New artwork for Central Library celebrates life of poet and librarian J.C. Sturm

8 November 2019

An artwork that celebrates the life of J.C. Sturm, also known as Jacquie Baxter, is being installed on new hoarding that is being erected around the Central Library on Victoria Street.

Mata Aho Collective is a collaboration of four Māori women artists

Mata Aho collective: (l-r) Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, Terri Te Tau, Bridget Reweti

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The new artwork will provide vibrancy to the area as we work through the long term future of the building and Te Ngākau — Civic Precinct.

Wellington City Council has commissioned Mata Aho, a collective of Māori women artists, to design the artwork.

“In collaboration with Andre Te Hira, we’ve created an artwork titled And only sea, that celebrates the civic and literary work of J.C. Sturm. We chose to render one of Sturm’s poems On the building site for a new library (published 1996), in an 80 metre, three colour vinyl that will be adhered to the hoarding. The poem references the construction of the Central Library and also Wellington city’s land reclamation where Civic Square was once underwater,” says Mata Aho Collective.

Sturm worked as a librarian at the Central Library. She was one of the first Māori women to complete an undergraduate degree, the first Māori woman to attain an MA in Philosophy, and also one of the first Māori women to appear in print.

 “We’re delighted to celebrate the civic and literary work of J.C. Sturm, who worked as a librarian at the Central Library for over 20 years,” says Libraries and Community Spaces Manager, Laurinda Thomas. 

“The artwork has been commissioned to celebrate the civic location and literary connection, and gives us an opportunity to tell a story about the history of the land and people. The design connects to the area’s Māori heritage and geography, and celebrates the importance of libraries to our cities as places of learning, refuge and relaxation.

“The artwork will be showcased on the Victoria Street section of new ply hoarding, which is being constructed around the Central Library, continuing to provide a clear, secure and safe boundary. It will enliven the area and clearly signal that Te Ngākau is open and the waterfront is still accessible.”

Construction of the hoarding starts next week and is expected to take two weeks – once completed the artwork will be installed. It is anticipated that the artwork will be fully in place by early-December – weather permitting.

During the construction period pedestrian access will be restricted. On-site signage will be in place to direct people. The Council asks people walking and cycling in the area to take extra care as the work takes place. We also thank local residents and businesses for their patience while this work is done.