If you’re heading to Dunedin in New Zealand any time soon, you won’t be able to miss a giant mural of British pop star Ed Sheeran that has been painted on a street wall in celebration of his forthcoming concerts.
Artist Tyler Kennedy Stent was commissioned by the Enterprise Dunedin group to paint the four-by-five-metre image of the singer on a Bath Street wall. Tyler grew up in Paremoremo in the North Island and moved to Dunedin after travelling through Europe, Australia and India. “What I saw in India predominantly inspired my art when I started painting in Dunedin,” he tells Lonely Planet. “Over the last two years, I have released two exhibitions focused on the after-effects of the earthquake in Nepal in April, 2015.”
Tyler has been working with a team called Project Mai-Lee, who are trying to help a family in a remote village called Selang. They’ll be taking the profits from his exhibitions and heading back to Nepal in August this year. “As all of this was what I was working towards previously, switching to painting Ed Sheeran’s face on public property was a bit of a shock,” he says.
“When I was still in high school and first playing with watercolours, Sheeran’s debut album, +, came out and I used to listen to it while painting,” he says. “I had only done three watercolour murals previously, all indoor and of people only as large as I was. In this case, after deciding on a design, painting Ed’s face is five times bigger than any other face I have done. What I was most concerned about however was how to protect it from the weather. In retrospect, after the amount of varnish I have smothered the mural in, my worry was needless.”
Dunedin expects to host over 60,000 visitors and 100,000 concertgoers when Ed Sheeran plays three dates in the Forsyth Barr Stadium over the Easter weekend. In celebration of this, the city is planning a series of events to literally ‘Paint the Town Ed,’ and the street art mural forms part of this project. Some streets will be closed to create a central pedestrianised hub, and there will also be an ‘Easter Ed Hunt,’ where the public will be urged to take photos in front of specific locations with the hashtags #paintthetowned and #dunnerstunner.
Enterprise Dunedin Director John Christie says that the events will help to promote Dunedin to the world. Some local people have grumbled that the mural is of a foreign artist rather than a local one, and Tyler understands this perspective. “After completion however, it is immediately obvious that the mural is street art first and Ed Sheeran second, and people love street art,” he says. “I am very happy with the result and happier still with how the public have come around to support it.”
Follow Tyler Kennedy Stent on Instagram here.