Nominations for the Invercargill City Mayoralty and Council open on the 15th July 2016. This election is significant with regard to the development of arts and culture in Invercargill city so how many candidates have a good understanding of the current provision for arts and culture and a clear vision of the way forward over the coming three years? If you also want to know I will be seeking to have these questions answered in a series of interviews with candidates over the coming months. If you have specific questions you would like me to raise please email these to DIYmuseum@kathrynmccully.com. I will post information about candidates and interviews here. Many thanks to Kay Howley for her support with this process.
Soper to Stand for Council (Southland Times 12th July 2016) http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/81978740/former-invercargill-labour-candidate-lesley-soper-to-stand-for-invercargill-city-council-seat
"Soper said the Invercargill public art collection, now at Anderson House, should be moved to the CBD. She also called for a discussion around a possible central location for the art collection at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. The Anderson Park house needed to be fixed by the council so it could be used again..."
It is not clear what is being proposed here so I will look forward to seeking clarification on these issues, for example, the Southland Museum and Art Gallery is facing significant challenges with regard to collection cataloguing and storage and would not be in a position to take on the Anderson Park Art Gallery collection in the foreseeable future. If, as Mr. King states, Anderson House is being repaired then what would be the benefits associated with moving the APAG collection into the CBD opposed to keeping it at Anderson House? There is no particular questioning around the nature and focus of either the APAG or SMAG collections. Given that these collecting processes/policies are effectively funded by the Invercargill City Council (ratepayers) - attention to ensuring sustainable practices and policies are in place to avoid growth in collections that exceed what the community can afford to maintain long term should be a priority. There are also more than 30 museums in the Southland region which should prompt conversations about whether a centralised collection that represents the people of Southland is actually supported financially by the wider Southland district.
I think an actual arts/culture strategy would be a good starting place for the city.
A dead, but famous American artist, Andy Warhol once said, “if you want to know who I am, look at my painting”. Unfortunately, I can’t even draw a stick insect but I do love art in all its many shapes and forms, whether it be a painting, drawing, sculpture or a beautiful garden. Art is beauty in the eye of the beholder.
When you look at the work of a famous artist like Andy Warhol you can see again that one of the important things he did with his life was keep his inner child alive and I believe that in Invercargill we need to make a place for children, youth, adults and people from all different nationalities and cultures to have a place where their art can be expressed.
I am a first generation Kiwi, born from Dutch parents who came to Invercargill in the 1950s. Their passports were stamped with the word “ALIEN”. How wrong was that? Today, Invercargill is very much a multicultural and global city and it’s wonderful that we have so many varied nationalities living here. It makes us a richer city. I love listening to people speaking in their native tongue. Most Kiwis don’t speak another language. I do, I speak Dutch fluently and German a little. Our parents instilled in us how important it is to keep our Dutch culture and heritage alive and I’m eternally grateful to them for that and I encourage our citizens who are from another nationality to do likewise.
We were all Immigrants once through our forefathers.
In terms of art and culture in the city, what do you think the Council’s role is?
I believe it certainly does have a role because people want to express their vision on art and culture and I just remember Anderson’s Park Art Gallery growing up and going in there and being amazed at all the art work and all the old pictures of the elderly Maori that were there, instilled in my head. I feel it is such a shame that we have no where we can view what we have got. I cannot draw a stick insect even, so it would be good to go somewhere and see beautiful works of art. I have no eye for art but being Dutch - Rembrandt - I love that sort of thing and have been in some beautiful museums in Europe, the Reijks Museum, the Louvre, the public art gallery in Antwerp and you stand in front of these amazing pictures and think how on earth did they do it with the limited stuff they had. It’s like the Sistine Chapel, you look up and you think how did they do that all those hundreds of years ago? Today the way people express themselves is completely different, can be dance, can be music, can be all sorts of things.
Have you seen the digitized collections of the Reijks Museum?
No I was last there in 1999 and when we were back in Holland it was closed but we went back this year but did not get back to Amsterdam to see it.
During their redevelopment period they undertook a huge project digitizing thousands of works in their collection and now you can go online and grab these amazing Dutch paintings, cut bits out if you like, make them into new images, print them on clothing – it’s basically open source and free to use which is an incredible example for museums all around the world – the collection is being used in a completely different way. This comes from the philosophy of not wanting to try and keep this work locked up in a dark room where nobody see it or does anything with it.
