Street art couple part of Lower Hutt art festival and exhibition

A married couple with four kids who left their paying jobs to pursue a career in street art are part of a collective of artists beautifying the empty walls of Lower Hutt.

Charles and Janine Williams are just two of the street art collective TMD Crew, a group of internationally-acclaimed street artists that have contributed to a new exhibition for the Dowse Art Museum in the Hutt Valley.

The exhibition, The Most Dedicated: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story, opened last week and aims to make street art accessible, providing an opportunity for the public to learn about its evolution as a contemporary art genre.

Charles Williams told the Herald he built the foundations for the collective 24 years ago, having started out as a tagger himself.

He and his wife had four children aged from 6-12 when they decided to give up their full-time jobs eight or nine years ago and turn their passion into a career.

“Taking that leap was super scary, because we were obviously really new to street art at that time,” he said.

“We basically wanted to put all our chips forward and go for it.

“To the average human, it’s crazy. It is ridiculous, to be honest. Most wouldn’t do it with four children.”

The pair were “barely just making enough money”, but knew they had the option to return to paid work if they needed to.

The option never became a necessity though, as the couple’s art took off – allowing them to travel all over the world to create their works.

They have gone to seven Pacific islands, the US, Europe, China and the Middle East to make their art, which has developed into a style showcasing contemporary Māori design and birds.

“Each day we still don’t know what the future holds.

“We really didn’t know where we were going … I still don’t know. But I know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

The Most Dedicated: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story includes artworks, audio visual displays, interactive elements and nostalgic settings from the whole crew’s past, as well as a section dedicated to post-graffiti artwork.

“This exhibition is extremely significant because it’s the first exhibition for TMD Crew in a public art institution,” said director for The Dowse Art Museum and curator of the exhibition Karl Chitham.

The exhibition opened at the same time as a four-day street art festival where 15 TMD Crew members painted six large murals in Lower Hutt’s CBD.

“The Dowse has had a long-standing commitment to street art urban culture. We are thrilled to once again showcase street art as one of the many diverse forms of contemporary art we are committed to during our 50th-anniversary celebrations,” Chitham said.

“This exhibition and festival offer multiple ways for visitors to learn more and interact with this dynamic strand of Aotearoa’s art history.”

The exhibition will run until August 2.

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