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Stroke of genius: Artist Ronnie Baker, left, and Wakatipu Reforestation Trust education and outreach officer Jo Smith are using Stanley Street's newest mural as an education resource

By CASS MARRETT

Driving into Queenstown, it’s hard not to notice the 40-metre mural being painted by resort artist Ronnie Baker.

Baker’s one of three artists who won a competition to have their work showcased on the walls of a temporary construction laydown area on Stanley Street.

She’s applied the base coats for the mural, and as she starts on the finer detail of the piece, she’ll be getting a helping hand.

‘‘When I thought about putting in a submission … I was thinking about how it would be nicer to do something that involves kids, and makes it into some kind of educational experience than just painting a pretty picture,’’ she says.

It was then she decided to recruit kids of between 10 and 12 years old, who’re interested in art and nature, to help paint parts of the mural ‘‘so they can be proud of it’’.

‘‘At the same time, we can teach them about species and biodiversity, and why habitats are so important.’’

Baker roped in the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust’s Jo Smith, who’ll be rallying the troops to start working with Baker in about a fortnight.

Smith, the trust’s education outreach officer, says the mural’s bringing awareness to the trust’s Educate for Nature programme.

‘‘I work a lot with schools, doing all sorts of education, and this fits in nicely.

‘‘When the students come in, we can actually talk about this whole picture as in being Tahuna — what exists geologically in the basin and how there’s varying habitats as a result of that.’’

The mural will encompass work by the likes of the Kea Conservation Trust, Tucker Beach Wildlife Reserve project and others.

‘‘I’ll be giving [the students] a colour palette and we’ll have some photographic reference, but then I’ll just be there to guide them,’’ Baker says.

‘‘Ultimately, it’s up to them to make their mark on it.’’

Although she’s painted murals before, it’s her biggest, attracting a lot of curiosity from people keen to know how she’s going about it and how long it will stay there.

Its longevity will be determined by the life of the construction laydown area, but she reckons it’ll be around for about three years.

‘‘There are discussions about relocating it.’’

She’s documenting the mural’s progress and raising awareness through her instagram account @handpaintedsignco

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz