Art and identity



17 June 2016 - Here’s a real golden oldie - let me reintroduce our Sculptural Spire.

It’s been standing in Kuirau Park proudly pointing to the heavens for nearly 50 years.  I knew it had been there at least half a century, since it was a big part of my world growing up.

Like the Toot n’ Whistle, or the WW2 tank we used to climb all over in the playground nearby, this was a structure that really engaged me as a youngster. For years when driving by I’d search for it … and there it was, shrouded in steam, like a kaitiaki (guardian) or sentinel.

Several decades later, I had opportunity to learn more.

Back in 1966, the Rotorua Jaycees undertook a major development project within Kuirau park, including rock surrounds and a fountain.  The 8m high ‘Sculptural Spire’ was commissioned and gifted as a part of this project.  Designed by local businessman and former Councillor, Ben Benfield, it symbolizes both the dynamic growth of Rotorua (at that time NZ’s fastest growing city), and the inter-twining of Maori and Pakeha culture.

‘It's lightning-style dynamic spirals to the sky, typifying the limitless possibilities for Rotorua’ – Ben Benfield.

Up until recently, I never knew that.  I simply attached to this piece for its artistic form – never realizing that it would become a strong symbol in my Rotorua heritage and identity. In a funny sort of way, we grew up together.

So recently, when a landscape architect (from out of town) suggested we re-locate or decommission the work as part of a redevelopment plan, my reaction even stunned myself.  I would organize a march to save it, chain myself to it, lie down in front of the bulldozer! Removal could never happen – not on my watch anyway.

Got me thinking - it’s amazing how public art not only energizes our public spaces and arouses our thinking, but also gives us such a powerful sense of identity. It’s a part of who we are.

No question, a city with public art is a city that thinks and feels.


Page reviewed: 17 Jun 2016 2:11pm