Striking artwork added to Conversation Station

Published on 07 February 2019

Conversation Station

The little park known as the Conversation Station is now complete with the addition of an artwork by Marty Vreede, Director of Pakohe Whanganui Limited.

The little park is a structure with tables, seating and greenery which was installed on Victoria Avenue (near the corner of Guyton Street) in April 2018.

After a promotional video featuring strangers conversing in the little park went viral, permanent audio was installed in December.

The audio is activated with a push of a button – this prompts people to spin a question wheel, which settles on a topic to discuss.

A blessing for the artwork was held by kaumatua John Maihi on Tuesday, 29 January, with attendees having the opportunity to view the artwork and hear an explanation of the thoughts behind it.

Councillor Helen Craig, Town Centre Regeneration chairwoman says, “It’s great to have this beautiful artwork installed in time for the Masters Games, when thousands of out-of-town visitors can enjoy it along with locals.

“It’s important to acknowledge Ellen Young, Whanganui District Council’s Town Centre Regeneration Manager, for her work in conceptualising and organising the entire installation of the little park”, says Cr Craig.

The dominant image on the artwork is tuna (eels), representing the intertwining of people, cultures and conversations. The tuna are depicted kanohi ki te kanohi or ‘face-to-face’, as the Conversation Station is an initiative aiming to encourage people to interact in person.

Mr Vreede says, “Kanohi ki te kanohi is a concept that has been handed down through generations to show how important it is to have direct eye contact when sharing precious information with the grace and dignity it deserves”.

The kōwhaiwhai (decorative Māori patterning) is based on a pattern designed for Putiki Pā and references the tributaries feeding into the Whanganui River.

Mr Vreede explains that the idea to use tuna to represent conversations “came from an artwork carved for the Whanganui District Library by artist Para Matchitt, which references how many tales tuna have to tell”.

Riah King-Wall, Whanganui District Council’s Arts Advisor, says “This thoughtful and beautiful addition to the Conversation Station is a great example of how the arts enrich our public spaces.”

“The Council is currently consulting on its proposed Arts and Culture Strategic Plan. During this period we are gathering ideas about how the Council can further support the strong arts and culture scene that exists here in our city.

“Perhaps having this wonderful artwork on the Conversation Station will bring the topic of developing our arts and culture to the forefront of people’s minds and conversations”.

Submissions on the proposed Arts and Culture Strategic Plan close at 5.00pm on Friday 15 March. If you would like to submit online, go to or email your thoughts to Hard copies are available from the Council’s temporary Customer Services area at 179 St Hill Street, Davis Library, or Gonville Café Library. You can drop completed submission forms in to the Council at 179 St Hill Street.

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