We stood in front of The Night Watch and it was incredible, the size of it, but the buttons on the tunic of the officer glistened in your face and a couple of years ago I was out at Riverton at one of the second hand shops out there and I saw a print of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch 900x600 and I went home to hubby and I said you’ve got to come and see this and we brought it straight away. This is my pride and joy to have it in our home - me being of Dutch descent and I am thinking I had never dreamt this would be a piece that I would collect and on the back were stickers that it originated in New York in 1947 and it came out to New Zealand in 1954 with an exhibition of all of Rembrandt’s prints. To end up in our home really makes me very proud.
So in terms of being someone who has memories of Anderson Park Art Gallery, how do you feel about the separation of the Art Gallery from Anderson House?
I just feel it was such a fantastic venue to have as an art gallery and I can see the reasoning behind moving it to the CBD, but people went out there not only to look at the Art Gallery, they enjoyed the park, we had picnics there, you walked around the playground, the gardens are fantastic. I am also a Celebrant and do quite a few weddings out there and it was just a special treat to go out there and look around, even though the paintings were not very often dissimilar, had been there for a long time, but just such a treat to go out there and enjoy them. Mum and Dad took us out there so often and as a family we would bike out there and take the picnic and it was just fantastic and I do understand the need for a new Art Gallery to be closer to town, but just not sure about the parking, people will complain wherever you are going to put it. We have come back from Christchurch after living there for 27 years, parking in Invercargill is so amazingly cheap, it would not be an issue for me.
I am always a bit puzzled about all these parking debates as there is free parking just a block out of town.
I have just parked for 40 minutes for a dollar and you just would not hear about that in another city.
The strength of Anderson Park Art Gallery is the site, it has grounds and it has a beautiful historic building and I guess that people do have an expectation that galleries and museums are feature buildings or there is certainly a tradition of them being feature buildings whether they are historic or whether they are contemporary. There are a few that have amazing grounds, like the Gallery of New South Wales sited by the botanic gardens. I guess the other thing was that it (Anderson House) was donated to the city for the purpose of an Art Gallery and now obviously there is going to have to be some sort of negotiation with the family about an alternative use of the site.
I worked in the Christchurch City Council for the Mayor when the new Christchurch Art Gallery was commissioned in 2003 and honestly that is a beautiful building and it withstood the earthquakes and yet it was made mainly of glass and the way that they had set out the exhibitions – it is truly fantastic and for me The Dutch Funeral is the most beautiful painting, that is part of my Dutch heritage and mum explained to us that that it was true that they had to store the bodies because they could not bury them in the winter and the looks on those women’s faces dragging that coffin was just heart breaking.
Yes that is certainly a very key work in their collection.
The facility is used for so many different things that it is not just an Art Gallery. I remember when we had the September earthquake I was working for Sir Bob Parker at the time and he then became an international speaker on earthquakes. He had just left Christchurch on 12th February 2011 and he went to Nepal to speak on earthquake recovery, got back on the 18th and spoke at the Art Gallery on 19th to a huge gathering on what he had found out. Thankfully I got it videoed and on the day of the 22nd February earthquake, but we still had that all there and have used it so often. Luckily having it on a memory stick we could use it over and over again. Who would have thought that three days later we would be going through even worse stuff? It (Chch Art Gallery) has lots of functions. If we were able to design a building here that was multi-purpose rather than just an art gallery, it would be fantastic.
Lots of people are using the term ‘Art Gallery’ and in terms of the general public there is an idea that there is something that is an Art Gallery and there is something that is a Museum and one thing stores historic objects and the other thing stores art, but in terms of museums, nationally and internationally, the term museum is used for any kind of a cultural institution that cares for collections on behalf of communities, so literally it can be anything, and it is up to a community what it should be. If there is an Art Gallery here it can really perform a whole lot of functions depending on what this community needs to do.
Yes, they need to voice what they want. Sometimes a lot of communities are apathetic, want it to be done for them but do not want to give any input.
I think you are right in terms of the Art Gallery name, if I was going to name something - probably here in Invercargill I would try and avoid the term ‘Art Gallery’ as it does have some negative connotations for people in terms of accessibility and inclusion. Some people feel uncomfortable in art galleries, so perhaps there is something for Invercargill that can be a bit more user friendly. Like Te Papa thought carefully about not using that kind of terminology… I believe they are looking at putting it (proposed Art Gallery) down behind Wachner place, have you heard that?
