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Lowdown: Arts Patron's Generosity Hits $100K

28 Mar 2024

A new award adds to an incredible legacy, arts organisation cuts a deal with council and plenty of doors being opened for creatives - will you jump through them?

When it comes to arts patrons in Aotearoa, Jann Medlicott could well be the patron saint.

A Member of the NZ Order of Merit for her services to philanthropy, the arts, and radiology, Medlicott passed away two years ago but her legacy for nurturing creatives doesn't just live on, it's expanding.

The Acorn Foundation - her conduit for giving back to the creative community - has just announced a new $30,000 prize to boost the careers of artists, this time in partnership with Tauranga Art Gallery.

Best known for backing the most lucrative prize in Aotearoa's literary circles, the $65,000 fiction prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards, it's another incredible gesture from Medlicott's bequeathment to Acorn. Throw in the $5000 Creative Arts Scholarship for students and that's $100,000 lining the pockets and furthering the dreams of local creatives in 2025.  

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Jann Medlicott. Photo: Supplied.

The Jann Medlicott Award for Contemporary Art will be dished out biennially and in perpetuity to recognise a significant contribution to contemporary art practice in New Zealand, judged by a panel of industry experts who will base their decision on the contribution of the artist over the previous two years.

In addition to the cash prize, the recipient will secure an exhibition at the Tauranga Art Gallery.

“We are so grateful to Jann for giving yet another wonderful gift to the arts in New Zealand," states Acorn Foundation CEO, Lori Luke. "Jann Medlicott will long be remembered as a true champion of the arts, in her always modest but deeply considered way.”

Tauranga Art Gallery Director Sonya Korohina adds, “Art prizes can be transformational, as they not only celebrate the recipient but empower them to create new work. 

"Jann was well known in Tauranga for her love of the arts and we are delighted to continue her legacy nurturing artistic excellence and creativity in New Zealand. We look forward to announcing the inaugural recipient in 2025.”

At a time when funding opportunities are drying up, the generosity of arts patrons across the country has never been more impactful. Reading this week's Lowdown will show you that Medlicott is far from alone in supporting creative endeavours.

Credit to them - and here's to many more.

Gallery's seismic rent reduction

The new award announcement is part of a trilogy of news coming from Tauranga Art Gallery this week - including an art sale of a different kind (and not in the Medlicott ballpark).

Currently undergoing an extensive rebuild that will see the gallery sit at the centre of the town's massive civic redevelopment, it's been decided that some additional seismic strengthening work is required to support the building's sustainability.

That creates one small problem - where will the additional money come from?

Tauranga Art Gallery Trust Board Chair Rosemary Protheroe explains, “The Trust is committed to the full scope of this project and future-proofing this important community asset, while also minimising the time the Gallery is closed to the public. Thus, in the interests of time, cost, and sustainability, we have decided to complete the necessary seismic strengthening at the same time as the reorientation and redevelopment. 

"To meet these costs, which took us outside of the initial $3.38m redevelopment funding, we had to consider all possible sources of income.”

That's been achieved by the Gallery's Trust negotiating an arrangement to sell the land to Tauranga City Council (TCC) - who will, in turn, lease it back to the Trust for $1 annually.

TCC's relationship with the creative community is more than a little rocky right now with the Incubator Creative Hub challenging the council over the lack of funding support in its Long-Term Plan.

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Artist render of the new-look Tauranga Art Gallery. Photo: Supplied.

On the new dollar deal, TCC Commission Chair Anne Tolley states “The Council recognises the great value cultural institutions like the Art Gallery provide a city and region. We chose to support the Gallery in this way to ensure it can continue to guide and contribute to the cultural fabric of the city for generations to come.”

The first look at the gallery's redesign has also been released, taking on artistic inspiration.  Warren and Mahoney Architects reference the practice of former exhibiting artist Maraea Timutimu (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi), whose work uses themes of layering, connection, and composition. 

Work continues on the gallery's reorientation, new entrance and interior fit-out, which includes expanded exhibition spaces, a Creativity Centre, upgraded facilities, lighting and air-conditioning systems that will bring it up to international museum standards – a requirement to be able to loan artworks from institutions such as Te Papa.

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Darcy Nicholas. Photo: Supplied.

Tauranga Art Gallery Patron Mary Dillon says, “The redeveloped Art Gallery is going to position Tauranga alongside other cities around the country, and the world, which take art - and the arts more broadly - seriously in regard to their impact on people, communities, human development and wellbeing, and the local economy.”

