The outdoor art gallery

When I first moved to Christchurch, there were very few wall murals and the outdoor sculptures were just statues of monarchs or founding fathers. For my art fix, I headed off to the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, tucked in behind the museum in the Botanic Gardens. It was a lovely building, full of many wondrous works of art. It was too small and could only have a fraction of its collection on display. I was delighted to visit the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in 2003. My favourite pieces were on display and there were galleries full of paintings I had never seen before.

When the earthquakes struck and the gallery was closed, I thought it would be years before I saw art in Christchurch. I was wrong. It seamed that every smooth wall and every spare space made way for art.

Container Love Close-Up


The road to Sumner became an art gallery when all the shipping containers got decorated. When I arrived in Sumner, almost every container, fence and wall had been pimped out.

Wongi Art on St Asaph Street, Flickr 2014-12-15-IMG_3940
Wongi Art on St Asaph Street, Flickr 2014-12-15-IMG_3940

New Brighton and Lyttelton were the next colourful destinations. What could have been depressing road trips became an adventure. I wanted to see what the locals had in store.

The ruined buildings in the central city became the canvas for many artists, and they made walking through town much more enjoyable that it could have been. The Justice Precinct has copies of works of art on the wall. Copies of paintings are on a wall on Moorhouse Avenue.

Everywhere I looked, there was a mural on a wall. Unfortunately, a mural on Barbadoes Street has almost disappeared because of the construction of a new building. I expect I’ll be waiting a long time to see it in all its glory again.

Re:START Mall is pretty colourful. I think I can count that as a work of art.

Gap Filler created works of art too. They really are almost sculptures. The spaces created were unexpected and made me smile.

Sound Garden on Peterborough Street


I have missed the Art Gallery and I am looking forward to wandering through its rooms again. However, when it was closed, I realised one important thing: Christchurch is an art gallery.

Five years of filling gaps

Gap Filler is an organisation that seems to embody the potential inherent in a city rebuilding itself – innovative, creative and brave. Out of rubble-strewn vacant land they have created a series of bustling hubs of activity. A fridge that you can borrow books from, a set of bleachers on wheels, a bike-powered cinema, a public dance venue – these are just a selection of the “temporary” projects that have brought life to Christchurch’s inner city.  And they’ve been doing it for 5 years now.

That’s right, Gap Filler recently celebrated its fifth birthday. What started out as a relatively small scale project as a result of the demolitions following the 4 September 2010 quake became something much more in the course of things.

Gap Filler #1
Gap Filler crowd (Mo-mo) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

I was there on the first night of the first ever Gap Filler project on 25 November 2010. My friends and I sat around on a hodge podge range of chairs, stools and cushions on the site of what had been an auto-electricians, and a mexican restaurant. We listened to music and watched 1928 film A Daughter of Christchurch projected onto a neighbouring wall. It was jolly and novel and sort of uplifting and I’ve been a fan of Gap Filler ever since.

So I asked Co-founder and Chair of the Gap Filler Trust, Dr Ryan Reynolds, about the organisation and what it’s achieved since that first gap, what seems like a lifetime ago.

When you first started Gap Filler did you envisage it going for this long?

No way! We started up after the September quake, and from memory we were maybe thinking ahead to 5-6 projects total each of which might occupy a vacant site for a few weeks. And we were definitely thinking of one at a time. After the February quake that all changed because the need and interest were both much greater. Now we’ve done around 70 projects, and often have 8-10 going simultaneously – some of which have been going for four years (like the Think Differently Book Exchange, aka The Book Fridge!).

One of the great things about Gap Filler is the variety in the projects it undertakes – book fridges, mini-golf, bike-powered cinema etc – where do you get your ideas from? Is there anything you wouldn’t attempt?

Ryan Reynolds
Gap Filler Co-founder, Dr Ryan Reynolds

Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. We generate a lot from within the team, but many are suggested by others (like Sarah Gallagher and the book exchange) or we take inspiration from things we see in our real and virtual travels.

I think the strength is that we operate as a collective, so there’s no individual ownership of ideas. That means – wherever the idea comes from – we work together with our whole team and with artists and communities of interest to make every idea a collective idea that’s as strong and purposeful as it can be.

As the city changes and evolves, how has Gap Filler changed with it?

We see ourselves as a catalyst organisation, so we try very hard not to repeat ourselves or to duplicate what other people are doing in the city. For instance, we facilitated quite a few big street art and mural projects in the early days, but as lots of other organisations started doing street art, that’s not something we do any more. And we try to tap into citywide possibilities.

So for instance CCC has started sniffing around the possibility of adopting a local community currency (which we think would be great) so we’ve started doing some projects this year with an aim to explore and promote alternative economies. If we can get more people interested, it might help CCC get their much bigger project off the ground.

What one thing that Gap Filler has achieved are you most proud of?

Whenever I hear someone say that Gap Filler helped them feel like new things are possible here, I feel good.