Personally I don’t think that would be a particularly good position for it. I feel Wachner Place is very ugly and I just don’t think it needs it needs to be there, maybe the other side of Esk Street? Up to Council to negotiate perhaps with Landlords whether they could buy buildings or whatever. Wachner place or behind it is not a very vibrant place at all and personally I just could not see it being there. I would not be happy about it at all.
I could see potential of something like, say Federation Square in Melbourne - maybe there is potential to create a kind of civic centre that includes Wachner Place, as everyone knows something needs to be done with Wachner Place and perhaps in terms of the city plan there is a bit more thinking around the integration of what to do with Wachner Place. Because looking down Esk Street, it is quite an important site, and quite problematic at the moment.
I love that building by the roundabout, the BNZ Bank there. Those two heritage buildings, why can’t we do something with them. It’s heritage, big and not being used I don’t think. We could utilize it really well, and I don’t know whether any thought has been given to that.
The proposed Wachner Place site, and this is an assumption obviously because the information I get flows through back of house channels as it does in Invercargill, but that land behind Wachner Place is owned by Council, so I am guessing they are thinking because they own that big section of property that they would not have to purchase something at commercial rates in the CBD.
Does that include the Menzies Building? That is there as well.
Not sure sorry. Otherwise there is the old Southland Times building which is owned by the ILT now and whether or not they are looking at another hotel there is uncertain.
Invercargill people don’t want to walk too far.
So the proposed new Art Gallery may be behind Wachner Place, where do you think that leaves the Southland Museum and Art Gallery?
I still go to the museum quite a lot, we have lots of friends come from Christchurch and people are so interested in Henry the Tuatara, then we go through and they are not really interested in the exhibition on Bridal Gowns, so I still think it is going to have its own purpose, maybe that they have a few more different exhibitions, so it is not going to necessarily have major effect I don’t imagine.
The effect from Council’s point of view, I guess, is that instead of funding one major cultural institution, they will be funding two, so there is a cost implication there and also SMAG does need still some kind of re-development.
I absolutely agree.
There is a historic building inside that building they have got right now, what has been added on to it is a bit of temporary mismatch of additions and the collection at the moment, somewhere in the realm of 1 million artefacts/objects are still in need of cataloguing. Some kind of solution for how that is going to be cared for and stored long term still needs to be developed and that is going to cost some money. That million dollars or the exact figure that everyone talks about that has already gone into talks about the re-development at SMAG, was to address some of those problems. So building a new Art Gallery in the CBD is not going to make those issues disappear. So you have got some expenditure on re-development still at SMAG and then you are going to have a purpose build in the CBD, so in terms of that cost I guess you could be looking at anything from 50 to 100 million dollars depending on what you want to do. Then I would say conservatively 3 million a year operational expenses for a council to run two cultural institutions in the City.
Anywhere you go in the world to an art gallery or museum, you pay and you pay exceptionally high costs and if you want to go you’ll go.
So do you think local people should pay for this?
This is a hard one to say, I don’t mind paying for things like that as it cannot be Council that is going to fund it all the time, and every time I go here to the SMAG I will put a fiver in the donation box as we have to pay for upkeep. People think because they pay their rates they don’t have to pay anything. If you are on holiday you expect to pay to visit these things.
I would be concerned that there would be some people who cannot afford to pay and maybe there is a happy medium. Some museums I got to do not have an entry fee, but may have a special exhibition that you would pay to see. But, say you wanted to bring a Rembrandt exhibition, for example, to Invercargill that would be an extraordinary cost and you would not expect the Council or the ratepayer to meet that cost and therefore you could have a $20 ticket to go and see it. That would be reasonable I think, but there is an argument that a community should have free access to their history and culture but certainly I think donations are a great thing and if you can afford to, that is fantastic.
It could be a thought for people to be encouraged to bequest in their wills to these institutions.
This is a great idea and lots of museums to this, but do people know that they can do that for our museum here?
Probably no, and that is why it needs to be publicized.
So you would be quite happy in terms of Council if there were two cultural institutions here in Invercargill?
