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Sallie brings art to the kids

07 Sep 2017

Muralist, mother and conservationist Sallie Dunford has inspired many kids and youth to unplug from technology and get creative. She loves chocolate and her favourite colour is orange. 

She tells us more.

How did you come to be an artist?

Having lived mostly by the Hawke's Bay coast, my art work is influenced by New Zealand's waterways and coastlines, from a protective and conservationist viewpoint. I can’t remember the first time I started drawing, but I was always scratching away with pencil on paper according to my siblings. I didn't become a professional artist until my late 30s. My parent’s suggestion to get a 'real job' at the age of 17 meant I had an enjoyable banking career. Skills learnt there helped me build a business plan around commissioned artwork. I realised early on that I needed a point of difference. I found myself aligning with Te Whaariki, the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum and this is represented by the woven flax mat in my work - how we connect to each other, our environment, and allowing our children to develop naturally.

My first mural was at Edukids in Taradale in 2007, using paint gifted by Resene. When my first box of sponsored paint arrived I was so excited; seeing all the colours made me feel like a kid in a candy store! I have painted over 500 square metres of large-scale art since then with help from a few youths, children and good friends. 

Do you have a favourite piece?

My favourite piece is the mural under the old railway bridge at Pandora Pond, called Observe, Conserve, Preserve (detail above and full mural below), a collaborative project between myself, Casey McLeay and supported by Richard Vandermeent in construction and installation. It features three of my kids. Funded by the Society of Protection of the Estuary, it required approval from a variety of local bodies. Depicting the estuary and its abundance, it's 12m long and 2m high, and appreciated by pedestrians and cyclists who use the area regularly.

How did you become involved with youth and children?

I have spent a lot of the last decade in and around communities that have been impacted by social issues. I have found that the best way to connect with them is through the common ground of creativity. I established my own Out of School Care programme Kids Unplugged in 2010, to take kids and their families away from the reliance on technology and into the world of creativity. Not just with art, but also cooking, sewing, baking and even fishing.

I have started writing for the Global Network Coordinator for Forum, a global social media network for children and youth. Forum provides a voice to kids and their communities, is well developed and is continuously growing and gaining support from throughout the world. Producing two monthly magazines, Forum-Time and Forum-Kids, the youth will soon be activating their own Global Media Television Network, which, like the rest of the Forum platform, will be run almost entirely by kids and teens. Initiatives include the planting of one billion trees and 1 Piece 4 Peace. Forum is free to subscribe and followed my many. Bella my dog, in the photograph with me, comes to all the schools and community murals I paint and even has her own column in Forum-Kids Magazine, called Simply Bella. 

Another of Sallie's murals, showing her passion for local coastlines.


Portrait by Michael Shultz Photography.