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Graffiti in a virtual city Porirua’s big idea

Sep 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Latest News, News

VIRTUAL VIRTUE: New graffiti management coordinator, Richard Witheford Smith with Trevor Mason

PORIRUA City Council has involved Whitireia Polytech students in a virtual attempt to reduce graffiti.

A $2000 study was commissioned with four Whitireia management students to look at creating a place for urban artists to exhibit their work.

The aim is to stop offenders from tagging in the real city, although cost is a major issue for the project’s future.

Trevor Mason, who initiated the project early this year while graffiti management co-ordinator for Porirua City Council, says design courses and pre-entry training would encourage the artists to get involved.

“Most of these kids come from poor families who don’t have access to the internet or their own phones.

“By providing them with access to computers and internet and design stuff, that would be quite a seductive draw-in for these kids,” says Mr Mason, who believes the idea is a first for New Zealand.

Artists would create their own suburb in the virtual city, on the condition they stop tagging outside the programme.

“If we found out they had been tagging, they would get one warning,” Mr Mason says.

And he says if they tag again, “we would send in the helicopter gunships to blow [up] their suburb”.

“They would know what it’s like to have all their stuff destroyed.”

The Whitireia students completing the study ran interviews with police and key people on the council, and ran focus groups with offenders and students to see if the idea would work.

Student Michelle Kie Tonga says working with the students at the beginning was hard but she learned a lot from the project.

“The best part of the project is that it’s another option of reducing graffiti.

“It would get students involved in schools and they’re the ones that are mainly tagging.”

She says working with the Kapiti Mana Police area commander, John Spence was good, and they got to meet some taggers to get their views.

“The most helpful people would have been our clients, Trevor Mason and John Poppleton, their opinions on the work, just pointing us in the right direction.”

“Trying to bring together all the research, doing the project has really opened my eyes up to project management.”

Ms Kie has recently finished her final year at Whitireia, where she majored in management and hopes to find a job in the management field.

Richard Witheford-Smith is in the process of taking over as Porirua’s new graffiti management co-ordinator, so Mr Mason says what happens next for the virtual city is uncertain.

“The recommendation is really to go and find something overseas to see if we can get a franchise on it, because to do it ourselves would be too expensive.”

“It might be something that we would look at if we could find an elegant solution in terms of someone who would franchise, allow us to have a suburb within an existing site that we could customise to our own needs.”

The project has started another idea, which involves separate web pages for taggers, urban artists and sculptors as part of the current council website.

“[Graffiti virtual city] is an example of us thinking outside the box.

“No one in New Zealand has even considered the idea and in fact there’s only probably a couple of places in the world that have really looked at an idea anywhere like this.

“Unless we had gone through this process, we wouldn’t have come up with the new thinking that we have now.”


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