The Katikati Open-Air Art project is a community based initiative designed to celebrate the unique identity and heritage of Katikati and the surrounding area through murals that would highlight specific historical, cultural and environmental influences.
Katikati Open-Air Art Inc. was formed as a result of concern that a major effort was needed to restore and stimulate pride in Katikati’s past and future, and to rejuvenate a community severely hit by the economic conditions of the time.
In late 1990s, Katikati was a town in the economic doldrums, with no foreseeable bright prospects ahead. Kiwifruit growers had endured four years of low returns, there had been a downturn in the dairy industry, the share market crash of 1988 had severely affected the livelihood of many orchards and businesses, and to top it off, a projected state highway by-pass had many local business people worried.
The proposed by-pass of Katikati, on the main road between Waihi and Tauranga, proved to be the catalyst to bring together a range of people from within our area, who believed we must develop a cohesive revitalisation plan of the town centre by means of a wide ranging project, designed to involve and benefit the community, while also reflecting who we were and where we have all come from. These people believed it was time for a new approach, a new direction and initiative.
Katikati was one of the last planned settlements in New Zealand, and the only settlement with immigrants being drawn from Ulster in Northern Ireland. Descendants of these settlers still reside in the district to this day; they were supportive of the mural project and would prove to be a valuable source of resource material.
Both Ngati Ranginui (of the Takitimu canoe) and Ngai Te Rangi (of the Mataatua canoe) are the tangata whenua of the area.
The concept of a mural project involving the whole town and community had its beginnings when a group of enthusiastic local people had visited the town of Chemainus, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Chemainus, a logging town, was dying by 1982 after the closure of its one timber mill. It set about painting its history with quality murals on the wall of the town. These recorded both the diversity of the community, the cultural heritage that contributed to this diversity, but also the history of the place and the environment. After ten years there were now 32 murals and the town had prospered through its community initiative. Chemainus had 300,000 visitors annually and 82 new businesses.
The Chemainus Mural Project was to provide the successful model upon which Katikati Open-Air Art Inc. could develop its own plan and approach.
Katikati Open-air Art’s aim is to portray in a highly visual way, Katikati’s own special history.
The committee’s main goal is to fill the township with unique, high quality works of outdoor art, which accurately portray major aspects of its history making it a more interesting, exciting place, and which attract people to live here or visit.
Katikati Open-Air Art is an initiative to revitalise a township and district by showcasing its history, while at the same time creating promising potential for economic and cultural growth. The project has taken years to achieve but has transformed the town into an open-air art gallery of outdoor arts, sculptures and carvings.
This initiative has not waned over the years as the town has grown through increased population, and new businesses that have been attracted here.
The original dream is being fulfilled.
The idea for the project was first developed by Barbara Wolfenden who had visited Chemainus in 1986. Even though she was only in the town for one hour, the impact on what had been achieved made a real impression. After sharing her ideas with Randle and Eileen Henderson, who put her on to Joan Clarke, President of the Katikati Art Group, and June Carlton, a respected and former art teacher at Katikati College, the seed was planted and the proposal to do a similar project in Katikati was started. In October, 1990 a group of enthusiastic Katikati residents met at the Talisman Hotel and formed an organising committee, which began planning and raising funds.
Research into historical and photographic material was undertaken to identity appropriate themes for murals, based on historical developments, including major social, economic and cultural influences on the district and key personalities from our past community.
On Monday, February 18, 1991, a public meeting was held at the Moore Park Rugby Clubrooms chaired by local College principal, Brian Blackstock. The Katikati community was introduced to the bold and imaginative venture that could set Katikati on a new path for the future and make it the mural centre of New Zealand.
On May 29, 1991, the organising committee became incorporated as Katikati Open-Air Art Inc., the first four mural concepts had been approved and painting was well underway.
In 1992, Mary Jones, an artist from Waihi, painted the 10th mural “Haymaking”. It depicts a farm scene from the 1920s.
In 1994, KOAA were runner up at the first Trustpower Western Bay of Plenty Community Awards, receiving the “Highly Commended” award.
TV3 were in town for two days in May 1995 filming a documentary called “In Putting Our Town On The Map”. It explored the imaginative ways in which small NZ towns are giving themselves a unique “image”. 1995 saw KOAA win the overall prize at the Trustpower Western Bay of Plenty Community awards. Katikati Open-Air Art was also a finalist in the 1995 New Zealand Tourism Awards.
By 1996, Open-Air Art was celebrating the completion of the 25th artwork, and the “Mural Magic Festival” was held to celebrate, with invited guests from other mural towns from around the world in attendance. Part of the festival was the official opening of the new Muraltown Information Centre by Dame Cath Tizard. In December KOAA launched a book called “The Murals of Katikati” written by Rosalie Smith.
In 1999, the 30th mural was unveiled: the “Pohutukawa Sentinel” was the work of the youngest mural artist to date, Jessie Brodie, a Katikati College student. The town also welcomed a new resident when “Barry” the kiwi bloke, took up his seat in the middle of town. Barry has, over time, developed into the most iconic and photographed artwork in the KOAA collection. This was underlined when, in 2002, Barry was seriously vandalised. The town was very upset and angry, and fundraised to get Barry repaired and returned to his rightful spot.
