Digital art

Three Whanganui arts, culture and heritage projects receive funding from Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa

Three Whanganui arts, culture and heritage projects receive funding from Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa
Written by Publishing Team

Anthonie Tonnon and Whanganui Connection are in charge of operations at the Durie Hill Elevator and tunnel. Photo / Supplied

The Durie Hill elevator is set for a makeover after its handlers were given a grant of nearly $200,000 to upgrade it.

Three Whanganui projects received grants from the latest round of Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa culture sector funding, announced by Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepoloni on March 3.

Whanganui Connection received $199,300 to upgrade and revitalise the Durie Hill Elevator and tunnel.

The Whanganui Connection team handles operations in the elevator, and founder Anthonie Tonnon said the funding would accelerate present and future plans.

“People come through the elevator and quite often have great ideas about things we could do to enhance the experience,” Tonnon said.

“You think ‘Gosh, wouldn’t that be great’, and put it back in the daydreaming pile.”

New displays, lighting, and projection technology are all possible options.

“We’ve also been chipping away at new concession tickets and new souvenir tickets, and the funding will allow us to take on our designer for a few months,” he said.

It was the perfect opportunity, Tonnon said.

“We came at it from a performative lens, and were able to put together an application with some of that perspective about entertainment and the technology we’ve used for shows.

“It’s a good intersection.”

Pounga Wai – A Digital River, a design by Whanganui artist Cecilia Kumeroa, received $124,631.

The project will produce an interactive, real-time, large-scale digital art installation of the Whanganui River, embedded in Māori kaupapa.

Kumeroa has already begun building and testing procedural animations.

“This data sculpture system can eventually be rendered in real time as a work driven by scientific information,” she said.

“The immersion of mana-whenua design within the digital awa is an investigation into our design history, as a dialogue between new media technology and Te Ao Māori.”

The use of procedural animation meant nothing was predictable, and it gave subtle nuances to the work, Kumeroa said.

A still from the preliminary stages of Pounga Wai - A Digital River.  Photo / Supplied
A still from the preliminary stages of Pounga Wai – A Digital River. Photo / Supplied

“I’m always making works about the river, whether it’s inspired by birdlife, or currents, all the different qualities that are associated with it.

“It’s just a part of us.”

A key collaborator is Dr Billy Van Uitregt.

He was really keen to see how art would interpret scientific data, Kumeroa said.

“I’m confident in most of the aspects of it, but the data side of things is where I need a scientific mind. He is a great person to have in Whanganui.

“Both of us are Whanganui River whakapapa, and this will be the first work of its kind built by two people from here.”

The funding will enable her to get the equipment and software she needs.

When finished, it will be projected as a permanent installation.

Emma Budgen of Whanganui and Partners had helped in the funding application, and Ngā Tangata Tiaki, Whanganui Māori Regional Tourism Organization, Massey University and Victoria University wrote letters of support, Kumeroa said.

“We would also like to thank Te Rūnanga o Tupoho for their continued support for the arts.”

Lesa Hepburn’s Red Hot Fiber art initiative received seed funding to the tune of $20,000.

With it, she will develop a plan to catalog, document and digitise historic paper records of 300 Whanganui heritage buildings, alongside the Whanganui Regional Museum.

The project aims to highlight the significance of these buildings to the identity and
culture of the city.

Hepburn said the end goal was to make the documents more easily accessible to all users, to enable improved archiving of the originals, and to assist in the protection of heritage buildings in Whanganui.

“We know that access to these plans can have significant benefits for building owners when they plan to restore the heritage fabric of buildings or undertake earthquake strengthening.

“Providing digital access also makes these heritage items more readily available for research purposes, creative outcomes and general interest.”

Hepburn, from Australia, moved to Whanganui 18 months ago.

“I’m pretty excited, because this is the first time I’ve come out in New Zealand to run a project,” she said.

“Whanganui was recently recognised as a Unesco City of Design, so it’s pretty timely.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to meet the community.”

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