He’s taken social media by storm, and now the mysterious street artist known as Block Vandal has revealed he has a special connection to an art school in Lower Hutt.
Established in 1988, the Learning Connexion School of Creativity and Art (TLC) has been based in the bushes of Taita since 2009. It’s made a habit of producing artists who think outside the block – and can add another identity to the list.
“I am actually one of you!” revealed Block Vandal when we asked about his background.
“I studied at the Learning Connexion a few years ago and felt that it was a pivotal point in my life. Thank you TLC! You have moulded my creative skillset massively!”
TLC has been at the centre of creative life in the Hutt for over a decade. Block Vandal’s mission to bring “child friendly street art” to the Hutt resonates with the School’s philosophy of hands-on creativity, and “drawing out” rather than stuffing in.
“The best thing about studying at TLC was that they offered a diverse team with a range of skill sets. This meant that I was able to reach beyond my comfort zone with confidence that I was well looked after,” says Block Vandal.
Block Vandal was happy to share some of his latest work with us – work that has gained local and national attention – and delighted kids – both young and old. His Lego-inspired art is transforming a drab retaining wall at the foot of Wainuiomata Hill in Lower Hutt into a colourful local icon.
What was your inspiration for the Lego art? Why did you choose that space?
“I have seen this retaining wall whilst driving home over the last couple of years and was thinking ‘those blocks look like Lego heads!’ I finally built up the courage and decided to paint one a couple of weeks ago…”
Your work is creating quite a buzz – what’s been the response so far?
“The response has been very positive! The colourful work is having a positive impact on children and adults alike. I have people offering material costs to help the project along as well which are lovely gestures.”
Some people are calling you the Hutt Banksy - what do you think about that?
“I don’t feel as though I am deserving of that title, however I can see how the mystery behind the artist is causing this perception!”
Can we expect to see more of this around the Hutt?
“I would love to extend this work and its purpose. This project has blown up so quickly that I am unsure how to move forward, but you can bet that I will continue trying to beautify our community and make our people happy through art making!”
What's your goal with this? How big do you want it to get?
“My goal is to bring the community together and give them something that makes them happy. I think the point of difference with this project is that I am activating the space as opposed to just painting something on a wall. The other great part of this project is that it is a slow burn. I have 100 bricks to paint if I paint the whole wall. Two a week would mean that this project could last a while! This project is already far bigger than I could have imagined.”
What's involved in creating them? You must have a lot of paint??
“I have created most of these by myself. I had a fellow artist create one of these on the other side of the wall. I have some materials from previous work which is helping me to not reach into my pocket too much! Josh Briggs from the Hutt City Council has been a great point of contact. The support and advice offered from him has been invaluable.”
The Hutt is a small place - has anyone worked out your identity?
“I have a lot of friends and acquaintances that continue to message me, attempting to make me spill the beans! My family know and support the work that I am doing which is lovely.”
Are you being paid for this? Is it an ad for the next Lego movie??
“I am not being paid for this. I want this project to be more about the community and less about the artist. I have had a few generous people offer funding for materials. I hope that LEGO can see the promotional value to this project! They are a big scary corporation!”
How do you feel you are contributing to urban art?
“It’s hard to say with the size of urban art globally. I think if I am not contributing to the art form, I am certainly trying to bring it to our community. I hope that I am inspiring young minds and bringing the community together in a positive way.”
Has there been any negative pushback?
“The other morning I had somebody throw paint all over the mural. I have fixed the damage quickly to not give the culprit the satisfaction. This negative act has led to a positive force of community members coming together in support of the project.”
What would you say to anyone thinking about enrolling at The Learning Connexion?
“If you have the urge to create, be it big or small, I encourage you to enrol. TLC’s point of difference is a caring team that will help to nurture your skillset and support your journey."
Block Vandal's work can be seen on his instagram account block_vandal_