When half the Christchurch CBD had to be demolished following the earthquakes, the first signs of recovery came in the form of art emerging in vacant lots.
Much of the work was just fun. Later there was wry political comment; some of it suggested what had been there before the disaster, although all relayed the same message: We are still here.
The growth in public art following catastrophes was repeated that year after the Japanese tsunami, and before that in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It raises this question: In the wake of events that lead to loss of life, homelessness, and a lack of clean water and food, why do people still make and display art - often more than when society is functioning? The answer is simple: We need to.
However, our fundamental urge to express ourselves in this way is the first thing to be forgotten when publicly funded art attracts opposition from those claiming to have the best interests of ratepayers in mind. Often these critics make arguments based on the three main myths of public art.
The first myth is that such projects are "the icing on the cake" - not core business - and councils should concentrate on providing basic amenities.
In Christchurch, when the provision of life's necessities - water, transport, sanitation - broke down, people still felt a need to share their experience through the act of creation. Making sure a community can do this, even when times are good, is core business.
The second myth is that public art is expensive for us. Whether it is Michael Parekowhai's Lighthouse, Transit Cloud by Gregor Kregar in New Lynn or Judy Millar's series of works at the Devonport library, the cost of a commission is never too far away from the heart of the discussion. But overall, arts and culture manager Kaye Glamuzina and her team at Auckland Council somehow manage to deliver about 20 projects a year to the city on an annual public art budget of just $2 million. In reality, ratepayers get extremely good value for money in this area through partnerships with generous private donors, corporates and central Government, that more than matches our contribution dollar-for-dollar. An incentive scheme offering developers who commission works for more floor space is another way of encouraging investment.
The third myth is that much of it is unintelligible or of dubious aesthetic value. Sometimes this is true. But the biggest disappointments are usually caused when a work is bland and ironically attempting to please the widest audience.
The meaning, or charm, of the best pieces will dawn on the viewer over time.
Sometimes the first reaction is, as in the case of Transit Cloud, "It looks like a dick". In a year's time, there might be another interpretation.
But like history's other great monstrosities - including, at their time of formation, the Eiffel Tower, Sydney's Opera House or Wellington's Bucket Fountain - former "blots on the landscape" have a habit of becoming defining landmarks.
We get to go on a journey with these more challenging creations, one that often ends with us claiming them and in doing so forging a deeper bond with the place we call home.