The cap a big information drop, the first three opening artists have also been named for its planned re-debut in early 2025 - Kereama Taepa (Te Arawa, Te Āti Awa) confirmed as the Atrium Commission Artist, whose work mixes customary Māori artforms with a technological/pop culture twist; multi-disciplinary creative Maraea Timutimu (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) as the Exterior Billboard Artist; and veteran Māori contemporary artist Darcy Nicholas (Te Āti Awa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Taranaki, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Hauā) as the inaugural Exhibiting Artist, adding another honour to an internationally recognised CV that includes the creation of Porirua's Pātaka Museum and the Te Waka Toi Supreme award for Maori arts.

Capital weekend

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Pacific Connection performance at CubaDupa. Photo: Maeve O'Connell.

The dust has barely settled on what was a huge weekend for lovers of creativity and chaos in Wellington, but it's already time to look to the future for organisers of the much-loved CubaDupa festival.

More than 200 different performances, featuring 1470 performers across 42 free venues, brought an estimated crowd of over 100,000 into the popular precinct last weekend to 'find their wild' over an intense 18 hours. It's been deemed a success by attendees and officials alike.

Drew James - Founder and Director of CubaDupa - told The Lowdown "Although it is tempting to say that CubaDupa 2024 felt like it was back to normal, of course, 'normal' is not what CubaDupa seeks to be.  

"Following the 2019 pivot into inside and controlled venues after the Christchurch massacre, the cancellation of 2020, attributed as the biggest festival in the world in March 2021, the cancellation of 2022, and then back to the streets in 2023 - a lot has changed.  Shops and hospitality venues have come and gone, and we know that times are tough for many.  We see and hear it every day.

"What has not changed is the atmosphere, enthusiasm, and positivity that CubaDupa brings to the urban streets, feeding the audience's appetite for dancing on the streets, seeing art and performance on every corner and alleyway, tasting the exotic food, and socialising with friends, whanau and strangers.  It could not happen anywhere else."

CubaDupa 2024. Photo: Jo Mohi.

Indeed, while the stages boomed with the likes of headline acts Foley and MELODOWNZ plus a ton of local and international acts, what brings CupbaDupa to life is the way visitors become part of the action themselves, ranging from the Leeds St Kidzone to the pop-up Costume Cave and roaming parades like Uke-a-Dupa - the first ever mass ukulele parade showcase at the festival.

James and the festival team have little time to pat themselves on the back of a job well done.

"Keeping CubaDupa free is challenging with rising costs and decreasing funding.  Wellington City invests 50% of the budget on three-year cycles, now up for renewal, but competing with many other infrastructure priorities.  

"With the other 50% made up of other project grants, vendor registrations, sponsorship and sales, there is very little certainty, but huge commitment, armed with goodwill and a stubborn belief that somehow the last breath of summer in Pōneke just has to happen.”

The event has a ton of supporters, now that needs to be translated into financial support.

Jazzed up

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National Jazz Festival in full swing. Photo: Supplied.

While the upcoming long weekend may be filled with chocolate for most, for Jazz lovers in Aotearoa - Easter always feels like Christmas.

Once again the sounds of saxophones, trumpets and pianos will fill the air in two popular events - with Tauranga's 61st edition of the National Jazz Festival already well underway (til 1 April).

From well-travelled performers like Louis Baker to powerhouse 18-piece outfit All Girl Big Band, it's another busy line-up for the popular festival.

Festival Manager Marc Anderson says, “The longevity of our event is an indicator of the power and timeless nature of jazz across generations. While the genre continues to evolve, and our artist base grows, at the same time, the classics and true heart of jazz music remain. 

"Jazz lovers across the country plan their Easter holidays around our festival and the city welcomes our relaxed, cool, and grooving jazz festival crowds with open arms.”

Further north, the Waiheke Jazz Festival (29 March-1 April) also makes Easter its home, with Greg Johnson among the best-known acts on the card sure to get plenty of attention at a time the Island is heaving with Aucklanders and tourists.  

Last chance for movement residencies

Photo: Supplied.

First-ever residency opportunities for circus and movement artists are set to close tomorrow (Friday 29 March), after receiving extended deadlines.

MOVE is focused on making movement arts accessible to all by nurturing local Canterbury artists and providing affordable tutoring to the people of Ōtautahi.

 The two separate residencies provide seven days of fully-funded workshops for both a circus duo or group and for a dance duo or group, the residencies will allow local artists to bring their visions to life.

