© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

From Tauranga Art Gallery to Escape Masters

© NZPocketGuide.com

319 Days on the Road

Update: Escape Masters in Tauranga is not currently operating.

A city isn’t a city without something ‘going on’! Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty is no exception as we discover today at the Paradox Street Art Festival. After spending a good amount of time during our stay in the city’s popular seaside suburb of Mt Maunganui and doing quick day (and night) trips to McLaren Falls Park, it’s finally time to hit the city centre of Tauranga!

Paradox Street Art Festival

We find a spot to park on the streets of Tauranga and make our way to the Tauranga Art Gallery. This is the base of the Paradox Street Art Festival, which paradoxically is bringing street art inside between 28 March – 15 June. The art gallery on the corner of Wharf and Willows Street, is easily spotted with its bright yellow exterior and a spray painting on one side of a young boy seemingly trying to hold up the structure of the building with his leg.

Street art off the street

We walk through the glass sliding doors into the gallery where literally the whole gallery has been transformed for this temporary exhibition. Two huge spray-painted murals span two stories of the art gallery, as if painted to the full-scale to go on the side of a building. One depicts a man wearing glasses in a crowd of vibrant colours while the other shows a contrast of a soaring tui bird, a native New Zealand bird species, and tuis locked up in a cage.

Peep holes and virtual reality

While the huge graffiti art seen on the inside takes our breath away with the scale, the next exhibitions entertain with their creativity. Now we fact three residential home doors with peep holes inviting us to take a look to see “what’s on the inside”, then we find ourselves inside street art-covered derelict buildings when using a VR goggles! It’s so pleasingly “contemporary” – the very notion you want from street art!

The works of Banksy in Tauranga

Once emerged from our virtual reality world, we walk into a section of the art gallery set up in the more traditional gallery way displaying the most extensive collection of works by the famous street artist, Banksy, in the Southern Hemisphere. Street art is depicted on framed canvases not only from Banksy but from heaps of international street artists conveying their messages of consumerism and war. Glass cases show a number of sculptures spray-painted on recycled materials, while the most striking piece is that of a young girl wearing a dress with several guns as a head!

When street art meets a classic art gallery

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When nonsensical shapes come together

Walking up the stairs, we pass another great mural spanning the wall, then we are faced with a painting that we have to walk through! Glass panels separated enough to walk in between are painted with nonsensical shapes. Only when you make your way to the end and stand on a certain spot does the painting come together.

Hitting the streets!

A couple of more exhibitions are left to discover, from a giant brush stroke wall to a room with boats painted with fish – but that’s only inside the art gallery. Of course, street art isn’t really street art unless it is out on the street! We grab a map of the street art from the gallery’s information desk and hit the city centre of Tauranga in search of the walls’ latest additions.

Parking buildings and car parks are the main choices of canvass for these colourful displays of cartoon characters, construction workers and more! But after walking down too many wrong alleys to try and find street art (you know what they say about dodgy alleys in cities), we decide to get ourselves a quick drink down The Strand, Tauranga’s city centre waterfront, before making our way to our next activity…

From street artists to escape artists

Hidden in an upstairs building of Red Square is a set of games that are sweeping the nation! We enter Escape Masters because we have a date with a circus room!

We first discovered this “escape room” game during a rainy day in Rotorua on Day 288 of our 365 Days: 365 Activities. The concept is simple: escape a room within one hour. Escaping the room, however, is not so simple…

The circus room at Escape Masters

Out of the three themed rooms available, we pick the “circus” theme – bright, creepy, we like it. After an escape room staff member goes through the rules of the game (while Robin obnoxiously plays with one of the puzzles scattered around the waiting area), we are entering a room decorated with unicycles, hula hoops, a target board with plastic throwing knives, plastic swords, a stage with trap doors, and a countdown timer that we are all too aware of. But not all is as it seems, as this room is riddled in puzzles to solve, a story to follow, hidden doors, padlocks to unlock, codes to crack…

We escape! At snail pace…

In order to not spoil the game for anyone, we won’t go into details. All we can tell you is that man, this escape room was tough to get started – it takes us 48 minutes to find the code to escape the room… at an ‘easy’ level! Nevertheless, it’s such a good feeling when we escape and unfortunately the other rooms are all fully-booked tonight because we are totally fired up to do some more!

Our conversation on the way back to our accommodation in Mt Maunganui is filled with what we “should” and “shouldn’t” have done in the escape game. We arrive back at Pacific Coast Lodge to make some food and have a bit of a mingle with our fellow backpackers.

Fun photo ops in the Tauranga Art Gallery

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See you tomorrow!