It’s a sunny Thursday in Tauranga, and you’re yawning at your desk. You step outside for lunch, and there, ready and waiting for you, is a CBD full of vibrant art, culture and creativity. Local bespoke stalls, fresh musical talent, interactive art pieces – all at your doorstep.
This week, we were treated to a flash-forward experiment to the future of our city. The Institute of Architects and the Groundswell Festival of Innovation connected with Creative Bay Of Plenty, and together, with sponsorship from Tauranga City Council, created Love Our Laneways. For three days, a little lane off Grey St was filled with creatives, filling the neighbourhood with sweet tunes, scents and sounds, and enticing people into the interactive space.
Once a connection was made with our city’s stakeholders, and the project began to take shape, Creative Bay Of Plenty reached out to local artists, musicians and stall holders to be a part of the action. Several brightly-hued murals were constructed over the course of the three-day event, featuring works by artists Shane Walker, Alex McLeod and Jasmine Smith. A particularly notable installation arrived each day in the form of a large, mirrored cube, created by Kristy Robinson. With words stencilled in each side, viewers tended to walk around The Box reading its inscriptions – only a few got close enough to discover the person sitting inside. Kristy’s piece represents how one’s physical appearance can affect how others interact with us – with the performer sitting inside representing one’s true self, or soul. Maraea Timutimu’s circular canvases hung from the scaffolding like lush full moons on the Thursday, and the vast copper works from local artists ReWorkit shone spectacularly. Billy’s Bagels were a hit, serving up treats each day, and the delicious Heat Caravan rolled in on Friday.
Each day we were treated to talented performances from local musicians from Bay Originals. Alice Sea kicked it all off with a taste of the summer to come, and Sam Graham and Jack Kearney carried us through the Thursday with their soulful sets. We were spellbound by Ash Laforteza on Friday, who played with her spontaneously-named group, Musical Chairs.
Saturday was a day for our community. Things heated up with a salsa dance class from Bay Salsa which drew a talented crowd of movers. The extraordinary Diego performed his original pieces on a keyboard that was slung around his waist, followed by spoken-word poet Dhaivat Mehta who moved us all with his poignant observations. But the gem of the day was when the two performers treated us to a collaboration of their talents: Diego’s swift and colourful improvisations thoughtfully supported Dhaivat’s introspective words, and a beautiful thing was born. There was a distinct feeling of deep appreciation in the air for the magic that occurs when creatives join forces.
Love Our Laneways brings to light the importance of a city rich in art and culture. It brings an improved quality of life, and creates a vibrant area that draws in newcomers with its sparkle. Put simply, it gives us oomph. It sets us apart. In a recent article in ‘The Journal’, Marty Grenfell states ‘If key organisations can work together and find that common ground, be committed and put energy in, you can make a hell of difference…(in) how a city operates)”. We couldn’t agree with this statement more, and through the development of the Arts and Culture strategy, this project focused on collaboration, identity, inclusivity and engagement.
Without the support from Tauranga City Council, events like this would not be possible. TCC also had a stall set up, where the public could write their thoughts on the event. Here is what they had to say: “What a great vibe! We need more of this please.” “Laneways are a great way to invigorate the city centre and explore our collective identity!” “So good to see things happening in our city!” “We need more art and culture like this.”
With the promotion of creativity, Tauranga CBD can progress into the realm of a colourful and lively city, full of talented community members and a thriving economy. As one member of the public put it: Laneways are the road to a vibrant city – we are putting ourselves on the map as a city full of innovation, integrity and prosperity. We look forward to supporting the project in 2019.