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Gareth Morgan & Sculpture by the Sea at Mount Maunganui

If you’ve been to Bondi Beach and seen the impressive Sculpture by the Sea public art fest each year (, then you start to think it’s only a matter of time before the stretch between Mount Maunganui to Omanu and beyond to Papamoa could start to become an outdoor gallery of public art. Launched in Perth on Australia’s Indian Ocean coastal in 2005 by David Handley, Sculpture by the Sea has a captivating vast backdrop of long horizons and sunsets and has become a powerful majestic sculpture-packed coastal walk.
I totally get it when David writes “I have always loved large community arts events like ‘Opera in the Park’ and ‘Symphony Under the Stars’, especially the way total strangers sit next to each other listening to music while enjoying a picnic dinner.” This sense of community happens too when we have Night Owl Theatre at Mount Drury, or sit and watch Jamie Harkins create his 3D Sand Art drawings, or on the evenings when people wander along the Pilot Bay boardwalk to bring their dinner and listen to my piano playing while watching the sun set. We pause in these moments and experience something powerful, participating and immersing ourselves in a human expression of art which has in turn immersed itself into the natural beauty around it. The next day the tide has come in and washed the sand art away, or the sun has set, taking those moments into yesterday, not to be experienced just the same again. Or the piano has been wheeled home. We don’t need to ask what it was for, or what does it mean. It just is. We were in the moment where it happened, the stars sang, and we knew who we were. People ask me ‘why are you playing piano on the boardwalk?’ I say ‘why are you smiling?’ They grin and say ‘because you’re playing piano’, to which I reply ‘that’s why’.
There are few opportunities to enjoy cultural activities that are free. Recently I was asked by various members and representatives of our Tauranga community whether I thought the council should accept Gareth Morgan’s offer to pay for a 9.9m high million-dollar sculpture, made by New Zealand artist Phil Price, to be located on the corner of Pacific Ave and Marine Parade. I happened to meet Gareth at the dairy so asked him what he thought about talking to mobile video camera so we could present that to the Mount community to hear from him direct what his proposal was about. He was willing so we had a chat about it.
Peter Kageyama writes in his book For the Love of Cities – “Arts and culture are what make a city fall in love with itself.” It’s not just about having good roading, infrastructure and waste management. If you want to fall in love with a city because of its great sewage treatment facilities good on you. But let’s also accept Gareth’s offer. Let’s create sculpture by the sea. We need to ask ourselves who are our champions in our midst, how do we increase their numbers, and most important, how do we keep them engaged in our city. So let’s also create opportunities to have environmental and public sculpture through the green belts of Bethlehem and the dunes of Papamoa, and then get out there on our bikes, skateboards and feet and enjoy it, fall in love with it, be in it. Our city isn’t just downtown Tauranga, it’s communities in Greerton Village, Bethlehem, Otumoetai, Pyes Pa and from Matua to Papamoa. Let’s create art all over.

Rosalie Liddle Crawford
Phone +64 21 072 8255

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