Yes, you are going to have the people who are drawn to the Museum because Queen’s Park is there as well and if say you are on a tour bus, if you are a good tour guide you will take them through the museum, let them have a cup of coffee in the cafe, then you would say come and look at this and walk them down the Feldwick Gates and they will look at the Band Rotunda and they will think we have not seen anything like this anywhere else in the world. Then they would walk them through the rose garden from November through to February and then on to the alpine garden up through the children’s playground. Look around there, perhaps another coffee, walk through the winter gardens and back and that is a good hour and they would be thinking they did not know Invercargill had this. I have travelled widely and still come home and think this is the best park in the world. This is so well maintained. We were in Europe in June/July and did a Rhine River cruise and took so many photos, we wondered why the lawns were not mowed and kept. My cousin said the Council’s there do not place any emphasis on that sort of thing. International tourist attractions like Vienna were disgusting, the center of the town is lovely, but as you are going into it, it is overgrown and the weeds are everywhere. I have taken pictures of our Parks and Reserves staff beavering away everywhere. Our parks and roundabouts are fantastic.
Yes I walk through Queen’s Park often and I see them working there all the time. It’s amazingly maintained.
We spent hundreds of hours in that park growing up as children. We were there for the commissioning of the bronze statues.
There is the beautiful Roddy McMillan sculpture down there - the Burt Munro bronze which is an incredible addition. It would be an amazing transformation for Invercargill if we ended up with the Southland Museum and some sort of central arts or/and cultural hub here, and then we have the Bill Richardson Transport Museum and soon the Motorcycle Mecca, it could certainly turn things around a bit for Invercargill.
We are not a tourist mecca but don’t want to make it into that, we need people coming through to stop a night or two. A lot of people have said they do not want the Council spending 10K on the Nigella event. I went to that and at my table alone, my girlfriend and I were the only two from Invercargill and we were talking to everybody else. A couple came from Auckland, they brought their camper van down but hey they are spending money here. They said it was better here because in Auckland at the hotel they were at, they could not talk to people. Two ladies on my right came from Dunedin, they spent two nights in Invercargill loved the shopping here and they are coming back. The other four were from Wellington. There were more people from out of town than there were from Invercargill. Out of the 10K that Council invested, we may have made 30K, but that is not explained to the public.
Yes, you bring someone like that to Invercargill and you definitely are going to get people coming from all over the country.
That is part of art and culture, the art of cooking and she also has a lot of culture. Culture is just not your nationality, but you can just look at that person and say she is cultured. The production was worth it.
Do you think the idea of having this new cultural institution and the SMAG is going to be palatable for ratepayers and in terms of cost? Do you get the feeling that this is something that the community will support?
I sincerely hope that they do. You can moan for the rest of your life and nothing gets done, so the status quo remains. Why don’t we give it a go? It may be a huge success and then it may fall over. If we don’t try however, we will never know.
With regards to the Southland Regional Development Strategy, the group that has been working on the concept has recommended a feasibility study, that is what the money has been approved to do, where do you see their role? Because, I am quite interested to see how different cities deal with art gallery and museum projects, these kind of big projects. Do you think business is going to have a role in funding the new proposed art gallery for example?
Yes I think that they will. If the plans and the SoRDs come together properly, they will only be released in the next few weeks, and there are 9 strategies to that plan, so you have doing business in Invercargill, the growth increase, all those sorts of things and if business want to attract people into a new building then I think they should put some money behind it as well.
It occurs to me that these kinds of things that are happening at SoRDs would normally happen within Council, so I look at the strategy that they have laid out, which I think is a good one, you know having these kind of committees of people working on different aspects of pushing Invercargill forward, creating innovation and new ideas and I can see that this has a very business driven focus which is a bit different from how it has been done in some other places I have been. But, I just wonder if there has been an emphasis here on business people being quite involved in what would normally be quite a public sector or council initiative.
From what I understand you have Joc O’Donnell leading one team and she is a very astute lady and I do believe that if we are to make Invercargill city more vibrant, then businesses who are continuously crying that they are not going anywhere, we are not doing anything, you have got to put your hand up and say, look I am prepared to invest, it might not be much but if everybody was prepared to invest a little to get it off the ground, but you cannot expect one organization in the city to keep writing cheques to hold everybody else up. The thing is that the SoRDs is from the four Councils working together, so it is not only for the benefit of Invercargill City it is for Southland, the whole community.
So it doesn’t bother you that they are making these decisions, they are not democratically elected on to the SORDs group, they are selected and they are making some quite big decisions about the future of the city. How do you feel about that in terms of Council versus business, are you quite comfortable with this?
For a quite a long time at Christchurch City Council, they have done exactly the same thing with the Canterbury Regional Development Strategy, the little outlying district councils all coming together and so it is for the benefit of the whole region. You have got to work in partnership and in collaboration with each other and if we don’t we will end up with amalgamation. No council wants to amalgamate, so we are better off to work together and look on it positively and hope that in the future, even if the art galleries here it is for the benefit of everyone in Southland, and that we attract a whole lot of new tourism.
