A chance meeting with a World War I story of love and loss has inspired the creation of a new work by singer-songwriter Marion Arts for next month's Escape! festival.

Arts, who began her performing career in Tauranga in the 1960s, forms part of the festival's Creative Sparks lineup — five locals invited to choose an object from the Tauranga Museum collection and create a new work in response.

"I'd half done a song inspired by a postcard sent by a soldier from France during World War I when by chance Fiona [Kean, the collection's curator] told me about a local man who went off to war three months after he'd married and she showed me his memorial plaque, known as a dead man's penny. It moved me so much I changed tack based on his story."

Arts writes in the art-song style, dating back to the 19th century and originally for one voice accompanied by piano.


"It's not a very fashionable style but I'm a relic of the 1970s when people like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Jacques Brel were writing art songs as though they were mainstream."

After having lived and performed in Australia and Europe, Arts and her husband Robbie Laven moved back to Tauranga in 1994.

Both are still creating and performing, with Arts, who has a masters' degree in French and German literature, also teaching guitar, ukulele and performance.

Walking into the storage facility that houses the museum collection, she says she felt an overwhelming sadness.

"The building's packed to the roof with things that need to be unwrapped, that need a permanent home.

"There's a lot of love from the community gone into donations and the recognition of important things.

"In the end a museum is about the objects, not the building."

Other Creative Sparks of Escape! are physicist Simon Taylor, children's author Angie Belcher, marketing manager and actor David Tauranga and Que Bidois, an artist and collector of stories from Tauranga Moana.

Marion Arts performs as part of Creative Sparks on Sunday, June 3. Tickets from www.ticketek.co.nz or at Baycourt. TECT cardholder discounts apply until May 25 (box office sales only). See the full programme at www.taurangafestival.co.nz