If you happen to be in Mt Maunganui during the second weekend of December you may notice a peculiarly large number of people painting art on exterior walls. For the whole weekend, from December 10 onwards, 18 street artists from New Zealand and overseas will converge on the seaside town to compose a series of ambitious large-scale murals.
"This is our first street art festival. It's a bit daunting, but so exciting," says Lovie, one of the team behind the Street Prints Mauao Festival.
Wellington-based American Mica Still will be at the Mount next month, although she's now in the States visiting family and friends in Oregon. "I grew up on the coast here and it's very rainy and foggy," she says of her hometown Astoria.
Still will be showcasing her painting chops on Bay of Plenty buildings in a few weeks, but she's also absorbed working with more intimate mediums.
"I'm really enjoying paper and pen because for the last few years I'm a stay-at-home mum. It's my favourite because I can do it at any time. I do love spray cans, but I'm quite new to it," says Still, who has more than five years' experience with aerosols.
"With spray painters and street artists there's a really strong community and I feel connected to them. All of those artists have their own practice, as well as painting on exterior walls. The beauty of it is it's a really small niche and it's immediate. You can produce this full-body experience. You can go out for a few hours or sometimes you go out for a few days, but afterwards I don't have an attachment to the work. People love to do yoga poses in front of street art, especially in Auckland. It's either yoga poses or wedding pictures and I love that. I'm not there, I don't need to be there, but you can see people are very happy."
Still is known for her romantic, stylised paintings and drawings of wolves, bears and tigers, but it seems wolves are her favourite subject. "I've always had images of wolves in my house. It has something to do with reconnecting with my biological father over the past 10 years. He was a hunter and quite the man of the woods. He had pictures of wolves when I visited him. I loved having conversations with him about wolves. He loved them because they weren't 'wholesale killers'. They work as a group. They work a 'kill' and hunt to survive. They have order in their packs, how they take care of each other. It was refreshing to hear his love towards an animal," says Still, whose father was a Vietnam veteran. "We've become quite close. I feel very lucky."
Still is drawn to street art as a balm for our sometimes hard-edged cities. "It has a healing element to it. Buildings are overpowering. I don't think they often have a sense of connecting with people. With street art, you can interact with it. It brings in a little bit of light."