So you think it is appropriate for Business to drive that on behalf of the Council?
Yes I do. If you have the appropriate people with the skills, then why not utilize that? If they are prepared to be part of it, good on them.
Have you thought about another use of Anderson House by any chance?
Personally I think it would be fantastic, because as a celebrant we can only use it on the outside. Why could you not have your wedding venue out there? You may not have to have caterers there, but you can bring them in. Would be lovely to do that. Could be used by Kindergartens more, set it up for something like that. There are a multitude of things it could be used for.
You would want it to be something that would be open to the public as it is much like any of those kind of iconic places in Invercargill. There is the ability to capitalize on it as a location and as a house if you choose the right sort of function for it.
Yes and what I love about it is that when you drive down that drive it is still like it was 100 years ago. That vista as you come around the roundabout there you think this is fantastic.
I wonder about the Southland Art Society, do you know much about this?
No I don’t.
The Southland Art Society manage the City Gallery in Don Street, and have been running that for decades - they are kind of the working arm of the arts in Southland - they have a big membership of artists that they support through workshops and opportunities and also obviously invite the public in and they have everything from contemporary to school exhibitions and do a lot of outreach activities. They are in a rented building at the moment that costs them a lot of money and they struggle basically for very cent to keep operating. It is the way it is for them. They do not get any Council funding, so I wondered whether Anderson House would be quite a good venue for the Southland Art Society?
I would totally agree.
It would still be used for the purpose of an Art Gallery which is what was intended by the family. The Southland Arts Society does not hold a collection so no need for them to have to store a collection at Anderson House, and the venue is some would say, and I would certainly support this - is ideal for an Art Gallery despite a bit of work that would obviously need to be done there. The grounds, the parks and as a community, a hub and an attraction, I feel it is an outstanding venue.
It is perfect, absolutely perfect.
This is certainly something that can be considered.
Do they have ‘Friends of the art gallery’? Do you know if there is a society called that? Because that is a great way to get funding as well.
SMAG has a ‘Friend’s’ membership as does the City Gallery. It is just whether or not there is enough people who know about it and understand what the benefits are. Because any art gallery that is funded by council needs to supplement income with donations, membership, fundraising so those schemes are very good and also more importantly they bring people closer to the institution and friends should also organize projects and events. You might see this at other institutions - you might have seen this in Holland – ‘Friends’ may for example, decide that they are going to pay to restore some art works. They may have a project whereby they fundraise and exhibit some artworks that they have restored on behalf of the museum or they might decide that they want to support a purchase put forward by the Curator or institution. Acquisitions money is quite hard to come by. You don’t often have this supported by Councils. SMAG has got next to nothing for acquisitions. So these are the kind of things that friends can make a major difference to. They can hold parties, celebrations, events, anything they are interested in really.
A lot of the friends are very well travelled and they have seen huge exhibitions and various art galleries and museums around the world so they know how important it is to have that in their own city.
The other thing I wonder is whether you could see a residency as part of maybe a re-developed art gallery or a new development, have you heard of the Southland Art Foundation?
They (SAF) have been running a residency programme here for 20 years called the William Hodges Fellowship and this has been in partnership with SMAG and SIT and basically it recently has ceased. The Southland Art Foundation ran out of money to continue to fund the residency. This residency that has been going for 20 years and has been bringing artists from all over the country to Southland to create work about their experience of being in Southland and that work has been collected and is held at SMAG. Through the residency a very unique and significant collection has been created. Last year SIT took over the accommodation and the studio to try and assist the residency to carry on and it is good for SIT to have those artists on our campus because the students visit them and learn from them. Do you think that there is potential to try and resurrect a residency as part of a new development?
Once something has folded it is often quite hard to get it up and running again. You need to have the people with the enthusiasm to do it and are they still here? Like for us when we first came here the Dutch Club was huge when we were kids as our parents were new immigrants and we had so much fun as Dutch kids, so now sadly the Dutch Club has gone because the likes of myself have not kept that closeness within our community alive and that is what often happens. So I have just joined the Dutch Club here and hopefully I can get my sister on board and a few others my age group together and say hey come along, it is important to us. But, unless you have got someone who is pushing it, it is not going to happen.
Do you think a new arts centre or a new art gallery would be the place to drive something like this?
Yes, if we got it, I would be extolling the virtues of doing that sort of thing again, but until you have got something concrete to use, then people will get enthusiastic about it once they know they have somewhere to go.
