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Transformation . . . Oamaru artist Matthew Wicks stands in front of his most recent street art project, a mural on a wall at the Stuart St shops in Holmes Hill. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Matthew Wicks wants Oamaru to embrace its potential for street art.

The Oamaru artist recently completed a large mural on a wall at the Stuart St shops in Holmes Hill, and he hoped it would inspire other building owners to follow suit.

A bit of paint and some creativity could transform even the oldest and most grungy alleyway into a destination, Mr Wicks said.

“And there are so many of these little destinations that are just waiting for that to happen in Oamaru. It would be cool to bring them to life.”

Mr Wicks was not interested in touching Oamaru’s “beautiful” historic buildings – that was art in its own right, he said. But other areas of the North Otago town could be transformed by street art and give people another reason to visit, he said.

“When you’ve got, really, just boring cinder block walls and sides of garages and warehouses that were built in the ’70s and ’80s, I think they could really benefit from having something quite cool,” he said.

“It just brings the area to life, it really does.”

Mr Wicks was approached about doing his most recent mural by Kerry Robb, an old school friend, who bought the block of shops in Stuart St.

Mr Robb had some loose ideas for the mural, but encouraged Mr Wicks to “just go for it” and put his own spin on the design.

“You start off with a loose plan of what you want to do, but it always changes,” he said.

“I wanted to have a bit of a New Zealand theme. I love what Banksy does with his artworks.”

The mural – which measures about 4m by 15m – was Wicks’ largest street art project.

“As far as murals go, I’m new to it – I’ve done three.

“It’s still a learning process for me, but it’s great.”

He loved being able to take something “really bland and boring” and turn it into an eye-catching and interesting piece of art.

“I feel like it’s art for everybody. Everybody gets to enjoy it.

“I enjoy it as well. I don’t feel like it’s a job. It’s fun – and if I get to bring other people a bit of enjoyment, instead of staring at a boring old wall, then I’ve succeeded.”

The feedback on his Stuart St mural had been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“I was prepared to get a bit of negative feedback, just because some people don’t want to see this, and I can respect that – everyone’s got their own views on art.

“But I haven’t had any. It’s just been so good.”

Street art was not a cheap exercise, but it was “well and truly” worth the investment.

Mr Wicks would like to get a small group of artists who were interested in street art together to brainstorm some ideas, approach some business and building owners and apply for funding.

He encouraged any building owners interested in investing in street art to get in touch.

Mr Wicks grew up in Oamaru and, after spending a few years living overseas, returned to his hometown seven years ago.

Oamaru had taken a bit of time to realise its potential, but the wheels were moving in the right direction now, he said.

“They weren’t when I left high school, and that’s why so many people left.

“That was really sad, but it’s reassuring to see not only are young families choosing to stay but they’re coming back as well. Ex-Oamaruvians are coming back, which means a younger, more vibrant population – and people eager to get things done because they’re coming back for a reason.”

To see more photos of Mr Wicks’ Stuart St mural and other art projects, visit his Facebook page: facebook.com/WickseyDesign.