The driving force behind Katikati Open–Air Art, June Carlton, was recognised with a QSM (Queen’s Service Medal) for her service to the Katikati community in the 2002 New Year’s Honours list.
In 2000 Katikati celebrated it 125 years of European settlement, and the mural “Our People – Our Story” was dedicated by New Zealand’s Governor-General, Dame Silvie Cartwright. The year also brought the first appearance of the Pukeko character, which in 2002 was named “Pukeko Kid”, or PK for short. After some public feedback the concept reappeared in 2001 on the new road signs promoting Katikati as Muraltown.
In January of 2002, the first Open-Air concert was held, and the Haiku Pathway Reserve came alive with the sound of music. These were to become a popular fundraiser for the mural project.
2005 was to be a very sad year for KOAA when in June, we lost suddenly Colin Carlton, a committee member, and behind the scenes all round volunteer, then a few weeks later his wife and KOAA stalwart June passed away. Their passing left a huge hole in the ranks of KOAA. Both had been the driving force behind the whole mural project and gave countless hours of service and dedication. At the beginning of the year, an artist from Holland, Peter Enter painted the 40th mural “Going Nowhere” a light hearted look at a story from early Katikati.
During 2006, the first New Zealand Mural and Arts festival was held. Eight mural artists competed against each other in a five day paint off to win the June Carlton Memorial Trophy. Nelson artist Chris Donaldson was the winner.
In 2007, the large road signs north and south of the town highlighting the approach to Katikati and its status as Muraltown, were finally erected five years after the first concept was revealed.
September 2008, saw the second mural festival. The winner that year was Peter Nicholson from Whitianga. A sculpture was also unveiled in 2008 by Queenstown artist Mark Hill. The Corten steel structure called “The Pioneers” was dedicated to the memory of June and Colin Carlton. It reminded us of the hardship and dedication of the early European settlers who arrived from Ireland in 1875.
In June 2009, KOAA was announced the supreme winner of the Trustpower Western Bay of Plenty District Community Awards. Up against 58 other groups and organisations KOAA won the prize and the honour of representing the district in the 2009 Trustpower National Awards to be held in Nelson in March 2010. Also that year saw the development and unveiling of the “Birdwalk” sculpture trail on the Yeoman Walkway of the Uretara estuary. The bird walk is dedicated to renowned wildlife photographer Brian Chudleigh.
At the March 2010 Trustpower National Awards in Nelson, KOAA was represented by Judy Junger and Kit Wilson, and competed against 23 other groups of volunteers. The team came away the runners-up to winners Motueka Hospital Trust, a sterling effort.
2011 was a busy year for KOAA. Not only did we hold the Third New Zealand Mural and Arts Festival, but we unveiled our 50th mural: the “Anglican Church Mural”. It was commissioned as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the church held in 2010. We also unveiled the biggest mural to date that year, “The History of Kiwifruit” mural. At 20 metres in length, and requiring its own special frame, the mural was painted in “trompe l’oeil” style by New Zealand’s Marc Spijkerbosch from Rotorua. It was unveiled in the same week that the Kiwifruit vine disease PSA was found in a Katikati orchard.
2011 saw the opening of The Little Blue House, formerly a derelict old garage in the middle of town. KOAA leased the building from Western Bay of Plenty District Council, and it has become the art hub of Katikati, operated by a dedicated group of caretakers. Weekly exhibitions promote an array of local and national talent.
- May, 1991 Katikati Open-air Art Inc. formed
- 1991, first mural #1 Waitekohe School unveiled
- 1992, 10th mural completed “Haymaking”
- 1994, runner-up in the first Trustpower Western Bay of Plenty Community Awards
- 1995, winner of Trustpower Western Bay of Plenty Community award
- 1995, finalist in the Heritage category – New Zealand Tourism Awards
- 1995, Kiwifruit Coast Business Awards – finalist
- November, 1996 “Mural town magic festival” held
- November, 1996 new Muraltown Information Centre opened
- 1996, 20th mural completed “George Vesey Stewart”
- 1999, 30th mural completed “Pohutukawa Sentinel”
- 1998, Tauranga Heritage Award
- 1999, “Barry” arrived in Katikati
- 2000, Haiku Pathway opened
- 2001, first appearance of “Pukeko Kid” image
- 2002, June Carlton honoured with QSM (Queen’s Service Medal for Community Service)
- 2002 the sculpture of “Barry” was vandalised
- 2004/2005, 40th mural completed “Going Nowhere”
- September, 2006 First New Zealand Mural and Arts festival held
- May, 2007 first of the new “Katikati Muraltown” road signs erected
- September, 2008 Second New Zealand Mural & Arts festival held
- 2008, “The Pioneers” sculpture erected, dedicated to June and Colin Carlton
- 2009 winner of Trustpower Western Bay of Plenty Community award
- 2010 runner-up Trustpower New Zealand Community awards
- October, 2011 Third New Zealand Mural & Arts festival in conjunction with “Real NZ” festival held
- 2011, December mural #50 “Anglican Church” unveiled
- 2011, “The Little Blue House” opened
- 2012, new website unveiled