Jenny Ritchie, MOVE Circus Programme Manager told The Lowdown there has been welcomed enthusiasm amongst the circus community:  

“Since the loss of the building that held the Circo Arts degree programme in the 2011 Earthquake, the Ōtautahi circus community has been left without the support of professional development opportunities.

"Residencies are so valuable because they provide a dedicated space and time for artists to experiment, take risks, collaborate and connect with mentors and professional tutors.

"We also wanted to encourage collaboration amongst local and national circus artists by making one of the criteria that some applicants can be from outside of Ōtautahi Christchurch as long as 50% of the proposed circus artists are local.

"MOVE’s first circus residency is intended as a milestone in bringing life back to the culture of circus exploration and development that used to run so strongly in this city."

Realm of Tears

Realm of Tears in performance. Photo: Supplied.

Today's also a wrap for another innovative movement-based project, with closing night of performance art piece Realm of Tears at Auckland's Basement Theatre.

 presented by takatāpui Māori and Pākehā multidisciplinary artist and dance movement therapy (DMT) practitioner Rewa Fowles. 

Multidisciplinary artist Rewa Fowles' creation merges dance movement therapy, poetry, theatre and animated illustrations to showcase the complexities of queer indigenous emotions, relationships, and mixed identities in modern society.

the depths and importance of queer storytelling, 

Fowles told The Lowdown "The season so far has been received as a vulnerable ethereal piece of performance art where everyone in the space discovers moments of comfort and discomfort."

Opportunities to shed light on the realities of the takatāpui Māori experience within Aotearoa don't come easily, Fowles notes. 

"We are grateful to have Burnett Foundation partly funding this kaupapa including supporting the Realm of Tears Movement Sessions that were held in Avondale and Central Auckland, in the lead-up to our show."

Māori mahi in Malta

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Kaaterina Kerekere, Takuahiroa (video still), 2019. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ngā toi Māori is about to get a moment in the sun in an unexpected location.

The inaugural Malta Biennale will be presenting Takiwā Hou: Imagining New Spaces on Wednesday (3 April), a programme of 20 Māori moving image works by 11 Aotearoa contemporary artists.

It's been curated by the in-demand Karl Chitham (Ngā Puhi, Te Uriroroi), Director Dowse Art Museum, for Te Tuhi, providing a snapshot of the unique perspectives Indigenous artists bring to the global stage.

Commenting about this opportunity to represent toi Māori and Māori moving image internationally Chitham told The Lowdown "When we were offered this amazing opportunity to showcase Māori moving image practice internationally we considered how to best represent the breadth of current practice. 

"Takiwā Hou brings together a range of works by artists who have significant bodies of work in this medium and have shown many times internationally alongside some artists who are exploring moving image as a new approach in their practice. 

"There are long-form, evocative works in dialogue with shorter pieces that add a really dynamic rhythm to the screening. For the international audience that will be viewing this work for the first time, we wanted them to appreciate the incredible richness of our toi Māori artists across a diverse range of themes and approaches.”

Some of those internationally experienced contributors include the likes of Walters Prize winner Shannon Te Ao, Mataaho Collective collaborator Bridget Reweti and the talented Reuben Paterson.

You don't have to be at Spazju Kreattiiv to witness their mahi however, with Te Tuhi also presenting a selection of these moving image works for Takiwā Hou: Imagining New Spaces onsite in Pakuranga (3 April to 24 May).

On song

Māori / Cymraeg SongHub participants collaborating. Photo: Teneya Ngata.

Te ao Māori is also in full effect in the latest international music collaboration currently underway in Tāmaki Makaurau.

The Māori / Cymraeg SongHubs, hosted by APRA AMCOS NZ and supported by the British Council and the British High Commission, has brought a selection of talented producers and songwriters from Aotearoa and Wales together at Auckland's Big Fan Studios in the spirit of cultural exchange through music.

Opera performer and te reo Māori advocate Kawiti Waetford is co-curating the four-day programme and told The Lowdown "The interplay between music and lyrics weaves a narrative that resonates universally, capturing not just our cultural roots but the very essence of humanity. 

"I extend my commendations to the British Council for their invaluable support of APRA, facilitating a platform where the power of music transcends cultural boundaries, uniting diverse perspectives and yielding a series of brilliantly diverse creations— as Rob Ruha said, 'bullet points of brilliance'!"

Fellow co-curator and producer Greg Haver told The Lowdown "Music has always been a conduit for collaboration in the exchange of thoughts, experiences and emotions. This week's meeting of worlds between Māori and Welsh songwriters and producers has surpassed expectations in the beautiful songs produced and the joy experienced by all involved who’ve embraced each other's cultures and found common ground in their stories of land, history and family.”

