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Lowdown: Bringing Art Back To The Public Eye

02 Nov 2023

Creativity is hitting the streets and clifftops of Aotearoa - we look at what it takes to get these crucial events up and running, plus a bevy of awards, success stories and a farewell to a legendary New Zealand performer.

 Matt Hughes, Alexicacus. Photo: Kathryn Nobbs.

After a five-year hiatus - what's billed as Aotearoa’s largest outdoor art event has risen from the pandemic ashes.

More than 130 works will be on display when NZ Sculpture OnShore opens on Saturday (4-19 November), with hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to take in their beauty along the clifftop park of Operetu Fort Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore. 

Bringing an event of this scale back up from a stalled start is no mean feat, especially as the funding and financial landscape for the sector has changed considerably since it last appeared in 2018.

Chair Sally Dewar Chair explained to The Lowdown "We reluctantly had to delay the November 2020 event by a year due to the first COVID lockdown and then had to transfer the 2021 exhibition online due to Auckland's second lockdown. There is a 21-month lead time required to prepare for an exhibition of this scale, and so November 2023 is the earliest date we could consider.

"There is always the concern that sponsors, key contractors and experienced lead team volunteers will have found other leveraging avenues, professional roles and community causes to work with. In our case, we are very fortunate to have longstanding loyal support for our both event and the Friends of Women's Refuge Trust who have been raising money for Women’s Refuge NZ for 27 years."

The biggest fundraiser for Women's Refuge, NZ Sculpture OnShore has raised more than $2 million over the past 27 years for the victims of domestic violence, helping women and children access safe places to stay, and providing counselling and wrap-around services.

Dewar adds "As a charity fundraising entity, we do not fit the criteria models for most grant funding organisations.

"We simply could not stage an event of this size without the financial support of Corporate sponsors and Independent philanthropic Patrons.

"These people are all art and sculpture lovers and collectors, but this passion also extends to wanting people from all walks of life and of all ages to have the opportunity to experience and engage with art in a relaxed and accessible setting.

"We rely heavily on in-kind sponsorship and in-kind support from a number of suppliers to assist us with our event set-up costs and to give us maximum value for our promotion spend. 

"Almost all of our team are volunteers who give freely of their time. If we had to pay for the huge manpower involved over many months, we simply would not be a viable concern."

It's also a big opportunity for the artists who get to showcase their skills. The variety of what is on display ranged from large to small scale works, sound and light works to site-specific installations.

Exhibition curator Sally Lush states “Visitors can expect to be blown away by the size, scope and splendour of the artworks presented this year. The sculptures vary in materials from bronze, corten steel and glass to terracotta, Taranaki andesite, Oamaru stone and more. They showcase the incredible versatility and skill of New Zealand’s sculptural artists. 

“There’s an indoor gallery, too, that is always extremely popular. It offers a wide selection of skilfully handmade small-scale works and domestic wares.” 

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Toipoto artists work clockwise from top left: Catherine Thomson, Lang Ea, Sofia Athineou, Julie Moselen, Paul Brunton, Wendy Hannah, Oliver Stretton Pow with Janet Mazenier centre.

Toipoto alumni Catherine Thomson, Janet Mazenier, Julie Moselen, Lang Ea, Oliver Stretton Pow, Paul Brunton, Sofia Athineou and Wendy Hannah are among those who have contributed artwork to the event. Ea’s POP BANG BOOM is described as a naive, playful, and cheerful installation, but on a deeper level, the red signals a dark and complex history of global violence, referencing the military past of the site.

Dewar highlights "The investment and cost of producing artworks is considerable for artists so it’s important that their work is seen by collectors and buyers who might purchase it - thereby recouping their costs and making a living! 

"Equally, artists want people to engage with their art and respond to it.  NZ Sculpture OnShore provides opportunities for both through our collector previews and online sales platform which gives access to buyers all over the country. We anticipate that 20,000 visitors will visit the exhibition over the next three weeks, to experience the largest exhibition of NZ sculpture in the country."   

Provinces make art matter

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Artist Cinzah painting at 3 Caro St  Hamilton Central. Photo: Nimbus Media.

It's a wonderful weekend for creative expression and public access to art across the motu - with a series of festivals and community-focused activities stepping up to the plate.

But it takes a community to make it happen.

Hamilton East is coming alive with the Boon Street Art Festival returning for the eighth time - as a crew of hand-picked artists bringing the wow factor from Friday (3-5 November) in a free, family-friendly event designed to bring some colour and creativity to the Waikato capital.

