Community Award Winners

Trumpet time! On August 25 at Te Papa Letting Space was the Arts and Culture category winner and the Supreme Winner at the Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards for Wellington City. We'd like to thank all the artists we've worked with over the last six years, and the hundreds of volunteers who have helped realised Letting Space public art projects and the Urban Dream Brokerage - this award is for you all. Its wonderful to get recognition as a contemporary art programme alongside so many amazing community organisations as we work to explorel how artists can be agents of social change and work to make cities living spaces.

Dawn Sanders and mayor Celia Wade Brown with Letting Space's Sophie Jerram and Helen Kirlew Smith (Mark Amery absent)

Wellington City Council mayor celia Wade Brown comments on the award here.


News Release: Special Economic Zone in Porirua 

Special Economic Zone declared in Porirua


Recently, Local Government New Zealand suggested “special economic zones” could be created around provincial towns to help regional development.

While the proposal for special zones is being considered at the top level, others have already picked up the idea and run with it.

TEZA (the Transitional Economic Zone of Aotearoa) is an artist led project aiming to change our ideas about what wealth is.

“Porirua is a great community, rich in diversity and culture. Let’s celebrate this by bringing people together to share everything from food to ideas and stories and show that an economy where everyone wins is not just possible, but the way ahead,” says Mark Amery, co-curator of TEZA.

The festival is the work of the award-winning Letting Space production team and part of a global movement that recognizes art’s ability to help find new ways for us to work together and revitalise communities. The most high profile example of this was the work done by Gap Filler in Christchurch following the earthquakes.

TEZA, supported by Creative New Zealand and Porirua City Council, will run between 21-29 November.

“We are really looking forward to TEZA being a catalyst for uniting the fabulous social innovation and collaboration that is being done in our suburbs and communities,” says Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett.

For the duration of the week, the site of the old McDonald’s will act as a hub for artists working on a dozen projects. The fast-food outlet was the first of its kind in this country when it opened in 1976 and an important meeting place, but the building has been disused for several years.

During TEZA it will be brought to life with a variety of works including, a people’s library, bread-making from the different cultures living in the area and a DIY funeral service.

As part of TEZA, a mini-festival will also take place at the nearby Takapuwahia community gardens, filmmaker Wiremu Grace (Ngati Toa) says. “We will celebrate our kaumatua with stories of connection to the land, sea and environment. Past, present and future. We will share fire, kai, rongoa, hangi, mirimiri, games, workshops and laughter in the spirit of community.”

Letting Space successfully staged the first TEZA in New Brighton in 2013. They are the same team behind Wellington’s Urban Dream Brokerage which helps artists transform empty retail space to enliven the city.

“TEZA is for demonstrating economies of mutual benefit and to show that cities can be kind places where people experience meaningful connections,” says co-curator Sophie Jerram.

Artists so far confirmed include TEZA 2013 veterans  Kim Paton, Tim Barlow, Mark Harvey, David Cook, Ash Holwell and Kerry Ann Lee.  New contributors include Wiremu Grace, Leala Falesuega, Lana Lopesi, Faith Wilson, Vanessa Crowe, Jennifer Whitty, Simon Gray, Paula MacEwan, Moana Mitchell, Kawika Aipa, Kava Club,  Barbarian Productions, Andrew Matautia, and Moses Viliamu.


TEZA is also supported by the Mana Community Trust.

Project summaries can be found here. 


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Mark Amery, Sophie Jerram and Helen Kirlew Smith
Letting Space

August 25th: Letting Space has won the Wellington City Supreme Wellington Airport Community Award. 

More information on Letting Space

We are looking for a new broker for Wellington

Kia ora te whanau

It's time for us to add some more fabulousness to the mix at Letting Space by recruiting a part time Urban Dream Broker.

We are advertising for a broker who will work along existing Brokerage manager, Helen Kirlew Smith and receive some communications direction from Sophie and Mark.

Job applications close on Monday 24th August.   The job is for two days (16 hours) at present and after 3 momths we will review the position with view to keeping it going til June 2016.


