A "living sculpture" art project is taking shape on a Whanganui East street.
About 80 people were gathered to see the first trees planted in Brydee Rood's A Future Canopy artwork along the grassy centre of Burton Ave on Monday, June 14. Each tree was planted with a protective stone, chosen by the artist.
Kaumātua John Maihi said karakia and children sang as the trees were planted.
When four macrocarpa trees were felled there Rood got in touch with Whanganui District Council and a project called A Future Canopy sprang to life, the council said in a statement.
Rood, who lives in nearby Wakefield St, said she mourned the loss of the "humongous" trees and the loss of habitat for birdlife and insects.
The trees had to go because their branches were beginning to weaken and drop, the council's parks team said. Rood said she looks for opportunities to explore art projects in interesting public spaces. She was told the trees would be replaced, and made a proposal the team agreed to.
Her artwork A Future Canopy involves planting native trees that will be a continuous source of nectar and berries for pollinators and enhance the neighbourhood.
Rood said her work had responded to critical environmental issues across the world.
"Most of my art is ephemeral and I'm inspired to create work that either doesn't leave a trace or benefits the environment," she said.
"A Future Canopy is a living sculpture – trees are living, breathing, growing, changing and that's how I want my artwork to be, not static.
"Treating the installation as an artwork is a conscious, poetic act about the future, elevating the respect for those trees and our connection to nature in response to the climate emergency and deforestation," she said.
The layout of the four puriri, 12 kōwhai, three rātā, four rewarewa, five totara and four miro trees is designed to give each space to form its natural shape.
The project has an educational element, with 60 students from four local schools – Cullinane College, Whanganui Girls' College, St Anne's School and Whanganui East School – involved.
Whanganui East School deputy principal May Bennett said the students were studying kaitiakitanga, and A Future Canopy was a living embodiment of it.
"It also gives our students an authentic opportunity to practise Whanganuitanga, as we support this event alongside our school kaumātua, John Maihi, and our kapa haka tutor, Lynaire Simon."
Each school will be gifted four to six native trees corresponding to the project to care for in their grounds. The council is funding the Burton Ave trees and the Eleanor Burgess Trust is funding the schools' trees.
The council's Public Art Fund chairwoman Anique Jayasinghe helped Rood co-ordinate the project. A Future Canopy would be registered as a public artwork, Jayasinghe said, the first in Whanganui East.
"Hopefully this is one of many more public artworks to come for Whanganui's outer neighbourhoods."
Burton Ave resident Karen O'Neil took the opportunity to ask Whanganui district councillor Helen Craig for some swings among the planting. She said the street's children used to play and swing in the macrocarpa trees that were felled.
"This summer has been really different because the trees haven't been here. They have lost their whole play thing. It's just been really heartbreaking," O'Neil said.
To find out more about Rood's art go to her blog: http://brydeerood.blogspot.com/