Temporary art is an important way of enlivening our streetscapes and has been used to good effect to express viewpoints of Nelson as a place to be, and its history and attitudes. The murals are temporary, however, and some of the murals on this walk have been removed, as the buildings on which they are mounted have changed use or been demolished. However, you can still see many of the existing murals and remember those that once graced our streets on this tour.
The drive to get murals in the city was largely the result of the efforts of the Nelson Provincial Arts Council. This was established in 1969 as a result of concerted action from thearts community. The Arts Council worked closely with the Nelson City Council to encourage support of the arts and the Council went on to dedicate 0.7% of general rates to the arts - the first local authority in New Zealand to do this. As a result a paid community arts worker was appointed in 1983. One of many initiatives of the artworker was the encouragement and facilitation for artwork in the city on large blank walls on key streets. Murals are often the result of many in the community working together to fund the work. Private owners of buildings, community groups, City Council and sponsors such as Resene paints have all contributed to adding this colour to our daily lives.
There are a range of murals and mosaics in the central city - the following can all be located on the map on the right. All are dependent on the lifespan of the public or private structure they adorn, and some will disappear over the next few years and others spring up in different places. Other temporary art initiatives include the annual Art in Windows which coincides with the Nelson Arts Festival each year and brings together artists and retail space in eye catching ways.
Harriet Blount's mural  is on Trafalgar Street, opposite the Grocery shop, currently Romanos. Feminist Harriet Blount painted this mural in early 1980's on the old Trafalgar Park sports stand which was built in the 1950's. This is one of the oldest murals in the City. When the stand is demolished in the next few years it will disappear permanently. It disappeared temporarily after a large fence and plantings grew up around the sports field and was uncovered when the park underwent renovations in 2010.
A friend of Harriet's recalls her starting to paint when it was winter time and Harriet immediately painted a large sun to brighten up the day! The cheery sun became Blount's central motif in the work around which lively gymnastic dancers and musicians leap with joy. Harriet may be reflecting the popular Maypole traditional dancing that used to occur at Fairfield House in Nelson. The white dove , a symbol of peace is another link with Fairfield House, where Harriet has another work " The Jester", which is in a similar style. Blount saw her work as "contemporary folk art with integrity".
Janet Bathgate's Weka St mural  is a thoughtful and witty art work. The work covers all four sides of the pump station and the weka relates to the street name and the fact that these cheeky birds, known for their inquisitive nature, would have once been found in abundance when this area was shoreline. Janet traces the shoreline on each side which is oriented to north / south / east / west views and the scale changes slightly to suit the design on each side. The land side of the shoreline is slightly darker blue/grey than the sea side. The cyclist is a reference to the entrance to the nearby Trafalgar cycle trail and he wears a snorkel as another reference to land here that was once underwater. Boats, pictured, once pulled up on the beach and there was an abundance of kai moana in the sheltered waters of the adjacent Haven, protected by the Boulder bank. The pyramid is the Centre of New Zealand, one of Nelson's key landmarks, which can be seen from here. In a conservation message a stoat and kiwi race each other up the hill. The stoat is not as fast as the kiwi for, although flightless, the kiwi can outrun stoats! The whole piece is entitled "Pump and Jump" referring to the pump station (the building); the potential future ground water and sewerage pumping that might be required with sea level rise; the pump of the legs and heart when cycling; the "jumps" required when cycling and especially the jump between the row boats when the area is covered in sea water , and the history of the area that was once covered in tidal estuary until late 1800s.
Janet Bathgate is an artist and designer who studied printmaking to post graduate level at Ilam, Canterbury University. She has received numerous awards for art, WearableArt and collaborative design projects. Her art work is held in the permanent collections of the Suter Art Gallery, the Hocken Library Dunedin and the Christchurch Art Gallery, while her graphic design work is seen throughout the country on interpretative display boards. Janet was born in Nelson and this city continues to be home.
Buxton Square. A graduate from Nelson Institute of Technology Marilyn Andrews painted the mural on the Fiddlers Lane, leading off the Square in 1998. It was painted using Resene paints following a successful submission to Keep Nelson Beautiful. She wanted to brighten up the lane with bright and colourful flowers and with trees and ferns sited in the region. To the far right, a native Nikau Palm is depicted and the indigenous five finger plant. A mixture of garden and wild flowers are featured including foxgloves, irises, and red poppy. The Takaka hill and Boulder Bank and lighthouse are also depicted. The work is starting to bubble in large areas and peel and will be due for replacement in 2016, when sponsorship can be arranged. Marilyn is a full time professional artist working from her home studio in Nelson city centre and is primarily a landscape artist.