With five murals being painted - and 7 mural sites all up as part of an ‘Art Hunt’ competition - it's an opportunity to experience the neighbourhood and laneways in a way they've never seen before - thanks to the mahi of New Zealand artists Jesse Mosen, Cinzah, Gary Venn, Kell Sunshine and Alice Alva, as well as Japan's Koryu.

The bigger picture is helping beautify the city and make art an everyday experience. Boon Chairperson, Iain White told The Lowdown "Events like this showcase the talent that is in cities like Hamilton - and the street art we help create is a way to tell new stories about places. 

"This year was a very difficult event to put on. We had major sponsors withdraw due to economic conditions and we spent a huge amount of time hustling for small grants that were oversubscribed. It’s a hard time for the creative sector generally, but when you put events on and see the public reaction - it makes it all worthwhile."

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Fringe in the 'Stings in full effect. Photo: Supplied.

Already underway in the Hawke's Bay - Fringe in the ‘Stings (1-5 November) works on the same spirit.

Describing itself as the little festival of arts with a big heart, the Hastings event is designed to make experiencing creativity as achievable as possible, priding itself on bringing the eclectic and the eccentric with low prices and where possible, free events.  From baroque to burlesque, puppetry to punk, comedy to cabaret - it's the type of events that take a whole lot of love to get off the ground in the provinces.

Fringe in the 'Stings volunteer Rosheen FitzGerald told The Lowdown "Small grassroots festivals mean everything to the regions. Groups of committed individuals on the ground support each other to make and appreciate art. 

"Our core kaupapa is that everyone gets a go, meaning we are allowing people to realise their dreams. Fringe is an opportunity for both artists and audiences to try something a little different."

Visitors take in the Taranaki National Art Awards. Photo: Supplied.

There's been a similar celebration in the small coastal town of Ōpunakē - with the staging of the Taranaki National Art Awards at Sinclair Event Centre (until 5 November). 

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Ché Rogers, Wave Width. Image: Supplied. 

Attracting over 360 entries from all over New Zealand, the exhibition showcases an eclectic array of artworks across the seven categories, competing for a prize pool of $17,000. The event is timed to coincide with the Taranaki Garden Festivals and the Taranaki Arts Trail - in an attempt to help make the region a destination for cultural tourists.

South Taranaki District Council Arts Coordinator, Michaela Stoneman explains "A great example of a small town doing it for themselves, the event is a real achievement for the voluntary committee to continue to secure sponsorship and organise it each year.”

New Plymouth local Ché Rogers claimed the Painting Award for Wave Width and told The Lowdown "When you work in your studio, you don't always know if you're on the right track, so receiving recognition from well-respected and informed judges is affirming and motivating. 

"With the award gaining national awareness, this further amplifies the significance and exposure it offers, which, as a regional artist, is particularly beneficial."

Works on Paper Award winner Deborah Morris from Te Awamutu echoes Rogers' sentiment. 

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 Deborah Morris, Landscape of Emotions #10. Image: Supplied.

"As an artist, I often find myself immersed in solitary work, and having this effort acknowledged is an invaluable source of encouragement. It fuels my determination to forge ahead and share my art with the community that has supported me.

"At the grassroots level, I'm heartened to see a thriving art community in our regions. Local artists are creating exciting works of art that capture the essence of our culture and diversity. All the applicants' work is a testament to the power of creativity and its ability to resonate on a deeply personal level, showcasing the deep connection between art and the human experience.

"This recognition is a true honour and serves as a powerful motivator for me to continue exploring the boundaries of my creativity."

Textile artist Catherine Parkinson – also from Te Awamutu –finished highly commended in the Fibre art category behind New Plymouth's Jeanette Verster for her artwork exploring ADHD and its unseen beauty, The Journey

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 Catherine Parkinson, The Journey. Photo: Supplied. 

She told The Lowdown "I have entered many art quilts in quilting competitions around NZ, but this was the first time I have entered an art quilt into an art competition.  Being recognised for work that has roots in 'traditional' women's craft is a great honour. 

"To represent the thousands of women who have gone before me whose fibre artwork has been undervalued and unseen is something I'm very proud of. Having the opportunity to exhibit with other powerful art on an equal standing is also a wonderful experience.

"Regional art awards provide NZ artists significant opportunities for exposure and a place to exhibit their art. These types of regional events are crucial to the development of art in NZ and artist exposure to new audiences, particularly post-COVID".

Jasmine Middlebrook claimed the Taranaki Artist Award, Lower Hutt's Jonathon Campbell the 3D Award, Jordan Quinnell from Palmerston North the Tō Taranakitanga Award and Wellingtonian Lara Gilks the Photography Award, with Inglewood's Troy Wood the Committee Choice Award Winner.