These things are always going to be a partnership between organizations in places like this, but certainly it would help to have a central kind of driving force behind something like that. In terms of driving those kind of things, do you think Council has a role in driving new initiatives in the city?
Normally you would have a person employed by a Council to oversee Arts and Culture and they are normally very qualified themselves. I know in Christchurch we had this fantastic lady and she was amazing and after 9/11 she went to New York and she managed to secure two of the steel girders from the Twin Towers and get them back here and we built a park in honour of those firefighters. They survived the Canterbury earthquakes. This is the sort of person you would need on board who has access to a lot of international people perhaps that are qualified in the arts themselves, as they have the networking. I think it is important for a Council to have that sort of person.
Does our Council have that kind of person?
I am not too sure, I cannot say that they don’t have, as I don’t know.
Arts and culture must play a significant part in the future of our city, adding life, colour and vitality to the surrounds like we’ve never seen before. I applaud long term plans to build an art gallery in the CBD but there is much work to be done to ensure it is supported before and after it is established to enhance such a facility.
I’m a huge fan of the pop-up concept for promoting art in all its forms, from paintings through to performance, whereby a platform is provided for the immense wealth of talented people within our community who are longing to display their wares. The CBD is awash with vacant spaces that need to be made available for such displays. My role as a facilitator, will be to bring together all the interested parties: the various entities within the arts, private and community funders, landlords and council - to agree on short and long term projects from which all those groups benefits…essentially taking the world of the arts to the people, creating interest where there may have been none before.
As with other cities, the pop-up concepts and ‘temporary’ displays often prove so popular that they become embedded in long term plans; and so be it. I’ve also aroused the interest of a number of parties keen to establish a boutique cinema/café complex to secure a constant supply of movies, often pigeonholed as ‘arthouse’, that actually have much wider appeal when given the exposure.
More support for more art in all its forms!
How’s the campaign going so far?
Very happy, there’s lots of opportunities, a combination of self-generated ones and also invitations to sort of present my case which is what I really want and to very diverse groups. So you’re out talking to a different demographic or different interest group each time and that’s very important in the time that’s available so I’m happy with the exposure and the high interest that’s growing in the political race and that’s I think healthy for the community.
Definitely - do you think there seems to be a bit of interest in arts and culture this election particularly?
Well I’m pleased there is because it was van I was pushing but I haven’t had to push it too far because other people have brought it forward as well. It’s nice and I think we do feel we neglect that area we like to think to ourselves let’s have an arts hub but we don’t have anything - we’re starting from scratch in a lot of regards and I think we only have to look up the road at what Dunedin’s done arts wise with the buildings etc it’s very evident where they’ve put their money and I think that’s followed suit from other cities – Wellington’s the same, those major places they’ve put a lot of emphasis on arts and I think we haven’t put enough and I think this is a great time when we’re completely looking at a new CBD effectively to incorporate it.
Are people asking you about the museum? About the Southland Museum & Art Gallery?
Yes there seems to be an acceptance that we are going to get a new art gallery in town somewhere – it’s part of the SoRDs outlook and I know it’s not official but it’s the worst kept secret – I think there’s going to be one and I think people are generally happy about that – the arts have their museum over there. There is an excitement, most of the talk is about Anderson House that’s a concern, what’s the future of that so, yes, between those three venues that’s what’s being discussed and whether you have an arts hub or you spread it out or a combination of the two that’s always the topic of conversation but I am pleased to say it’s on the agenda more than I thought it would be.
The debate seems to have turned into there being a central city art gallery and the museum staying where it is. I believe that’s what SoRDs has been discussing…
Yes that’s what it sounds like…
So that’s going to mean the Southland Museum & Art Gallery are still going to require work to be undertaken on their building…
And then you’re going to have presumably a purpose built facility in the CBD…
I’m hoping that that plan accommodates the two if that’s the recommendation…one’s having an idea, two’s how you’re going to carry it out.
I’m, having had a bit of a background in museum redevelopment, thinking about the money…is the Southland Museum & Art Gallery going to be overlooked in the drive to create an inner city art gallery?
No I don’t believe so because I think they are going to serve two different sectors of the art community and I think, I give SoRDs credit that they’re not just going to walk away from one and just concentrate on another. There’s going to be some sort of compromise, I think what’s hampered the museum a little bit is all the money spent on reports and reviews in the planning and the result was nothing and then of course that’s made people a bit annoyed but that’s not the museum’s fault or the fact that we need that facility. But I think in my mind what I’m getting is a clear picture of art in one place, museum in another – two distinct offerings and two distinct areas of support. Of course one’s a ground up built and one’s a titivation.
