‘The Freeville Project’ is a photography-based work made in collaboration with students and staff of Freeville Primary School. After taking portraits and work-shopping ideas and discussing concepts with the students, the students were charged with creating a visual inventory of Freeville School’s social and natural landscape, and re-imagining their community and environment. The results were displayed for several months in a paste-up of a large vacant space at the bottom of New Brighton Mall. The exhibition was opened as part of the weekly New Brighton Market and TEZA.
Prior to the 2011 earthquake, Freeville School commissioned the ‘Freeville School Landscape Concept Draft Plan’ (Rough & Milne landscape architects). This plan incorporated a wildflower bed, native trees, native shrubs and children’s artwork. With a clear agenda to educate and engage the community in the school’s surrounding ecological landscape, this plan could never have foreseen the dramatic events that followed its conception. As a result of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, the plan has gone unrealised.
In 2013, the Ministry of Education announced that Freeville School is to merge with North New Brighton and Central New Brighton Schools. In 2016, the Freeville site will be abandoned and buildings and facilities – situated on land sold to the Ministry of Education by the Free family for the purpose of building an education facility – are scheduled to be demolished soon after.
The future for the land itself is uncertain. It is especially ambiguous if allowance will be made for the school’s surrounding community to contribute ideas to inform the redevelopment. Within the current ambiguous space this project aimed to collaborate with remaining students and staff of Freeville School and help them re-imagine and articulate their own vision for the land’s future.
David Cook is a photographer and Wintec lecturer, originally from Christchurch but now based in Hamilton. David’s long term documentary projects deal with ecology and community in contested space. His ongoing Rotowaro project has traced the impact of coalmining in the North Waikato. For more information: www.davidcook.co.nz.
The cornerstones of Tim J Veling’s practice are the psychological landscape and social-political environment. His work straddles the genres of fine art and documentary photography. He is currently engaged in long-term projects relating to the aftermath of Christchurch’s devastating 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. He has exhibited nationally and internationally. Tim lecturers in photography at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, New Zealand. For more information: www.timjveling.com.