More information


Foodie heaven – farmers’ markets

Cover of Guide to farmers' markets Australia and New ZealandI am a farmers’ market convert. It’s hard to know what turned me. Was it the crumbly goats’ cheese? Or the oyster pie? Or the locally-sourced smoked eel? Or maybe it was the delicious apple, chocolate cake/tart thing that was very lucky to make it to the shared morning tea I was going to as it could easily have been scoffed there and then.

Farmers’ markets offer the chance to buy fresh produce, meats, and baked goods direct from the local people who grow and make them, cutting out the middle man and they’ve grown in popularity it recent years. Christchurch people can now choose from weekly markets in Riccarton, Lyttelton, and Akaroa, though if you’re willing to venture further afield there are even more farmers’ markets throughout the Canterbury region.

But what about those of us who live a bit more centrally? The new Downtown Farmers’ Market, which has its inaugural outing this Sunday at The Commons, might be just your cup of artisan hot chocolate. With dozens of stalls, food trucks, and other entertainments, this farmers’ market has the benefit of being right in town (on the Kilmore/Durham St corner) and not to mention just down the road from Central Library Peterborough. The market will run 9.30am-2.30pm every Sunday.

Cover of Get fresh with Al BrownOnce you’ve picked up some fresh ingredients, create some delicious meals and dishes using these farmers’ market titles as inspiration.

What’s your favourite farmers’ market buy?

Make music at Peterborough Street’s Sound garden

GAP Filler’s Sound Garden will be officially launched at 100 Peterborough Street Thursday 26th March, 5pm-6pm so come along and create an alternative beat for our city.

BOOM bang buzz, wine wheeze WHOMP, squeak squawk SMACK, clang clatter CRACK these are the sounds of our city! These days the rumbling of mortar grinding and the jangling of steel being dragged from demolished buildings is a constant background noise to our city life’s beat. The lovely people from GAP filler and Greening the Rubble and a pack of volunteers from the neighbourhood including myself from Central Library Peterborough have got together to create Sound Garden 2.0.

Photo of the Peterborough Street Sound garden under constructionOn a wet rainy day its was delightful to see so many people turn out and get stuck in to creating something for us to all enjoy. In this case a rubble strewn car park has been transformed into a whimsical palace where you have the opportunity to create music from improvised instruments or just have some fun. It is a great opportunity to bring the kids back into town and explore our new inner city.

Volunteering gives you a warm fuzzy feeling and I got to meet the lovely people from Greening the Rubble and GAP filler who have created so many wonderful transformations and our Amy Mountney the first artist resident of Life in vacant spaces’ microhouse. After heaving our wheelbarrows full of mushroom and arboriculture mulch and getting down and dirty planting our flower beds, I was rewarded with the sense of satisfaction that comes from creating something new and working with a great team.

The Sound Garden is a lovely for a picnic with the kids or you can pick up a coffee and something to eat from the food trucks handily located next door or indulge in a spot of retail therapy at Arts Central which is full of artisan goodies. It is a great opportunity to bring the kids back into town and explore our new inner city you have the opportunity to create music from improvised instruments or just have some fun.

Pop across to Central Peterborough Street Library, pick up the GAP filler mini golf clubs (deposit required) for the GAP filler mini golf course and take the opportunity connect to our free wi-fi and borrow some books we have the biggest range of children’s books or choose from our massive range of magazines and check out our foreign language collection.

Come on you know you want to!

Search our library catalogue for :

Our set of Soundgarden images.

Hurrah for volunteers!

Today is International Volunteer Day, which is an annual event dedicated to celebrating and recognising all types of volunteers around the world.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to experience new challenges, develop new skills and get involved in the community. Our web page provides all sorts of information about volunteering in and around Christchurch.

Volunteering in Canterbury came into the spotlight after the earthquakes when organisations such as the Student Volunteer Army, the Farmy Army and many others were involved in the massive clean-up effort. These contributions really showed how much can be achieved when people come together with a common purpose to benefit the community.

The volunteering spirit has endured post-quakes with initiatives like Greening the Rubble and Gap Filler, amongst others, actively using volunteers in the quest to fill empty sites before permanent redevelopment.

My own experiences of volunteering helped me to discover if the career path I wanted to go down was right for me. I wanted to get into the museum sector and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to help out at my local museum. I was able to find out about this type of job in a very hands on way and meet people who could tell me more. This experience initially led to a part time job and helped me get onto a Museum Studies course.

So, whether you have a little time or a lot of time have think about volunteering as you never know where it will lead you – and if you know a volunteer say a big thank you to them today.

Gap Filler

Gap Filler has been set up by a small group of enthusiastic people  who have responded in a creative way to the shock and impact of the recent earthquakes on the central city.

They aim to temporarily activate vacant sites within the central city with creative projects, to make for a more interesting, dynamic and vibrant central city.

What a great idea, and plenty of people have been turning out at the site in Colombo Street.  Items to decorate the space have come from donations and it all looks so much better than a pile of dust and bricks.

coverPerhaps ideas from our books and magazines on home and outdoor decorating could also be of use to Gap Filler, (although judging from the site they have done incredibly well on their own!) Or maybe with all this lovely weather you are planning a bit of outdoor living yourself, and realise that the garden area could do with a new lease of life?

Or try our website for plenty of  Gardening ideas.