Te Awamutu artist Teresa Siemonek can barely pass a large blank wall without imagining how she might breathe new life into it.
And no, it’s not graffiti she is thinking about … it’s art.
Teresa has become something of a local legend with her wall-enhancing murals. Big, blank spaces, it seems, push her creative gene into overdrive.
“Yes, I do find myself thinking about what I could do with that empty wall, or those neglected buildings or sheds when I see them,” she laughed.
Teresa has loved art since she was a child. She enjoys the freedom it offers, the quiet therapy of it, the variety of results that come from experimenting with different mediums. She discovered much of that at school, then spent 15 years farming and raising a family.
For the past couple of decades, she has been passing on her skills. She teaches children after school and is running an extensive art tutoring programme with the support organisation, Enrich Plus, both out of the Rosebank Art Centre. Right now, she is tutoring about 25 people from Enrich Plus over three days a week … and the numbers are growing.
Teresa said the art centre offered great access to materials and other resources. She delights in being able to help people find joy in the artistic process: “It is a great form of expression, and really empowering for them.”
Her Enrich Plus students are currently working on a range of pieces they will display and sell at an annual exhibition held at Te Awamutu Library in November.
Bringing art to the public eye is an important aspect of what Teresa does. Her own enjoyment of painting murals started with a blank wall at work, one someone suggested could do with brightening up. Teresa filled it with new life and colour.
Next, she painted an old shed in the Rose Gardens, and after that, decided to enter a public art competition run by Waipā District Council late last year calling on artists to submit an original concept to be applied to the Centennial Park toilet block using a graphic wrap. It became known as the ‘Designer Dunny Competition’.
Teresa won it with her depiction of a kōtare (kingfisher), tῡi, kōwhai tree and raupō plants.
This year, she got involved with the Teen Mural Project funded by the National Library of New Zealand. Teresa worked with a group of 10 youngsters to create a large canvas work with the theme of ‘Celebrating Reading’ and ‘Where reading will take us in the future’. Once completed, the huge canvas was transformed into a vinyl wrap and installed on the wall of the Te Awamutu Library’s teen area in early July.
Creating big stuff has its challenges, but Teresa is more than up for it.
“There is the issue of scale … planning it out often takes longer than actually painting it. But I’m really quite keen on doing more.”