Opotiki youth are making their town a work of art, wall by wall, through the Youth Art in Public Places project.

Opotiki is a small rural town in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, with one of the largest youth populations by percentage in New Zealand.  It is a predominantly young and ageing community, and this generation gap has led to some frictions.

“Three years ago, Opotiki was plagued by graffiti.  Businesses were forever cleaning scribbles off their walls, and something had to be done about it,” says Opotiki Youth Aid Officer Constable Ian Dodds.

Opotiki Bluelight was looking for a project to restore the faith of the community in their young people.  Two years ago, Opotiki Police, through Opotiki Bluelight, formed a partnership with the Opotiki Children’s Art House.  This resulted in a project that has seen more than 200 children from 12 schools painting 14 murals in areas around town that were previously graffiti targets.

“The project has always been more than painting a nice picture on a wall,” says Constable Ian Dodds.  “It’s about instilling a sense of civic pride with our young people and showing the business community what our young people can actually achieve.”

Prior to the project, the police received 6-8 graffiti complaints a month.  Graffiti and tagging problems have decreased dramatically since the appearance of the murals, which haven’t been vandalised.

The Acorn Foundation contributed funding, as a Tindall Foundation Funding Manager, for the ‘Rua Whakairo’ mural (meaning “the art of us all”).  This mural was recently completed on the Smith City wall, which is about 40 metres long.  Three schools produced their own designs for their sections of the wall.

Prints of the Opotiki murals will be featured at Te Papa for their murals programme from September 2010.

For further information contact:

Constable Ian Dodds, Opotiki Youth Aid Officer, Opotiki Police

Phone: 07 315 1117

Email: Ian.Dodds@police.govt.nz