Eleven artists, ten walls, three days. This is the formula for Graffiato, the Taupo Street Art Festival held over New Zealand’s long weekend from 26-28 October 2019.
The festival has been running for nine years with 125 murals created in total, 85 of which still remain, making Taupo New Zealand’s street art capital, with the most comprehensive collection of contemporary murals in the country. The murals have become a tourist attraction and are incredibly diverse, from Maori legends and native wildlife to retro cartoons and geometric allusions.
“When Graffiato first started in 2011, artists were mostly from graffiti and street art backgrounds. These days it’s much more diverse with illustration, typography, tattooing, calligraphy and studio painting all represented on our walls,” says festival curator Ross Liew. You can read about this year’s artists here.
I love how the council has been pro-active in facilitating this project to beautify their back alleys.
“I walk around all day looking for dirty old walls,” says Alice Thompson, project coordinator of Town Centre Taupo, whose job it is to find grubby, unattractive walls and convince their owners to let them be transformed by one of the festival’s invited artists. At no cost to the building owner, the wall is prepped and the artist given creative licence to paint what they want. If the owner truly doesn’t like the result, the mural is painted over, which has only happened twice in the festival’s history.
Being able to watch the artists at work is pretty incredible. Some interact with the crowd as they paint while others like to work behind a barrier and do the big reveal when finished.
While the artists are unpaid, it is a fantastic showcase for their work. Thankfully very few of the murals have been vandalised, though some have not stood the test of time and are painted over.
If you can’t make the festival it’s worth visiting at any time of year. Pick up the Graffiato Walking Map, which will lead you places you may not otherwise go, where you will find interesting independent stores and food outlets too.
Many of the walls are in lane-ways behind shops, so frustratingly, some are blocked by parked cars and delivery vehicles, but that is the nature of street art.
It’s also great to learn the festival is being mindful of the environment and are aiming to be a zero-waste event by 2020.
Do you know of other street art festivals around the world?
More: For more details about the festival head to Love Taupo.
Disclaimer: I paid my own way to New Zealand and explored Taupo as a guest of Destination Great Lake Taupo.