Wellington street artists create city-wide advent calendar

Not so long ago, street art was regarded as a sign of a rough and run-down area.

But now it's gone so mainstream that Wellington's city council is actively funding artworks to encourage tourism and business.

"Wellington is New Zealand's creative capital,” says Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) general manager David Perks.

“This is the creative heart of the country, how can we demonstrate that?"

Dowse Art Museum director Courtney Johnson says attitudes towards street art change, when people change how they think about where they live.

"We understand what it means to live in a city now,” she says. “We want them to be vibrant places, we want them to be fast-changing places, we want them to have personality and individuality, rather than a statue of a guy on a horse.

“There's one of those in every town."

That's something WREDA is taking on-board with its latest art initiative - an advent calendar.

"We want to be more in that space, where we're challenging people about what Wellington's all about," says Perks.

Five artists have created five artworks. People can interact with them to win prizes each day and also by finding hidden doors on a website. (https://advent.wellingtonnz.com/)

WREDA says the artworks - and the prizes - are a way to foster a uniquely Wellington Christmas spirit.

"The Santa parades of days gone by? Much better to have artists on the streets, demonstrating everything that's Wellington," says Perks.

WREDA hopes turning bricks and mortar into art will encourage people to seek out different parts of the city - and businesses that might be nearby.

"It's all about driving our economy forward, but in a really fun, creative, exciting way," says Perks.

Johnson says funding art shows how people can take ownership and pride of their city.

"There's something about the intimacy of street art, which is a weirdly intimate thing," says Johnson.

"You walk past these buildings, you get used to them and then one day, they're transformed by street art. I think Wellington has embraced how it can be transformative."

And for artists who accept council funding, it doesn't have to mean "selling out".

"I think it's a really interesting question about street art being gentrified or commercialised or made legitimate,” says Johnson. “And I think street artists themselves are really conscious of that.

"They know where they come from and who they want to speak to, and they will continue to find ways to do that."

So, with the Christmas break coming up, it's the perfect time to get out and explore. Who knows what you'll find?