She’s the new Graffiti Projects Co-ordinator at Christchurch City Council and already she’s making a difference with the ‘What’s Cool About Your School’ initiative.
Schools can ‘adopt a Chorus or Vodafone cabinet and showcase their school by designing, painting and maintaining the cabinet.
“It helps to beautify their surroundings and increase ownership in their community,” Ms Hillier says.
A successful pilot was recently held at Te Kōmanawa Rowley School with Year 8 student named Bella chosen to create a design. A cabinet down Rowley Avenue was painted by Bella whose story behind her design “is about the hidden talent we all have, and the flowers representing all the different cultures in my community”.
Ms Hillier is hoping to roll the programme out to other schools over the remainder of the year.
“I’ve searched up every cabinet box in every suburb, identified which ones have been painted already and then prioritised the ones that are most often tagged. Then I’ve looked at which schools are closest. My aim, along with my colleague Donna, is to connect with around 20 schools this year, so we can collectively beautify them.”
With a background as a primary school teacher, Ms Hillier has created a special pack for school pupils that will help to scaffold and inspire students’ designs. The Graffiti Team will then provide all the paint and materials artists will need. Each school that participates will qualify for a gift of paint resources for their art department.
“I see this role as being an agent for life and community change through building connections, relationships, opportunity, and education in our communities. We’re working at a preventative level to reduce tagging and see all those with artistic ability contributing to the community in a ‘beautiful way’.”
Ms Hillier has been out with artists painting murals and was surprised at the number of people who made a point of stopping to express their gratitude and compliments.
Additionally, she is part of the reactivation of the offending programme with Restorative Justice Services to work alongside people who’ve been apprehended for tagging.
“We offer them the opportunity to harness their skill and channel it in a positive way. This has already proven to be fruitful with offenders now painting murals in their community rather than graffiti.”
Liaising with businesses to preserve and restore murals that have been tagged is another facet of her role and she’s currently facilitating the preservation of the elephant mural on Manchester Street.
“I also work with not-for-profit organisations and businesses that have been repeatedly tagged, providing them with resources to remove the tags and also connecting them with artists to facilitate putting up murals on their walls.”
Pop-up walls for local and international artists to ‘free paint’ is another idea she’s dreaming about, to provide a legal space for artist to express themselves.
Mel Hillier is full of passion and enthusiasm to help make Christchurch beautiful – and she’s off to a great start!