So when you talk about distinct is that saying that you personally think there’s a difference in what constitutes a historic object and an artwork or that’s the kind of vibe you get from the community?
That’s the vibe, I think they’re saying artistically, and when we talk about art we’ve got to think beyond just pictures too – there’s sculptures and performance art and I think that sort of art is heading over there and the museum which is a reflection on our history of which art will be a component, but not the painting so much. I think that’s seen as a separate entity there. I think that’s how they’re viewing it.
So public perception?
Yes it is, until we get the findings and the exact recommendations because whose paying for what – both, either, we can’t be sure but I would say from what I’m hearing in the community that’s what I’m understanding.
OK because a museum in New Zealand is simply defined as a cultural institution that cares for collections on behalf of communities - it could be, you know, a Marae or a public park or garden – it’s very diverse.
Te Papa’s a perfect example, you couldn’t get more diverse than that…
That’s right and the great thing about that is that means in your community you can actually create an institution that’s reflective of its particular identity and values.
Well it’s supposed to be reflective of your own community isn’t it – that’s what a museum is for.
Yes, so I’m just wondering whether we’re going to be looking at 100 million dollars for a redevelopment - Southland Museum & Art Gallery, purpose build – art gallery in the CBD and 3 million plus per year for operational expenses... at least and wondering about the palatability of that for ratepayers.
I think the thirst for the developments will be met by a lot of private funding.
Yes I think there will be private funding if the ideas are good but you touch on a very good point – long term sustainability. It’s like you build all these things - library, pool – they all lose money but the community says well we want that facility. No one ever questions the pool or the library do they really in terms of a cost? They never make any money - they were never designed to. That’s why the Council is there to provide services that aren’t always profitable but the community demands and it demands a museum and clearly they do, and I think we are pretty proud of the Pyramid and the whole concept/set up. People are not naive, you want good exhibitions coming through. Are we prepared to pay to see a particular exhibition, it is different thinking. At Te Papa, you pay for some things, some you don’t.
When I say 3 million that is a really conservative amount, as our museum is pretty underfunded at the moment.
As are all the arts.
So Anderson Park Art Gallery, you were at their debate the other day. How did that go?
I will be mentioning it soon - in the next debate, a key issue that has been raised everywhere I have gone for the last 6 months, is the future of Anderson House. This is one building in town and people always ask me about it. It just comes up in conversation, two things. Can we save it? What are we going to do with it afterwards? Two issues. The discussion panel I was on, I got a very good first time, close up view of the work that is required. When you stand back it is a beautiful building, but get in close and you see there has been some repairs that need permanent repairs, and this is aside from the strengthening, so there is a lot of work to be done. But, it is unanimous when they ask -would you be prepared to spend council money to repair, or the ratepayer money to repair this. The answer is emphatically yes. There is no question about that.
What about Lotteries and the Historic Places Trust, I mean it is a nationally significant building…
There are a lot of buildings that we need to save, but that is at the top of the list.
So the cost of that is about 1 million?
Tom said at least. It is kind of open ended because once you go in and open it up you don’t know what you will find, so you can’t put a definitive figure on it. But, I think barring the fact that if the costs get extraordinary high, I think you look at what you have to do to make it work. Then we have the question, then what? This is the hardest question to answer.
How do you view the drive to separate the collection or art gallery purpose from Anderson House. What do you think that’s about?
There are two groups. One wants to preserve the bricks and mortar and the beauty of that. The other is the collection within. I think that with the new Art Gallery being built, if that is what happens, I think it is going to satisfy the collection part of it, partly, as there are other things we need to do aside from this. You can’t just say an art gallery is going to resolve all our problems. So then it becomes the question of what becomes of Anderson Park internally, how do we make it commercial? I have one idea where you have artists in residence there sharing the facility and then you might have a potter in one room and a painter in another room and something in something else, then people can come in and watch them at work and maybe sell their wares and the commission goes back into the house, just one idea.
Do you know what that model sounds like? The Southland Art Society, because this is pretty much what they do and of course they are in a building right now that they really struggle to fund, rent wise. So one of the potential purposes that probably hasn’t been thrown out there yet, is the Southland Art Society goes out to Anderson Park. It is a spectacular attraction.