The lane leads to Buxton Square where a group of artists used their talents to convert a public toilet into a work of art using rainbow colours. Karen Berge painted cheeky pukeko stepping out of a native bush scene while Karin Fruhauf created abstract style murals under the porch. Creative touches by other artists include mosaics and metalwork in this attractive community initiative.
At the eastern end of the square a huge squid  on the wall of the Mediterranean Food Warehouse by international artist ROA was privately commissioned.
A pocket park on the southern side of the Square contains an imaginary snapshot of the past  Steve Pike was commissioned, in 2010, to paint an image  of the first ploughing in Nelson by John Kerr in 1842. John, his wife Janet and six of their eight sturdy sons came to New Zealand from Scotland in 1842. Captain Wakefield was anxious to have some land ready for spring sowing and chose Kerr, as an experienced farmer, to be a model for the "amateur gentleman farmers." Kerr was given honour of putting the first plough into Nelson soil on May 25th 1842. He repeated the demonstration on Nelson Anniversary day the following year at a ploughing competition. John Kerr had a Bullock paddock at the end of what is now known as Kerr street, but moved out of Nelson to settle out at Waimea, breaking in the land there to productive farmland. Their brick barn doubled as a venue for the earliest church services in the Waimea area. Many Kerr family descendants still live locally.
The Kerr Family Trust had refurbished the Historic Places Trust plaque commemorating the first ploughing which now sits at the corner of the park across from the mural . The Family Trust worked with Council to fund the mural project and provided portraits of John and family members. The muted sepia tones were used by the artist to create the effect of a snapshot from the past.
In Selwyn St, Askew One created Face of the Future , which was a prize for the city in the 2014 Gigatown competition.
The large mural at the junction of Selwyn Place and Trafalgar Street  is by Chris Finlayson. A native bush scene takes over the entire wall of the tall building on the square. It is called Nature outgrows the Urban jungle, was commissioned by Nelson businessman Tom Sturgess and completed in 2010. It creates a lush looking oasis in this inner city site. Four birds have been painted into the dense green foliage of the mural and Mr Finlayson challenged passers-by to see if they can find them. Mr Finlayson, likes to get the public to help him paint his murals, and Urban Jungle was no exception with a number of members of the public taking up the challenge and helping him in the early stages to paint his large green forest scene. He feels this kind of participation increases "community ownership of art and gives anybody, whatever their level of artistic understanding, an opportunity to physically influence their environment, safely, in a colourful and thought provoking way."
Finlayson is a prolific and talented artist. Born 1955 in Balclutha he now resides in Golden Bay with his family. He came to Nelson in 1983 and for a short time in 1984 worked for Council and painted the now famous 'Aotearoa' mural at Port Nelson, which was declared a civic landmark. It remains one of the most photographed environmental artworks in New Zealand.
In recent years Finlayson has been working with youth and community groups on projects, mostly in the South Island. He is an advocate of raising arts awareness, particularly through his large civic environmental artworks . Other local works include the Peace Mural at Tahuna when he worked with ten schools from around Nelson City to produce panels for World Peace Day; and more recently Ko Na tangata - All people - at the wall of the "On the Spot Dairy" at Victory Square, which features licorice allsorts, flax and planets which Finlayson said represented Victory's diverse community.
In Rutherford St the Nelson Potters building features a mural by Artist Darcie Lewis, depicting a child’s hands being guided by an adult .Tear drop designs flying out from the wheel are by different potters involved in the co-operative.
Geoff Slater’s vision of prehistoric landscape with a Moa enjoying what is now Abel Tasman Park dates back to the 1980s .
A new mural Temptation  has replaced the Story of Coffee, on the former Pomeroys building on the corner of Hardy and Rutherford Streets. The mural reflects the conversion of the Pomeroys building to a restaurant, and the temptations on the menu. Created by artists Nikki Romney, Betty Salter and Karin Fruhauf, as a community arts project under the guidance of John Mulvay, the simple bold mural now covers only a part of the wall.
