becoming ''more than
receptive'' to the concept.
''We've had people ring now and say they want to offer their
The passion and energy of Mr Cashell and his group worked
because it followed the same ethos that had driven the
changes in the warehouse precinct so far, and now Princes St.
''It's people coming forward and saying this is what we want
to give back to the city, this is how we want to shape it,
and it's not just about expensive infrastructure.''