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Major Opportunity To Create Nelson's New Artistic Innovation

Photo: Supplied.
Sculpture by day, light art projector by night - do you have the imagination to help make this bold vision a reality? Find out what a RAPS is and how creatives can drive the project.


Nelson’s commitment to creativity and innovation in the arts sector remains rock solid with a new project to take the city’s digital light art projection capability to the next level.


And the call is out for creatives to lead the way.


Nelson City Council (NCC) is seeking Expressions of Interest for their bold Relocatable Autonomous Projection Structure (RAPS) Project - “to design and construct a unique sculptural structure that can securely house two light art projectors to screen a multiplicity of light art shows in the city.”


The task - create a mobile piece of art that is capable of staging creative light art events. Sculpture by day, light projector at night.


The expression of interest window is open until 9 January, 2023.


It’s a tantalising project - one that offers the opportunity to create a structure that has the potential to become an iconic symbol of creativity in the region. Not just anchored in the city centre, but able to literally go to where the audience is. A transient artwork that has cultural equity.


Council is eager to engage with some of our local and national leading creatives to unleash their big imaginations.


Nelson Council Arts and Heritage Adviser Tom Ransom explains “this project is an incredible opportunity - but it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s going to take someone who can pull a really competent team together of fabricators, certifiers, engineers and creatives to come up with something magical.”


Getting technical


Thinking creatively is important - but ultimately the detailed designs will require some specialist technical input. This has been budgeted for, with all those shortlisted being paid to engage engineering and other specialist services. A great idea will need to be shown to be practical and achievable.


“Expressions of interest don’t need detailed designs and extended budget breakdowns - that will be a bridge to cross for those making the shortlist. Applicants will need to prove they’ve got the vision, the experience, problem solving skills and can assemble the right team to pull off this ambitious project able to meet the industry standards and safety expectations,” says Ransom.


Ransom says the Council wants to see more of its operational arts budgets focused on spending on creatives for shows, rather than on repeat, one off technical costs such as scaffold rigging.


Nelson police station gets the rainbow treatment. Photo: Supplied.


“It’s about pushing the boundaries,” Ransom elaborates. “Whenever you speak to someone involved in light art, the real challenge is the rigging. Getting the right angle, being in the right spot, shooting it high enough to ensure it doesn’t block the audience view - those challenges are in every show.


“We’re trying to create something that’s really user friendly for the projectionist. If they don’t need to spend hours on set up, more budget can be spent on the actual show. But to get that, you need to invest, getting a piece of kit that doesn’t need a bespoke build every time.


“We’re trying to be creative but also practical in terms of bang for your buck - creating lots of activity and keeping ongoing operational overheads low.”


Light it up




Light art has fast become something of a signature for Nelson.


Te Ramaroa (formerly known as Light Nelson) has been running since 2013, the biennial event becoming a huge attraction for visitors. It’s one that not only brings in talent and visitors both nationally and internationally, but strongly features homegrown artists too.


Ransom enthuses “Nelson people are entwined in the arts - we’ve got plenty of creatives in town who work in visual and digital formats that fit this vibrant medium. We want to encourage that as a sector here, to help people develop careers in light art.


“Te Ramaroa has a  strong and trusted reputation, we’ve had some great light shows - it’s something that has grown to be a bit of a speciality for Nelson in terms of the arts.”


The council invested about $20,000 for their first laser projector three years ago, and subsequently bought another, followed by bespoke protective boxes so the projectors could be left running shows outside, even in the rain.


As well as Te Ramaroa, the projectors get a regular workout - used for everything from Te Huihui-o-Matariki to photography conferences and ballet shows using it for stage backdrops.



But the Council wants to take its light art offerings to another level - and the prospect has the local creative community buzzing.


Klaasz Breukel, a visual artist and designer told The Big Idea “It is fantastic to have such high-quality digital projectors available in Whakatū-Nelson, allowing digital artists to light up community events and the inner city after dark.


“Having a structure like the RAPS available will enable established and emerging artists alike to showcase their skills in a semi-permanent setup without having to worry too much about the intricacies of setting up and packing down.”



Finding the balance

This is not going to be some soulless steel structure.

The vision for the external elements are equally important for the RAPS. However, there is a need to think holistically.


Inclusivity of the entire community is crucial - but by no means simple. The brief explains the structure wants to have no strong “one culture” identity – it needs to speak to the whole diverse cultural equation that exists in Nelson Whakatū.


The RAPS needs to be not only flexible and versatile in its form but in its presentation as well - no one should feel excluded in its artistic vision.


Nelson Mail Building all lit up. Photo: Supplied.


The investment and the decision to make it a work of art illustrates the desire to make this structure something special for the Nelson public. The structure will not only mean more opportunities, but longer light art shows too. It will mean shows can run for many nights, allowing people to drop in and enjoy them when it suits them. That flexibility provides a wider window of access and helps to COVID proof the community’s artistic endeavours.


The offer is open - now it’s up to Aotearoa’s creative community to bring their ideas to the table.



Written in partnership with Nelson City Council - click here for more information on how to submit an Expression of Interest for the RAPS project and what is required.