Each artist had their own speciality. Mulvay provided advice and overview and helping others with technique. Romney who designed the concept, has particular expertise with faces, skin tones and fabric. Romney is used to painting in oils, layering and blending, so the acrylics used on the mural were a new medium for her to work with. Romney’s style is contemporary realism and she has won a number of national awards. Her images portray often portray strong women. Fruhauf has expertise with plates and detail. Thirty years ago she did designs for china painting and enjoyed painting her plates within the mural. She enjoyed the group experience and was involved with the Buxton Toilets community art project. Salter has expertise with drawing animals and has been painting for many years, specialising in animal portraits. "It's a lot of fun working with other artists, with John sharing the tricks of the trade and getting the feedback from people on the street, who stop and chat," says Salter. "They want to know how it's done too, and comment on the image, it's great." Salter painted the chefs and based her images on local personalities.
"Modigliani's Trout" was commissioned by the Youth Hostel Association in 1995. It was painted by Sirpa Alalääkkölä', with the support of Resene Paints and forms an attractive marker to the entry of the Square which hosts the famous Nelson markets every Saturday. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki where she was influenced by Expressionist painters such as Picasso and Modigliani, Sirpa was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the Tisch School of Arts at in New York. After several well received exhibitions in Finland, Sirpa travelled abroad painting in the Pacific Islands, India and Australia and Settled in New Zealand in 1993.
Sirpa used the style of famous Italian artist Amedeo Clemente Modigliani who was primarily a figurative artist and modernist known for his use of mask-like faces and elongation of form. Sirpa's recent work has moved away from this, though she still keeps with the bold outlines and expressive colours and often portrays intimate scenes with a sense of humour. The man in the image is wearing a Swanndri, a boldly checked woollen shirt much favoured by NZ farmers and trampers. The fishing scene, landing the plump trout, again is a traditional NZ dream. The work has recently been refurbished.
Other city murals
Fresh Choice Grocery often donates the use of their side wall to selected urban artists, and images change frequently. A Banksy image can be found at the Harley Street entrance to the car park.
The Alma Lane Pavement mosaic, by Tejas Arn, is in two sections. It was completed in 2005. The bright colours show off the primary produce of the Nelson Region. One section depicts local delicacies of shellfish, apples and grapes for our fine local wines. The other section has a variety of fishes within a large fish. Tejas has a number of public mosaic works in Nelson including large panels and archway at Broadgreen School and a pavement art work at the Youth Park in Tahunanui.
Work & Income building mural. Artist Rick Edmonds painted this mural for Work & Income in 1995, in the passage leading from Bridge Street to Montgomery Square. Rick laughs when he remembers painting the work which had to be done at night. As it was cold he wore a balaclava to keep warm and let himself in through the locked gates to start work, using the keys provided. Alas no one had told him about the security alarm which was triggered with police suddenly appearing at both ends of the lane intent on arresting him! Despite this alarming start to the work, Rick enjoyed the commission which was to portray the wide range of people Work and Income assist every day. He said it was a great opportunity to paint his whole family and friends in this friendly artwork, which even contains his self portrait. Another mural by Edmonds can be found at Millers Acre, depicting people and sail boats at the mouth of the Maitai River, which is part of the Riverside Murals collection. Edmonds has painted about 60 murals around New Zealand including five at Havelock.
The Knowledge mural at Nelson Public Libraries is based on rock carvings by early civilisations, including Māori. Artist Chris Finlayson created the work in 1990, compromising a little to include some writing in the work, including the Māori word matauranga. It follows a developmental depiction based on rock carvings from Palaeolithic art in 25000BC , to Egyptian Hieroglyphics 1350BC, to Celtic verse of 800AD and to Māori and Aboriginal art.
See the Past to look to the future, on the Collingwood Street Bridge (south bank) was designed by Sophie Smith and Francesca Hills. The Mural is in the shape of a giant eye. The iris of the eye is divided into two separate images and is painted in two different colours. On the left side are the hills of Nelson and flax bushes, symbolising early Nelson. It is painted in green to represent the native bush and foliage of that time. On the right side are the buildings of Nelson City, including the Cathedral. There is also a road to show that Nelson now has a bigger population and also to show that this is in the present or future. This has been painted in brown, indicating modernity, and to contrast with the green. The pupil of the eye is black and represents the river, with the fish and eels. Down the middle of this there is a shattered parting with the rising sun shining through and breaking the dark and creating light, shown with the light rays. The artists said they put the sun in the middle because sun and light generate most things including life. Nelson also is a sunny place and the sun is there to show that.