A wee teaser:

Advertised Position: Broker

 Want to help revitalise Wellington city? Are you passionate about the role the arts can play in society? Feel you can talk to both artists and property owners as equals? This is a role to create new opportunities for the arts in Wellington and help change the face of the city.

see http://www.thebigidea.co.nz/work/jobs-opportunities/public-community-arts/visual-arts-projects/167940-broker-urban-dream-brokera


Dates and initial line-up of collaborators for TEZA 2015 announced

Thank you protest, Freeville School, TEZA 2013We’re thrilled to be able to announce dates and the initial line-up of collaborators who will be working with communities to help in declaration of Porirua City as a Transitional Economic Zone of Aotearoa, or TEZA for short.

22-29 November is the TEZA week of celebration. This is the coming together of communities from around Porirua City and the country, bringing together at least 12 projects, all which explore new ways for us to work together, exploring innovative socially productive activity. An open evolving platform, we are welcoming all to join in conversations, actions and events. 

Project leaders so far confirmed include TEZA 2013 stalwarts Kim Paton, Tim Barlow, Mark Harvey, David Cook, Ash Holwell and Kerry Ann Lee with newcomers looking to collaborate Wiremu Grace, Leala Falesuega, Lana Lopesi, Faith Wilson, Vanessa Crowe, Jennifer Whitty, Simon Gray, Paula MacEwan, Moana Mitchell, Kawika Aipa, Kava Club,  Barbarian Productions, Andrew Matautia, Moses Viliamu, and Makerita Makapelu. At least that is our beginning!

What will TEZA look like? We don’t know yet! It depends on what everyone brings. TEZA is experiment in being an open source model, both generous and critical, evolving in collaboration with the artists. Projects will be announced in August.

This is a platform for socially productive activities that are not recognised in the current economic system. We want to connect them to artists to together create projects that make us think about and look at the world differently, exciting change.

This is the second TEZA. The first was in New Brighton Christchurch and a book full of extensive documentation and writing on TEZA 2013 is available to read online and download here.

What is a ‘transitional economic zone’? Special economic zones exist worldwide. Yet usually in these zones, regulations are lifted to allow companies to extract resources, often at local expense and little acknowledgement of what has already been developed, for multinational profit. The playful concept of the ‘transitional economic zone’ turns this idea on its head. Here, a group of visiting artists’ work to see how they might best contribute to a region, recognise the strengths existent in a community, and how they might make visible understanding of its history and grounding. Their diverse projects will offer challenges and raise questions as well as bring joy and celebration.


A call for expressions of interest for involvement in TEZA 2015

Ma tou rourou ma toku rourou ka ora ai tautou

With your resources and my resources we will all be sustained

Calling for the submission of ideas and expressions of interest in involvement in TEZA, the Transitional Economic Zone of Aotearoa Porirua City 2015.

Letting Space is seeking exciting ideas for development and expressions of interest for getting involved with projects. We are interested in hearing from artists and those interested in community development nationally and within Porirua City.

TEZA 2015 will be held in Porirua City, New Zealand in late November of this year, but the gathering together starts now. 


In 2013 we ran the inaugural TEZA project in New Brighton, Christchurch. 

Please see www.teza.org.nz for a snapshot of the project or check out http://www.enjoy.org.nz/files/TEZA2013_TheCatalogue.pdf for retrospective documentation of the first TEZA in 2013.

We have funding from Creative New Zealand allowing the commissioning of seven projects from New Zealand artists at $3500 each - this process is underway but interest is still welcomed. We also welcome proposals from artists with funding that enables them to complete their project without our funding (in 2013 this included artists with funding from Ngai Tahu, Wintec, Massey, and University of Canterbury). We also want to hear from individuals or groups in Porirua City who:

- are engaged in socially productive activity that fits outside the current economic system.

- are interested in being involved generally in projects as collaborators.

We aim to commission 12 projects which are diverse in their approach, locations, community collaborations and feedback into a collective community environment. In addition to this dozen, TEZA will be an open platform for other projects to join.


