'Symbol of Hamilton' locked into place outside museum
Morning commuters and cafe quaffers in downtown Hamilton were transfixed as an enshrouded, three-storey high artwork was erected by the roadside.
Tongue of the Dog, created by world-renowned sculptor Michael Parekowhai, was carefully lowered into place by a huge crane in a manner not unlike a gigantic Lego block tower being fitted on to its base.
The $700,000 sculpture was trucked in from the artist's Auckland studio at 6am on Monday morning. It was raised and lowered on to its new site near Waikato Museum shortly before 9am, before a liquid resin was poured in to help lock it into place.
The piece was constructed over the past eight months. The next part of the installation process involves construction of a large pool and pump system, which will effectively transform the work into a gigantic water feature.
Tongue of the Dog will then be officially unveiled on Tuesday, May 24 at 4.30pm at a public gathering in the museum courtyard. The wrappings will come off at least a few times in the intervening time, so engineers can test the water system.
Kate Ross, a project manager for the philanthropic arts group Mesh which has facilitated the procurement of the colourful piece, was keeping a close eye on the installation.
"They are just putting the final panels in place before it is raised. It's taken two to three years to get this far. We don't want to rush the final minutes of the process and get something wrong."
Kate Darrow, who chairs Mesh's curatorial panel, said she was thrilled the city was getting such a significant work.
"It's a big day for Hamilton. Auckland is going to be quite envious of us ... it's so ambitious. Mesh is seriously punching above its weight.
"This is by far our biggest public work and it will become the thing people think of, when they think of Hamilton."
Mesh chairwoman Nancy Caiger was also jubilant.
"This is a fabulous project. It has taken us a long time, but this day has finally arrived.
"This is definitely going to become a symbol of Hamilton. It's so contemporary."
It would act in part as a window looking on to the redevelopment of the banks of the Waikato River, she said.
"This spot is the entertainment hub of Hamilton. But it is also the cultural hub. This artwork will mark the crossover point."
Tongue of the Dog would also be a counterpoint to another artistic icon - the Farming Family situated at the northern end of Victoria St.
Caiger said it was representative of Hamilton as the "city of the future" and the increased importance of technology and education, as well as reconnecting residents to the region's roots through telling the Maori legend of the Waikato River.
Tongue of the Dog was funded by donations from more than 70 different donors, with major contributions from The Perry Foundation, Waikato University, The Caiger Charitable Trust and Jon and Sue Tanner.
No ratepayer or taxpayer funds have gone toward the artwork.
The work will be eight metres high and 3.5 metres wide, and will appear to be constructed out of giant-sized versions of the Cuisenaire rods that were once a staple of primary school mathematics classes and are still used to teach te reo Maori.
A "tongue" of flowing water will protrude from the artwork at a height of 4.5m.
It is the third outdoor artwork facilitated by the Hamilton-based Mesh group, following Te Pumanawa o te Whenua - Beat Connection, the "soundwave" sculpture outside Claudelands Arena by Seung Yul Oh and installed in November 2012; and Lonnie Hutchinson's Te Waharoa ki te Ao Maarama - The Entranceway to the World of Enlightenment, which was installed in April 2013.
Treasurer Stuart Anderson said a lot of effort from many people had gone into the latest project.
"Over the past two years we've seen Hamiltonians embrace philanthropy. The tremendous work we've also seen from groups such as the One Victoria Trust and TOTI which have been so positive for our city is helping Hamilton become a really creative city. To be able to see our city's history recreated in a variety of ways makes me proud to be involved with Mesh and proud to be a Hamiltonian."
The installation work is being undertaken by Hamilton firm Construct, with assistance from engineering company Holmes Consulting Group.
Construct director Graeme Parlane was also bubbling with enthusiasm about the project.
"We've really enjoyed being involved in all three Mesh works, it's given our team something a bit different from our normal work. The crew really enjoy seeing these artworks become reality and it feels great to be involved in projects that really give back to our city".