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Greytown Poppy Walk blooms

The ambition of an artist collective to be “not just a gallery” but to “bring the community together with the visual arts” has borne fruit this month – with the transformation of a Greytown park into a sea of poppies to commemorate Anzac Day.

Artist Linda Kirkland, a founding member of Te Hūpēnui Greytown Gallery of Contemporary and Fine Art, came up with the idea of getting every child at Greytown School to paint a poppy and create a poppy-lined path through Stella Bull Park on Greytown’s Main St.

“The collective got quite excited about it because I don’t think it’s been done before,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to come together and, in particular, for children to think about why we are doing this and why it is important.”

The red poppy has become a symbol of war remembrance across the globe, and was captured in the war poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.

Kirkland also believed the very act of painting a poppy and participating in the project will be memorable for those taking part.

“The children will never forget painting a poppy and putting it in the park.”

The making, painting and installation of the 400 poppies has been a community effort, Kirkland said.

The plywood was gifted by The Ply Guy, a Carterton-based business run by its “plyminister”, Matt McQuaid, and the poppies were cut from the wood by Nick Gibbons, a husband of one of Te Hūpēnui’s artists.

Greytown School got “right behind” the initiative, with each class painting poppies, with a little help from locals Roze Doherty, Annie Hayward, and Janie Nott.

Greytown Fresh Choice supermarket also contributed $500 towards the cost of the project.

The poppy walk, which was installed last Sunday at a ceremony attended by Bryce Gurney, president of the Greytown Branch of the Masterton RSA, will be taken down after Anzac Day, and the poppies returned to Greytown School.

Before cutting the ribbon, Gurney commented on how important it is to “keep the spirit of the Anzacs alive and well in the hearts and minds of younger generations”.

Each artist in the collective has also been given “quite a large plywood poppy to paint”, which will be on display at the opening of Te Hūpēnui’s upcoming Tūrangawaewae exhibition, which opens on Friday, April 26.

“The artists have kindly agreed to donate 10 per cent of their sales from that exhibition to the Greytown RSA,” Kirkland said.

“We want it to be meaningful and be an opportunity to acknowledge the significance of the poppy.”

Kirkland hopes the poppy walk could be “quite an event” long-term, and is exploring ideas about how to broaden its connections with the community.

“Now that we’ve done one run of it, we could look to including Kuranui College, we could invite members of the public to paint a poppy and put it in Stella Bull Park,” she said.

“It could become a significant event and fundraiser for the local RSA.”

The Tūrangawaewae exhibition will be open to the public from April 27 to June 6, at the old library building, 115 Main St, Greytown.

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