New award named after Māori writing icon

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essa may ranapiri. Photo: Wairehu Grant.

One of the most highly regarded poets in Aotearoa is the recipient of the inaugural Keri Hulme Award.

essa may ranapiri (Ngaati Raukawa, Highgate, Na Guinnich) has the honour of being the first name associated with the award named after one of the most influential contributors to Māori literature.

Handed out at the 2023 Pikihuia Awards for Māori writers, it recognises a mid-career writer who represents the value of perseverance against the odds along with a $5000 prize that's funded from the sale of the original manuscript of her Booker Prize-winning novel The Bone People, which was auctioned last year.

Following their win, ranapiri told The Lowdown "Keri Hulme is such an important writer to us Maaori and especially us queer Maaori because of the way she pushed on colonial boundaries of sexuality and gender in her work. And the play, there is a playfulness to her work, a fun even in the darkness, that I aspire to. 

"It means the world and more to be a part of her legacy in this way. Once I would have been cynical about an award for mid-career writers of Maaori descent - because who the fuck was publishing us so that we could even qualify as mid-career? But there seems to have been a sea-change recently (helped along by institutions like the Maaori Literature Trust & Huia Publishers), one I am so excited to be a part of, and now I can see having an award for writers that channel the courageous spirit of Hulme's creative work is just really fucking cool."  

Robyn Bargh, chair of the Maori Literature – Trust Te Waka Taki Korero, adds, "I am thrilled to present the inaugural Keri Hulme award to essa may ranapiri, a poet whose vivid, introspective and powerful voice evokes many qualities shared with Keri herself.  With the support of Keri Hulme’s whānau, we are able to celebrate her legacy through this award – a legacy that continues to shape and inspire the aspirations of Māori writers today."

ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa, Highgate, Na Guinnich) edged finalists Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) and Monty Soutar (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Kahungunu) for the prize.

Hei Hoa Mauro by Aperahama Hurihanganui (Te Arawa, Te Tai Rāwhiti, Wairarapa) won the Poetry in te reo Māori prize, Shelley Burne-Field's (Ngāti Mutunga Ngāti Rārua, Sāmoa) Another brown face took out the Poetry in English award. Non-fiction in te reo Māori went to Tin Canning by Zeb Tamihana Nicklin (Pāhauwera, Ngā Tokorima a Hinemanuhiri, Ruapani, Tūhoe, Tāmanuhiri, Rangitāne) while Non-fiction in English was awarded to A Dangerous Country by Nadine Anne Hura (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi). And Te Koha Tūmatarau by Jacob McGregor (Ngāti Raukawa te Au ki te Tonga, Ngā Rauru Kītahi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui) won Short fiction in te reo Māori, with Anthony Pita (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Ranginui) claiming the Short fiction in English gong for kintsugi with the colour pink.

The twenty-seven finalists from the awards have been published in Huia Short Stories 15, which was launched at the awards ceremony, which is held every two years.

$10K for the piggy bank

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Sargeson Prize winner Anna Woods. Photo: Supplied.

Another short story prize has also been handed out - the richest in the country.

Aucklander Anna Woods has an extra $10,000 in her back pocket (probably not literally) as the “worthy and admirable winner” of the 2023 Sargeson Prize with her short story Pig Hunting, which also comes with a two-week summer writing residency at the Sargeson Centre in Auckland.

Woods notes the inspiration for the story came from a short break in a small town in the North Island. “I wrote Pig Hunting as part of my master’s in creative writing. I have entered the Sargeson Prize every year since the prize started, so to win is a huge honour and milestone.”

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Sargeson Prize secondary schools winner Tunmise Adebowale. Photo: Supplied.

Sifting through the nearly 1100 entries the competition received, Chief Judge Vincent O’Sullivan states "Anna's piece could not be more convincingly set in a compellingly detailed New Zealand. Its language is exact. Line by line, it is a triumph of restrained but focused style, honed for what it has to do." 

The Secondary Schools award is heading South - with Tunmise Adebowale of St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin winning for The Catastrophe of Swimming.

Adebowale receives $2000 and a one-week summer writing residency at the University of Waikato, which includes mentoring, accommodation and meals. 

“If it weren’t for the encouragement from my friends and teachers, I wouldn’t have entered the prize this year.

“Winning the prize and the writing residency with the University of Waikato means so much. I’m looking forward to challenging myself and improving my skills further.”

Both the winning stories will be published on ReadingRoom.

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Dr Ingrid Horrocks. Photo: Supplied.