The project was designed and run completely by Nelson youth and managed by the Nelson Youth Council. The Council ran a project inviting school students from the Nelson area to submit artwork for the previously unused space under Collingwood Street Bridge. After large interest from students, a unanimous decision was made for a piece called ‘See the past to look to the future' designed by Sophie Smith and Francesca Hills from Nelson College for Girls. This piece was selected as best meeting the artists' brief for the site. The artists, along with Nelson Youth Councillors, painted the art work during the school holidays in April 2013 . "It's cool to see a project designed and run completely by Nelson youth" says Nelson Youth Councillor Fraser Malpas.
The Riverside murals installed in 2013, feature in the Prow story on Nelson's Public Art.
These murals have been removed, often because they were on buildings that have been demolished or have changed ownership.
The Story of Coffee, by Steve Pike, once visible on the former Pomeroy's coffee shop on Hardy Street, has been removed, since the long-time tenants moved out of the building. Other works by Steve Pike are on the Fire station in Gloucester St, in Hastings St on The Whakatu Dance Academy as well as the Kerr mural . His drawing of building on Rocks Road is in the Nelson City Council customer service centre.
Jon Baxter's mural [3, 50 Halifax Street] commemorates the International Year of the Family. Jon painted at night using an overhead projector from the vets building next door. He used the style of the wellness posters being circulated by Ministry of Health at the time. This was one of several murals commissioned by Public Health Services around this time as an effective way to promote healthy lifestyle choices. A street party was held in December 1994 at the unveiling of this lively beach scene. The building in Halifax Street is currently scheduled for demolition.
Eat your heart out mosaic in New Street is by Nelson sculptor Valeska Campion. It was installed in 1999 and at the time was her largest work. The building was known as the Artery then and housed a community arts centre. Valeska Campion had been a professional artist for twenty-five years when she created this work, dividing her time between Waiheke Island and the rest of the world before moving to Nelson in 1994. With her roots in clay, a desire to work on a large scale led to the development of ferrocement sculptures with mosaic surface treatment. Valeska has exhibited widely in New Zealand, is an experienced tutor and has worked on private commissions in Auckland and Wellington. Another of her works, a heart shape mosaic seat, can be found in the front garden of the women's centre in Trafalgar Street. The heart and star motif has side panels of individually crafted ceramic tiles that were created as a community arts project involving Nelson schoolchildren and sponsor companies, each of which have their own specially decorated tile. The building, which was a wool store in 1940, then converted to use as the Bata Shoe factory in 1977, a gym in 1990 and from 1998 a council owned facility for community groups and performance and arts venue - was considered an earthquake risk and was untenanted, prior to being demolished in 2014. There was an active campaign to save the mural, but unfortunately this was not feasible.
2011 (updated November 2015)
Edited February 2021
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Further sources - Nelson's murals
- McNaughton, E. (n.d) Our painted city: Nelson's mural art. Suter Gallery Education kit. Nelson: Suter Gallery
- Newport, J. (1987) More footprints. Nelson, N.Z. : J.N.W. Newport [Kerr Family]
- Sears, A. (2014) Nelson city street art. Nelson [N.Z.] : Studio S.
- Gardner, K. (1996, November 28) Chris back from China to help with mural here. Marlborough Express p.3
- Gardner K. (1996, May 28) Tapping into art. Marlborough Express, p.5
- Kidson, S. (2010, June 15) Building goes bush. Nelson Mail, p. 1
- Minchin, W. (1992, April 4) Creating a sight for jaded city eyes. Evening Post, p.26
- Newland, C. (1991, November) What you see is what you get. North and South, p. 7
- Chappell, L. (1986, April) O wall, thou wall. Wellington City Magazine, p.9-10
- Art with a Finnish touch (2007, January 31), Nelson Mail. p.13 [Sirpa Alalaakkola]
- Nelson City Council: City Murals Walk. Retrieved 21 September 2011:
- Ritchie, J. Sharing mural secrets. Retrieved from WN.com, April, 2015: