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The trustees of Thames Public Art Trust meet at Chris Budgen’s piece Interwoven, which will be installed along the Hauraki Rail Trail. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Late artist’s sculpture to be his ‘legacy’

A local artist will never get to see the sculpture he designed become a landmark, but his partner and the art trust working on its installation say it’ll be his “legacy”.
Chris Budgen passed away in January, 2019 after submitting a design to the Thames Public Art Trust’s sculpture competition. He was never able to learn that his design was chosen to be installed as part of the trust’s sculpture trail initiative, which has already seen a giant jandal and horseshoe spheres erected along the pathway.
But Chris’ partner Saila Wood said he would have been “delighted and humbled by this news”.
“I am thrilled for Chris that his sculpture has been constructed and is soon to be installed.
“It’s a wonderful legacy for Chris to leave behind something creative of himself here in Thames.”
Saila said Chris was an “incredibly talented man” who made complex three-dimensional origami and wooden working models with homemade gears which were a delight to his eight grandchildren.
He was also an accomplished musician who set up the Thames Acoustic Music Club, which is still running today.
“I’m incredibly proud of Chris,” Saila said, “and I am so grateful his sculpture will soon be installed for future generations to enjoy. It will be a prominent piece along the rail trail which will bring joy to many, many people.”
Titled ‘Interwoven’, Chris’ piece is made of macrocarpa and weighs two tonnes.
Its colourful beams are akin to another of the trust’s installed pieces – Colour Harmonics, by Michael Smither.
“Some of our [competition] entries were massive, some were tiny, but this one… this was translatable,” trustee Rob Johnston said.
Construction on Interwoven started in 2021, and it’s been gratefully stored at Kopu KiwiTranz “for some time”.
There’s no confirmed date for when it’ll be installed opposite Olivers, along Ngati Maru Highway, but it “will look awesome”, the trust said.
In June, the trust also appointed two new trustees – sculptor John McKeowen and glass artist Jenny McLeod. They both have a passion for art in public spaces.
“When I came here 20 years ago, I was struck by the fact there was no local art,” John said. “Most towns had bits and bobs around the place, but in Thames, there was a lack of it. Now, there are demonstrable things that we can see being done in Thames.”
Public art in the town has moved ahead “in leaps and bounds”, John said, and it has been gaining more support, too.
DETAILS: To follow along with the trust’s work, find Thames Public Art Trust on Facebook.