We are interested in a group interested in working collaboratively with others in an open environment where we learn from each other, and ask ourselves tough questions. For those who have not worked with us before, we are particularly interested in projects that are collective, permeable and collaborative.

What we are looking for: General


Projects that:

• Involve collaboration within Porirua City and/or with other artists. Importantly, we want to see the projects work with a community group/s in Porirua City (we don’t expect you to be specific unless you have already identified a group, rather we will look to assist in locating the right group to match). A strength of TEZA 2013 were projects that saw artists from across NZ working together, although not all projects were led in this way.

• Explore different ways for people to work together, proposing different forms of exchange and economies.

• Have a sense of play  - that excite with new shapes

• Are permeable: can change, adapt and be flexible in response to the communities they encounter.

• Some projects that welcome and help make a diverse range of people bond in a central TEZA village.

• Projects that work out in different parts of the different communities of Porirua City, with the participants then coming back into the centre.

• Are interested in exploring the public commons and work towards social change.

• Are both open and complex – ‘love and criticality’ was a strength identified of TEZA 2013.



Emerging themes for Porirua


Over the last two months we have been meeting community members of Porirua City to tease out areas of significance that fit with the TEZA mandate. At this stage we envisage the projects speaking to the following areas by highlighting leadership and innovation in the community, and looking to explore new ways of empowering it. You may wish to add to the list! One of TEZA’s objectives is to find abundance where often others have seen deprivation.


Youth - a defining feature of the city is that it has the youngest population in the country, rather than the national trend of an aging one. In March Porirua Council announced Children's Priority -- a policy Mayor Nick Leggett says will put children and young people at the heart of decision making.


Immigration – Porirua is home to a diverse range of immigrants from a strong South African community in Whitby and a strong refugee community to a large and diverse Pacific island community established since the 1970s.


Visibility/foreignness – how well do we know our neighbours? East Porirua remains unknown to many Wellingtonians, and many from Porirua are unfamiliar to the wider Wellington region.


City Centre – Porirua’s geographic diversity means that it is a struggle to create a village within the multiple villages. It is rare to find a ‘commons’ for different peoples to meet, beyond the shopping mall and Megacentre in its centre. This year the Porirua City centre celebrates its 50th year. TEZA looks to find commonalities across diverse communities.


Housing and shelter - how does property ownership and planning affect our sense of place? Much of Porirua housing was built mid-20th Century from centralised suburban plans and large tracts are still state-owned. What effect will planned future sales of state housing have on residents and communities?


Physical environment – how are water and air qualities measured and protected - around the harbour, Whitireia Peninsula, Pauatahanui inlet, Ngati Toa’s care for the harbour.  The introduction of ‘invasive species’.


The relationship of the city to mana whenua - the pa of Takupuwahia and Hongoeka. The city centre as vestige of the land wars. The return of extensive areas of the centre to Ngati Toa - The most prominent hill is called Colonial Knob - there are calls for it to return to its Maori name: Rangituhi (sky glow).


Mental illness – the need for alternative economic models to deal with issues in the community. The legacy of Porirua Mental Hospital, and the future of what is now Ngati Toa land.  


Distinct and separate social groupings - We are interested in how in Porirua City, communities with quite distinctly different income and cultural makeups sit cheek by jowl and to the outsider seem relatively unmixed: Plimmerton and Hongoeka; Whitby and Waitangirua, Takapuwahia and Porirua town centre. In this we see directly the play of income inequality and a clustering that means, for example, many families who send their children outside the area for schooling at a ‘high’ level. What are the opportunities and examples of more mixing across perceived different groups in Porirua city?  


Faith – what do we believe in? The church plays a prominent role in the community and in community development work.


We look forward to hearing from you.


Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery

Curators, Letting Space





Restoration Complete

This is Bronwyn Holloway Smith, nicely posed by photographer Clive Pigott for an article by Max Rashbrooke in the November edition of Fishhead Magazine. Great colour combos. As you can see staged, Bronwyn is putting in place at Massey the final tiles of one of the two reproductions of an E Mervyn Taylor mural bringing us close to the end of the Letting Space and JWT commissioned project Te Ika-a-Akoranga - part of Bronwyn's bigger journey with her PhD through Massey University College of Creative Arts, for which she is investigating the cultural significance of the landing sites of NZ’s Southern Cross Cable.