A longer residency awaits Acclaimed memoirist, essayist, poet, and fiction writer Ingrid Horrocks - announced as Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) and Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence for 2024.

While holding the residency, Horrocks will work on a book of eco-fiction tentatively titled Marvellous Instruments, a collection that will explore the space between the novel and the short story. Horrocks says she plans to explore questions like ‘How do we write women’s lives?’ and ‘How might art help us live differently in relation to one another and to a world in crisis?’

Horrocks states The trust placed in my writing means a huge amount, especially in times when we need to work hard to keep believing in the value of creative work. But stories—reading and writing them—remain my best tools for making sense of the world, as well as for imagining how it could work differently. 

"I'm so excited to be part of the incredible IIML community.”



Vale Sir Jon Trimmer

Trimmer As Hook in Russell Kerr’s Peter Pan, 2008 Photo Maarten Holl..jpeg

The season of Royal New Zealand Ballet's (RNZB) Hansel & Gretel kicked off to much fanfare but heavy hearts - dedicated to one of the most loved and influential members of Aotearoa's ballet community. 

RNZB stated "We had the bittersweet honour of being able to dedicate our opening of Hansel & Gretel to Sir Jon Trimmer, a special and leading figure not only within the Royal New Zealand Ballet family but also Aotearoa and the wider dance community.

"We’ve received so many lovely messages and thoughts from people who knew and loved Jon. Thank you everyone for holding him, and the RNZB in your hearts.

"We felt his presence in the electric atmosphere, the laughter, and the joy of this ballet. Our dancers performed for Jon T, and we are grateful for everyone who joined us in celebrating his life, and the opening night of this final tour of 2023."

The passing of Sir Jon Trimmer last week - aged 84 - was met with an outpouring of tributes, respect and adoration. Described as RNZB's kaumatua, he spent almost 60 years as a Principal dancer, teacher, director and many more roles - official ones and not-so-offical ones too.

For many, Sir Jon's joy, passion and attention to detail helped spark their own love for dance. RNZB adds "He opened the door of the theatre and welcomed everyone in. For the artists, choreographers and crew who worked with him, he was a mentor, a teacher and an inspiration."

In 1999, Sir Jon became the only New Zealand dancer to be given a knighthood. Among his many accolades, Sir Jon was also Wellingtonian of the Year and recipient of the Turnovsky Award and a Fulbright Fellowship.

All that jazz

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Louisa Williamson. Photo: Supplied.

The Wellington Jazz Fest Festival's all wrapped up for 2023 - with over 100 gigs across 30 venues ranging from the Michael Fowler Centre to bars and intimate spots across the capital.

One of the highlights was the announcement of Pōneke's own Louisa Williamson as the winner of the APRA Best Jazz Composition Award, edging Jake Baxendale and The Circling Sun quartet of Cameron Allen, Julien Dyne, Guy Harrison and Matt Hunter.

The first-time finalist was recognised for Dream Within A Dream, the lead track from her debut album What Dreams May Come, one that one judging panel member describes as "a work that will stand the test of time and will be looked on in decades to come as one of New Zealand’s great jazz albums.”

Williamson told The Lowdown "I’ve been really inspired by listeners' feedback since it was released through Blue Riot Records, especially when I hear how it impacts the way people feel. 

"The album was conceived and designed with a strong vision and function to help people relax, particularly as I was working on it throughout COVID lockdowns which reinforced my belief that art really helps people cope. I’m incredibly grateful and hope my music continues to provide a sense of calm and inspiration to people who are listening.

"I’ve felt the love from the whole community throughout this whole process and I’m forever grateful to my fellow musicians, friends and family who believed in and were enthusiastic of this somewhat unique project from the very beginning. This has given me a new-found motivation to release more music, which I’m recording in January!"

What a boost

Pane Provocation’s Teherenui Koteka. Photo: Supplied.

Earlier this month, The Lowdown outlined the annual Boosted x Moana campaign, designed to spotlight Pasifika talent looking for ways to crowdfund their next projects across the month of October.

In total, the 17 Projects that closed on Tuesday raised over $229,000 from more than 1,100 donations. Every project was successful, with the average percentage raised 104% -  while late addition, an eighteenth project, Lota Nu’u, still funding with two weeks to go.

One of the project leads, Pane Provocation’s Teherenui Koteka told The Lowdown "Running a Boosted campaign is a time consuming but ultimately very rewarding experience. Once I hit that 100% mark and saw that 93 people had donated to my campaign, I felt assured that my play Pane Provocations was a piece of art that people in my community resonated with."

It’s been a record-breaking month for Boosted as a whole, raising well over half a million dollars through 38 projects across the platform in October.