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Christchurch City Council Media Release 5 April 2002

The Great Public Art Debate hits Christchurch

Is art a public good? If so, how is it measured and who should pay? These questions will be explored through a public debate on the benefits and role of public art (namely significant outdoor artworks).

The event, sponsored by the Christchurch City Council arts committee, will be held on Thursday 18 April at 7.30pm at the Christchurch Convention Centre. The debate is, “that life in Christchurch will be enhanced by more major public art works”.

Local and national keynote speakers and a group of panelists will look at what benefits public artworks bring to the city and if we correctly understand their value. They will ask if Christchurch should be recognised as a city of public art and, if so, how should it be funded?

The speakers organised for the debate are Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore, Associate Minister of Arts and Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard, and Creative NZ chair Peter Biggs. The debaters will include author Jim Hopkins, former Robert McDougall director John Coley, architect Peter Beaven, artist Sam Mahon, lawyer Cath Dalziel, councillor Paddy Austin, and Radio NZ Morning Report presenter Sean Plunket. David McPhail will be Master of Ceremonies and will chair the debate.

Anna Crighton, chair of the City Council’s Arts Culture and Heritage Committee, says the idea for a public debate came out of a mayoral forum. “It’s a creative way of getting feedback as we look at putting up more public art works,” she says.

The City Council’s Central City Revitalisation Project Manager Mark Bachels says, “Good public art can greatly assist in revitalising our central city. I think public art is the cornerstone of public expression. I often judge a city by how it shows itself and public art is one key element of that expression. A great city has great public art.”

He points to Melbourne, Portland, San Francisco “and, closer to home, Wellington” as examples of cities that have used public art as part of their revitalisation. Mark says the debate is timely after the success of the Chalice, erected in Cathedral Square last year.

The evening will also feature a wine-tasting, an exhibition about public art in New Zealand and overseas, and a short theatrical piece by the Court Jesters on public art. Around 370 to 450 people are expected to attend the event. Wine and food will be available throughout the evening.

Mark Bachels says he hopes the evening will produce “good discussion and some public fun”.

"I’m also hopeful that concrete steps can be taken toward identifying strategies for delivering more public art in Christchurch."

Tickets are still available from the Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA), 66 Gloucester Street. Phone 366 7261. Tickets cost $15, $10 unwaged. Any profits from the event will be put towards public art projects.

For more information: Call Anna Crighton on 366 2557, Mark Bachels on 941 8579, or organizer Mike Inder on 326 6691 or at (

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