Natasha Beckman, Director for the British Council New Zealand and the Pacific added "Seeing the warmth in the relationships developed between our Welsh visitors and Māori artists and the pride they felt in their musical collaborations was heartwarming."

The fruits of this labour will be seen and heard over the coming weeks and months.

London calling for NZ artists

Sorawit Songsataya, Unnamed Islands, 2023. Single-channel digital video with sound. Video still. Hocken Gallery, Dunedin. Courtesy of the artist.

Another British Council opportunity - this time with the Jan Warburton Charitable Trust - is just kicking off, with applications open to find the next New Zealand artist to take their career to London with the Gasworks residency - its first open call post-COVID.

The three-month research residency offers an early/mid-career artist from Aotearoa the chance for self-led professional development, artistic exchange and experimentation and development of new international networks during October – December 2024. 

It includes return flights to London, 24/7 access to a private studio space in the Gasworks building, accommodation in a house shared with three or four other international artists in residence with Gasworks at the same time, plus living and materials allowance.

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Sorawit Songsataya with visitors at Gasworks Open Studios. Photo: Gasworks.

The successful applicant will be the eighth NZ recipient of the residency - the most recent being Sorawit Songsataya in 2023. 

They wrote glowingly of the experience: "...I cannot identify one specific part (that was specifically enjoyable or beneficial) as they are all intertwined, meaningful, and important. Everyone at Gasworks has been wonderful, friendly, and approachable. Getting to know London better – the city, the people, and its long history – has been a real joy. 

"If I could say one thing that stood out as an important experience, it would be the invisibility. The invisibility – as a person – of not having to explain my race, ethnicity, or gender. The invisibility – as an artist – of not having the pressure to explain or having to derive from my, or any, (geo)political position. Because I already am. And people are already smart enough to figure that out and get on with it. Basically, creative freedom."

MOTAT management move

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Craig Hickman-Goodall. Photo: Supplied.

A change at the top of The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)  for the first time in more than a decade.

Craig Hickman-Goodall will step up from Chief Operating Officer to MOTAT's new Museum Director/Chief Executive in July, taking over from Michael Frawley who's been in the role for 11 years.

Hickman-Goodall has a strong arts leadership background, having been Deputy Director of Auckland Art Gallery, Chief Executive of St James Theatre and Opera House in Wellington, as well as leading the redevelopment and opening of Hawkes Bay Opera House and Hastings City Art Gallery.  

He's also held Board Member roles with Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Gallery, Q Theatre and the Entertainment Venues Association Of New Zealand (EVANZ).

That experience will be put to the test, with the fraught situation that the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector finds itself in.

On his appointment Craig Hickman-Goodall says, “It is a great honour to be given this opportunity to lead MOTAT through the next five years, navigating the current economic challenges and working with the team to create a secure foundation for MOTAT’s growing role in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. I strongly believe in MOTAT's vision and purpose, and I am excited to be accepting this responsibility." 

Sculpture to the four

Sabine Marcellis, Merging Blocks. Photo: Supplied.

$50,000 worth of sculpture has gone up on Wellington's waterfront - its home for the next two years.

Merging Blocks is the latest work from Internationally renowned designer, Sabine Marcellis - who has strong links to Aotearoa - becoming the ninth recipient of the 4 Plinths Project commission, thanks to support from the family of the late Collin Post.

Sitting on the plinths that border the Te Papa forecourt and the waterfront of the capital, the four large coloured and mirrored glass volumes, in varying proportions and orientations, inject warmth into the grey bollards and their surrounds.

Chair of the Wellington Sculpture Trust, Sue Elliott, states “We are thrilled to award this project to an international artist of Sabine’s standing.

“The Sculpture Trust trustees and arts advisors were impressed with the way Merging Blocks fundamentally changes perceptions by treating the plinths as part of the artwork. It is both exciting and beautiful with her use of colour and reflection giving the work a jewel-like quality.” 

Born in the Netherlands, Marcellis's family immigrated to New Zealand when she was 10 years old. She returned to Holland when she was 23 and now runs her practice from Rotterdam, racking up plenty of accolades like Elle Décor Designer of the Year in 2023.

“Having spent much of my childhood in New Zealand, that formative period in which connection and understanding of place are solidified in ways that we often do not understand until much later, this project marks something special for me."

Speaking of the late Post's continued support of the arts through his family, Elliott notes “Collin was a stalwart of the Trust for many years. He was a true ‘friend’ and always showed a great deal of interest in our projects and events and could be relied upon to be there to support us and our artists."