Artist works with council and schools on ‘living sculpture’ project

Published on 11 June 2021

Brydee Rood

When four macrocarpa trees were removed from Burton Avenue in Whanganui East, local artist Brydee Rood got in touch with Whanganui District Council and a project called A Future Canopy sprang to life.

Brydee Rood says, “When I saw four humungous macrocarpa trees had been cut down in my neighbourhood I mourned those trees and all that loss of habitat for birdlife and insects.”

The council’s parks team explained by email that the trees had to be removed because their branches were beginning to weaken and drop, and the trees would soon become a safety risk.

"I’m always looking out for opportunities to explore my art projects in interesting public spaces," Brydee Rood says, “so when the parks team told me the macrocarpas would be replaced I made a project proposal and they were open and receptive to the idea.”

A Future Canopy involves planting four seasons of native trees that will be a continuous source of nectar and berries for pollinators and enhance the neighbourhood for people to enjoy.

“My artwork has responded to critical environmental issues for many years,” Brydee Rood says.

“Most of my art is ephemeral and I’m inspired to create work that either doesn’t leave a trace or benefits the environment.

A Future Canopy is a living sculpture – trees are living, breathing, growing, changing and that’s how I want my artwork to be, not static.

“Treating the installation as an artwork is a conscious, poetic act about the future, elevating the respect for those trees and our connection to nature in response to the climate emergency and deforestation.”

Brydee Rood says the planting layout is designed so there is space for the trees to take their natural shape and for people to enjoy the trees.

The project has an educational element, with 60 students from four local schools – Cullinane College, Whanganui Girls’ College, St Anne’s School and Whanganui East School – involved.

A karakia and planting day with Burton Avenue residents and schools will be held in June.

Whanganui East School deputy principal, May Bennett, has been coordinating schools for the project.

“This term our students are studying kaitiakitanga, which is about looking after our environment. A Future Canopy is a living embodiment of this ethos. It aligns with the work our students are doing with Bushy Park Tarapuruhi and the Whanganui Regional Museum to learn about habitat conservation and local birdlife.

“It also gives our students an authentic opportunity to practise Whanganuitanga, as we support this event alongside our school kaumatua, John Maihi, and our kapa haka tutor, Lynaire Simon.”

Each school will be gifted four to six native trees corresponding to the project to care for in their school grounds.

“We will use the trees gifted to our school to celebrate Puanga,” May Bennett says.

The council is funding the Burton Avenue trees and the Eleanor Burgess Trust is funding the schools’ trees.

The council’s Public Art Fund chair, Anique Jayasinghe, has supported Brydee Rood with coordinating the project.

She says A Future Canopy will be registered as a public artwork, the first in Whanganui East.

“This ‘living sculpture’ will stand as a unique addition to Whanganui’s collection of public art, and it invites us to reconsider our usual assumptions of what public art can be.

“I’m so pleased to see the level of community engagement Brydee has undertaken for the project too.

“Hopefully this is one of many more public artworks to come for Whanganui’s outer neighbourhoods.”

You can learn more about Brydee’s Rood’s art in this article.


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