Erika Pearce, of the Bay of Islands, will be returning to Murihiku for her third South Sea Spray festival this year.
The heap of new buildings going up around New Zealand’s southernmost city could be “dull concrete walls”… or they could make people smile on a grim day.
Artist Danny Owens, otherwise known as Deow, is pleased Southlanders are getting the latter option at the end of the year when 22 of New Zealand’s foremost street artists will be let loose on Waihōpai (Invercargill).
Bringing his South Sea Spray festival to his hometown has been a long time coming for the artist who’s left his mark on walls throughout the world.
And in doing so he’s creating what he believes is the largest street art festival in the Southern Hemisphere.
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He’s been changing attitudes towards street art in Invercargill during the past decade, but he knew it would take some convincing to bring the festival to the city.
“We’ve waited a few years. Timing has always been a big thing. With the developments going on in the CBD; we wanted them to be in full swing, so the artwork is like a cherry on top.”
Deow’s instantly-recognisable work adorns the walls of buildings in Southland – from a train that greets travellers coming into Lumsden to the 33-metre-tall, windswept little girl named Mia on the side of the Kelvin Hotel.
It’s a far cry from the one YMCA mural he had for inspiration growing up in Invercargill in the 90s.
Deow splits his time between Southland and the United States where he’s been refining his craft.
He was in California for a couple of months this year; taking a break, surfing, and checking out museums for inspiration for this year’s South Sea Spray festival, he said.
But Southland would always be “home sweet home”.
South Sea Spray started in Riverton in 2018, born from the idea to “brighten up” Aparima.
“I’ve been working on the brand since. A lot of meetings, a lot of public relations building, and we’ve created a pretty amazing charitable trust and team that gets things done.”
The festival has grown from eight artists back in 2018 to the 15 murals that transformed the streets of Bluff in February 2021 during South Sea Spray Motupōhue.
With 22 artists scheduled to take part in South Sea Spray Waihōpai, Deow said: “This is what it’s all about for me now sharing Aotearoa’s greatest with Southland. These are the best of the best and the artists who inspire me to be an artist.”
And he feels his role in the festival has changed to being an advocate for visiting artists “to make sure they’re extremely well taken care of while here in Southland”.
Participating artists will begin working on their pieces on December 5, with the idea that Southlanders can pop around to see the murals take shape.
They’ll be strategically placed to create an artist trail and the public will get a chance to vote for their favourite.
Original artwork will also be on display at He Waka Tuia Art Museum and workshops will give youth a chance to work alongside and learn from the creators.
“This is only the beginning,” Deow said.
More than 20 artists have already joined a waiting list to take part in future events.
“I really think this will add colour and culture to some of the more drab and bland walls that are definitely going to look a bit rough when the new builds are completed,” Deow said.
He said the South Sea Spray team had sought support from mana whenua before going ahead, and they were working with the Invercargill City Council for consent to paint some of the city’s heritage buildings.
“I just love public art,” Deow said: “Something that makes people stop and question… or something that just makes you smile on a grim day. It’s all inspirational at the end of the day.”