The artist was shaken after the police summoned a street art project

An artist said she was treated like a criminal after the police were called while she was creating a street mural as part of a city art project.

Neris Ngaroh was painting a mural near Innsbruck Roundabout in Nelson around noon Friday when four uniformed police officers approached her in response to public calls.

Ngaruhe was painting the mural as part of Waihanga Whakatū Create Project Nelsonwhich aims to boost creativity in the area and help engage people who are not reachable through traditional Nelson City Council operations.

The project is operated by OD & Co, which is Support Nelson City Council with its technical strategy.

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On Friday, April 22nd, artist Neris Ngaroh was arrested by four police officers while painting a street art mural.

On Friday, April 22nd, artist Neris Ngaroh was arrested by four police officers while painting a street art mural.

Ngaruhe, winner of the 2018 Te Waka Toi Ngā Manu Pīrere Award for Emerging Maori Artist, has painted dozens of Murals on the walls around the Nelson Tasman district.

Finds places that have been targeted by hashtags, carries their messages on board, and creates bright murals that combine wakaroo (Intentions) taggers with Māori designs and whakataukī (Proverbs).

She was on her way through one of those murals when the four police officers arrived in my patrol car.

She said she tried to stay calm and told them she was allowed to work under the council’s supervision.

She said, “I’m like, ‘I’m at work, I’m on the clock, I’m getting paid to be here now, I need to keep working, you guys are doing what you want to do’.”

She was shivering and trying to “keep herself together”. An officer told her that some of the graffiti was offensive, but she replied that it was clearly a work of art with a clear message.

“Just the way they approached me, they surrounded me, four officers and two patrol cars parked on both sides of the road, and an officer and a woman got off, and approached me, it was like immediately at me, ‘What are you doing here?’”

“It made me feel like a criminal. Just, 100 percent, like what I was doing was morally wrong, I should be locked up. Thinking about it, why should I feel like that. I’m doing this work to make my community safer and more beautiful.”

The mural is located near Annesbrook Roundabout, next to Jenkins Stream.

Martin de Ruyter / Stuff

The mural is located near Annesbrook Roundabout, next to Jenkins Stream.

Eventually Johnny O’Donnell, founder of OD & Co., was called. Ngaruhe said he made it clear she was authorized to do the work, and when he asked why the police didn’t believe her explanation, he was met with silence.

Ngaruhe has not returned to finish her job since Friday’s incident.

Police said in a statement that they had responded to calls from members of the public about an individual who allegedly painted graffiti.

“Officers present were able to establish that the artist and their work was part of the Waihanga Whakatu, Create Nelson Arts Strategy. Police acknowledge that it took some time to confirm this.”

Acting District Commander Nelson Baez, Inspector Vicki Walker, has since spoken with O’Donnell, and said the police have been “absolutely supportive of the kaobabs and the artists. what is it (job)”.

“Both agencies are now working together to ensure that this great work is continued and celebrated with the community.”

Police did not respond to questions about the officers’ specific behavior, which Ngarwe described as “harassment” and hostility.

O’Donnell said things He could not comment on the police’s actions as he was not present, but he also acknowledged his role in the misunderstanding by not alerting the police in advance about the project.

“Given it now, we would have been better off making the police and other agencies aware of the work,” he said.

“It’s a compliment to those agencies, but it’s also about keeping the artists safe – I never expected this experience.”

He said he “wholeheartedly” trusts and supports Ngaroh and her artist kaobaba.

“We’re a little disappointed about the experiment because it’s clearly not a pleasant outcome for anyone involved.”

He said the incident highlighted part of why the action was necessary in the first place, as there were many people involved in either the marking or graffiti art who were not involved in the council’s traditional outreach but had great creative potential.

Ali Boswick, left, Johnny O'Donnell, and Laura Dukemin promote the We Have Got This campaign.

Martin de Ruyter / Stuff

Ali Boswick, left, Johnny O’Donnell, and Laura Dukemin promote the We Have Got This campaign.

“Involving people in the conversation that would not otherwise be heard means doing it a little differently,” O’Donnell said.

“With Nerys, it was really about recognizing that there are young people in Nelson who are ultimately the beating heart of the future of art in our city, and the conversations are taking place in places they can’t reach.”

People who wish to contribute to the process of creating the Nelson Waihanga Whakatū can learn more at the i-Site, where there was an actual space dedicated to the project.

OD & Co will present their work to Nelson City Council in June to go toward shaping the new technical strategy for the city.

Council CEO Pat Dougherty said the board has tasked OD & Co with undertaking the engagement and development of Nelson’s Arts and Creativity strategy.

“This includes seeking input from the community and how to do so at the discretion of OD & Co, with the Board trusting our partners to use appropriate methods to reach all audiences, recognizing that new or non-traditional methods may be required for hard-to-reach communities.”

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