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Making their mark

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Two talented street artists from The Learning Connexion School of Creativity and Art have combined their creative forces to take out a top prize in the annual Resene Mural Masterpieces competition.

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Jayden Thomas and Aidan Walbaekken have won Best Community Mural for their work Parklet @ Waterloo, which was commissioned by Hutt City Council.

It’s a great end of the year for the two who are fast gaining a reputation for their striking work around the Hutt Valley and Wellington.

For Jayden, the opportunity came when he was approached by Aidan, who had already done some mural work for the council.

“This was my introduction to working with the council,” says Jayden, who recently completed a New Zealand Diploma of Creativity (Level 6) at The Learning Connexion.

The job involved painting two planter boxes in central Lower Hutt, and the ground around it. After working through their brief and ideas for the project, writing up material quotes and other admin, the two set about creating their masterpiece, which tells a story of diversity and community in the Hutt.

“We had full creative freedom on each planter box, and we did one each,” says Jayden. “The mural has a lot of native and indigenous flowers to cultures that make up our country and show the diversity within our community. The branches on Aidan’s planter box and the water on my planter box show how we’re all together and bound by a root-like system. It also pays homage to the Hutt river as it’s an important part of the Hutt Valley.”

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The abstract green shapes on the ground surrounding the boxes were part of the council’s brief, and tie the whole thing together. “At the end of the day we are all different, but we are all the same. That’s what community is.”

On top of the creative, Jayden says there were a number of professional elements involved in the project that proved challenging. “It took way longer than we thought. Things like weather, and the fact Aidan has a full-time job and I’m a full-time student.”

In addition to a cash prize, the two won some paint from Resene, and have secured themselves future projects with the council, something Jayden is excited about.

“Getting paid for it was awesome, but, the opportunity to get another job with the council, that’s what I’m really stoked about.”

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Through this work with the council, Jayden was also able to get a job painting the Soul Shack food truck in Wellington.

Jayden says the council project was intimidating, but made easier thanks to his collaboration with Aidan. “I really enjoyed the whole process of collaboration and learned a lot. I think I’ve grown a lot, just from this one project,” he says.

“Aidan is a massive influence for me. He’s in the position where I would like to follow in his footsteps. Heaps of the professional stuff I’ve learnt off him – I feel like we both bounce really good ideas off each other. In the future, I’d definitely love to collaborate with him more.”

He also cites the mysterious Block Vandal as an inspiration. “It’s really awesome and it’s so cool to see how much support he has got from the community. It brings a smile to people’s faces, and you know, that’s what art is all about.”

Jayden, who is finishing up at The Learning Connexion says his two and half years at TLC has been massive for him as an artist, and enrolling was one of the best decisions of his life.

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“The day I stepped into those grounds, was the day my life changed pretty much.”

He says the Learning Connexion has helped him develop his skills, building on the foundations he had laid while a graffiti artist, and exposing him to many other forms of creativity.

Jayden, who has previously talked about art helping with his mental health says the support from students, staff and his mentor at TLC has been of huge help to him.

“It really helps me stay focused, especially with bouncing ideas and getting feedback. It’s amazing here – the resources, the networking – you can’t get that anywhere else I feel.”

He says Level 6 has helped his growth into a sustainable artist.

“I think like really reaching out to people, and trying to get jobs and stuff. I’ve gained more confidence this year and started to really believe in my craft. I’ve also been really trying to use the platform of Instagram, to promote myself as an artist.”

In addition to street art, Jayden is also a budding photographer. He is passionate about youth awareness, mental health and community development.

“I just want to keep doing what I am doing, especially if it can help other people”.

You can see more of Jayden’s work on his Instagram account The Flow Burrow.

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