Restoration has been completed on this rediscovered significant mural, and it is now available to view online and as a reproduction in Auckland’s Queen Street in a large publicly-viewable glass cabinet in the JWT offices in the Imperial Building, Lower Queen Street. As the online reproduction shows, 16 of 414 ceramic tiles that comprise the mural remain missing.

For those catching up with the story the mural is a large-scale illustration of the mythical Māori tale of Māui fishing up the North Island of New Zealand (Te Ika-a-Māui). It was originally created in 1961 by leading New Zealand artist E. Mervyn Taylor to mark the opening of the Tasman section of the Commonwealth Pacific Cable (COMPAC), a precursor of today’s Southern Cross Cable. The present-day fibre-optic cable carries 98% of New Zealand’s international internet traffic and is allegedly subject to wholesale mass surveillance, as revealed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald at the Moment of Truth event at Auckland Town Hall in September 2014.

The COMPAC cable was a major post-World War Two submarine telecommunications system built between 1961-63 to connect a network of Commonwealth countries.  The more recent Southern Cross Cable’s landing station is located in the same high-security complex as the now disused COMPAC landing station.

The work is part of a commissioned series of projects by independent public art curators Letting Space for JWT New Zealand, which explores the relationship between private and public space. For this commissioned project Holloway-Smith has painstakingly restored and photographed all the tiles in the Taylor mural. The reproduction of the mural has been put together gradually over 2014, like a jigsaw, as the restoration and digitisation of tiles occurred.

The tiles have been released online under a Creative Commons copyright license allowing members of the public, anywhere in the internet-connected world, to reconstruct their own version of the mural.

“The COMPAC station was publicly accessible for many years until approximately 1990, when a high-security perimeter fence was built around the complex.” Holloway-Smith has explained. “It seems appropriate to give part of the work back to the public considering the mural’s history as a public artwork, the shifts that have happened in terms of its accessibility, and its proximity to one of the most important sites in New Zealand’s communications history”.

The COMPAC cable reinforced the commonwealth geo-political ties that were strengthened during World War Two.  At the time of building, the cable cost $100 million, spanning 14,000 miles, and containing 11,000 miles of telephone cable that linked Scotland, Canada, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. The tale of The Fish of Maui bears a metaphorical connection with the physical nature of the COMPAC cable.

Taylor’s mural was installed in the foyer of the COMPAC landing station in Northcote, Auckland, but was later removed due to deterioration and thought to be lost. The mural has recently been rediscovered stacked away in a disused area of the now defunct COMPAC landing station. The history of the mural and the Southern Ocean cables is outlined as part of the art project in a blog here.  

This the second project in a series commissioned by curators Letting Space for JWT New Zealand. The first Please Give Generously by Judy Darragh ran from December 2013 to May 2014.




Te-Ika-Akoranga - A Story about the Southern Cross Cable and a Mural 1962 - 2014

This is a story about the Southern Cross Cable and a public mural.

1962 Artist E. Mervyn Taylor completes a mural for the New Zealand Post Office. It is installed in the foyer of the COMPAC (Commonwealth Pacific) Cable Station in Northcote to mark the opening of the Tasman section of the undersea cable, which enters the country at Takapuna Beach.

The building is open to the public with a simple visitor book on hand for those entering the building.

Date Unknown  The Hauraki Gulf Cable Protection Zone is established in northeastern New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, protecting a large area of seabed from fishing and anchoring.

1982 The ANZCAN cable is laid as a replacement for the COMPAC cable.

1987 The New Zealand Post Office becomes a State Owned Enterprise, split into three units. Telecom New Zealand takes ownership of Cables.

1990 Telecom New Zealand is privatised: sold to Bell Atlantic and Ameritech. Entries trail off in the COMPAC landing station visitors book.

Date Unknown The cable station complex is secured.

