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An unlikely canvas: How local artists are transforming Chorus cabinets around town

An unlikely canvas: How local artists are transforming Chorus cabinets around town
Paul Walsh's 'Ski bunny'

When given the choice between a bit of scrawled graffiti and a thoughtfully crafted art piece, it's a no brainer that broadband company Chorus is choosing the latter. More than 200 of its cabinets across New Zealand have been used as a canvas by local artists, brightening up their urban surroundings and dramatically reducing the amount of graffiti being done. 

When the cabinets are left blank, they prove all too tempting targets for taggers. The problem was costing the company more than $300,000 to remove the graffiti, so it made sense to think outside the box to solve the problem.

So in 2010, the cabinet art project was born – and this approach has deterred taggers, while collaborating with local artists and celebrating their work in a very public forum. 

Chorus has since partnered with artists to commission works around the country, such as Paul Walsh, who painted the grumpy cat meme on a silo in Auckland and received a lot of media attention for it.  

"Painting’s a really lonely, solitary thing. I’ve always had exhibitions when I could, but it limits how you can get your art in front of people. Paintings in public places get more attention than anything,” Walsh says. “Now that I’ve done a few around Auckland, people who recognise my other murals come up and tell me which are their favourites, or which ones they live near. People are embracing them as part of the landscape.”

There are more than 50 boxes around the country that boast his work, while there are also artists further afield beautifying cabinets in Masterton, Hastings, Nelson, Porirua, Invercargill, Levin, Whangarei, Rotorua, Palmerston North and Ashburton, as well as Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington.

 A young offender from Levin was also given the chance to paint a cabinet after police identified him as having potential to turn his life around, while a number of school students have gotten involved and given cabinets a makeover, with Chorus providing the painting materials.

To help withstand the constant sun, wind and rain, artists use paint designed for the outdoors and apply graffiti guard on top to protect their work.

Here's a selection of the cabinet artworks below. To see them all, head to Chorus' blog.

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