1993 The PACRIM East cable is laid - linking Auckland and Hawaii.

1996 The Submarine Pipelines and Cables Protection Act comes into law.

1999 The Southern Cross Cable lands on Takapuna Beach. It runs to a Cable Station constructed next to the COMPAC Cable Station.

2002 The ANZCAN cable ceases operation.

2010 Wikileaks releases documents showing over 300 foreign sites that are critical to US national interests. The only two New Zealand sites on the list are the two landing sites of the Southern Cross Cable.

March 2013  JWT Advertising approaches Letting Space to make a series of work for private offices. Letting Space respond with a plan for commissioning three public artworks that traverse both public space and the private zone of JWT offices.

June 2013 Bronwyn Holloway-Smith proposes idea to examine the landing sites of the Southern Cross Cable through her Letting Space Commission, as well as to complete a PhD on the same topic.

Google Maps satellite view of COMPAC cable station (highlighted) located in the same high-security complex as the Southern Cross Cable station (next door).

August 2013 The artist and Letting Space visit North Shore, Auckland.

Including the now security-fenced perimeter of the cable station in Northcote.

January-March 2014 The artist hears that there is a ceramic mural on the inside of the cable station and requests permission to photograph. She is informed that it was removed due to damage and deterioration.

The artist locates a small colour photograph in NZ Archives.

April 2014 The artist enquires as to remnants of the mural and the Southern Cross Cable Station Manager locates a set of three cardboard boxes containing the tiles.

The shape of the work for the commission for Letting Space and JWT is confirmed and discussed with the E. Mervyn Taylor Estate and current assumed owners Telecom. An initial set of tiles travel to Massey University, Wellington.

Conservators at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa view a sample of tiles and advise on the best restoration approach. Restoration and digitisation commences.

May 2014. A fishing dragnet is purchased by the artist. The dragnet is a a nod to the Hauraki Gulf Cable Protection Area (the net is the kind used to catch snapper, the most popular of the fish species caught in the gulf) and, puns aside, makes reference to discussions of catch-all internet surveillance - a tactic that has been referred to as “dragnet surveillance”.

The first set of tiles are individually photographed, edited, printed in duplicate, and laminated. Negotiation is made to allow the artist to have the remaining tiles relocated to Wellington for restoration work.


The net is sent to Auckland to be hung tautly by Letting Space project coordinator Harry Silver in a large glass cabinet at JWT Auckland’s Imperial Lane Queen Street Offices.

June 2014 The mural unveiling process begins whereby the artist mails a parcel each week to Kirsten Brown at JWT Auckland.

It contains a group of reproductions of the tiles to be hung on the fishing net as per coordinates given. The second set are hung on a net in the artist’s temporary studio in Wellington.

Additional restoration assistance comes in the form of a team of volunteers who attend a working bee organised by the artist.

July 2014  The artist releases a first batch of tiles online, under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License allowing the public to share and adapt the tiles for any purpose, even commercially. Restoration work, photographing and posting of tiles to JWT continues.

August 2014 The artist gives a presentation and chairs a discussion panel at Massey University College of Creative Arts looking at copyright issues connected with the project. A second batch of tiles are released online, and the artist visits Te Papa with curator Megan Tamati-Quenell to view the painting by Taylor that the mural was based on. Restoration work, photographing and posting of tiles to JWT continues.

August 2014 Telecom NZ becomes SPARK, thereby removing any nominal ties to the original New Zealand Post Office.

September 2014 The artist continues to release batches. The picture is now almost complete.

15 September 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whistle-blowing anti-surveillance advocate Edward Snowden take part via the internet in an event at the Auckland Town Hall titled the 'Moment of Truth'. Greenwald and Snowden present information about "Project Speargun", suggesting that New Zealanders are subject to mass internet surveillance under the GCSB with the full knowledge of Prime Minister John Key (leader of the National Party). The surveillance is said to take place via a tap on the Southern Cross Cable.
October 2014 The JWT commissioned component of the work is due to close with a presentation and  the reproduction of the complete mural online and in the JWT cabinet.   


For more information on this project including an interview with the artist go here.

To view the mural online go here.

To receive updates as this project continues join our mailing list here.