Yes, it is two-fold. It will have the attraction of the building and the experience you can go and enjoy. Let’s not limit it to Southland, why not have special guest artists from up North come down for a month. The rooms are quite small so you cannot use it for entertainment, but it could be ideal for artists as they could operate in their separate areas but have that common flow.
The Southland Art Foundation had some pretty significant issues in the last year. They have been running the William Hodges Fellowship for the past 20 years, and they have been bringing artists from all over the country to Southland, for three to six months depending on the agreed to terms. Now they have run out of money (probably about a year ago) and have stopped offering the residency. There have been artworks by significant New Zealand artists collected as a result of that residency for 20 years that are now housed at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Unfortunately, now all the great things that that residency brought to Southland have stopped. One of the questions that I have is, do you think Council has a role in assisting with or funding these kind of activities?
Absolutely. To me it is very much a facilitation role. I have told the interest groups I have spoken to, to come to me with the ideas, we will sit down and look at the best means of helping you achieve your goals. We are not going to solve all the problems right away. But, OK we have heard what you want. We have some parties over here who can help with that, bring in private investors over here, and community funders here, and all agree. Maybe there is something we could do with the rates, rental - we could make a contribution. Maybe just a matter of putting all the right parties together and walking away and leave you to it. This is what I see the council doing - listening, working out what the problem is, who is best to resource it, and who can do it not just short term, but also long term, as there is nothing worse than a 5-minute idea that has no momentum. Then we can make sure and oversee that those people follow through with those promises. Sometimes it will require some financial input, as there is very little money spent on the arts here. There is a reshuffle of funds coming and there will be more available under my watch. But, each project as you can imagine, of which there are numerous ideas, but the ones who are prepared to follow it through would get more support than the ones who throw it on the table and complain. If we can get that combined approach. I am also an advocate of Pop-Up Art through the city because of the space we have available, and again this is a facilitation role and I have seen it work so well in other cities, Christchurch by need, Wellington by choice, Dunedin by choice. It works very well. Pop-Up Art not retail. This allows you to access and audience that you normally would not. You could open the Louvre across the road, and people still wouldn’t go in, but if you have a few exhibits around town and aspects that may be seen in the museum, then some people may quite like that and think - I’ll go and see the full exhibition. This is where I think the museum and art come together in the CBD, because I would open a shop tomorrow that had an exhibition of Invercargill history unlabelled -come and make some notes on what you think it might be, and the we’ll tell you what it is, but you might actually come up with something great - like you Grandfather may have had the same thing in the cupboard and you know what it is used for. You know - create some interaction there. This is where I see the CBD being active.
I think in terms of the residency it could have been more public. I think a lot of people did not know about it.
I did not know about it.
The Southland Art Foundation had good partners on board, SIT was a partner and funded the accommodation and the studio after the Foundation lost access to the Dee St artist’s accommodation. SMAG does the end of year exhibition for the resident. It doesn’t seem a big fix to pull it together. One of the things that I think is missing from arts and culture in Invercargill is leadership. We actually need a council that is engaged with the issues. Council is a major funder, for example, of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, and Anderson Park Art Gallery, so there is an expectation that council has their finger on the pulse of what is happening within these two institutions.
What I am offering is that I do have a strong interest in arts and we have put on lots of shows. I cannot paint, draw or do any of those things. But on the commercial side I can be more astute as I am not influenced by that kind of thing. I know what I like, I know what other people like, so whilst I have a passion for it, I am not actually hands on. So that is quite a good position to look at and say - let’s see if we can help this group and that group in a directional role and as I mentioned before make sure we keep a watch and brief on what happens. Make sure it is seen through. A lot of things we are talking about can be dealt with quite quickly.
Maybe there could be more policy and service level agreements with these organizations so that there is some understanding of what should be provided for annual funding - in terms of a public service. With the residency I can certainly see that the artists come here, they create their art work about Southland, so that collection by well-known artists all over the country is about Southland – it’s a collection with a real point of difference. They leave here and go and talk about Invercargill. A lot of them I have noticed have come back to Invercargill to do workshops, talks or whatever. So it is a significant time for them to be able to be here making their work and engaging with the community, and when you talk about Po-Ups and all those kind of things, certainly artists in residence could be involved with those kind of projects.
What I like about the Pop-Up kind of thing is that it connects everything. Like the gallery, to the museum, to the arts center, by having little examples of them all and then we can feed them. What is important is that it is going to take three years to build that art gallery. So in the meantime the pop-up culture gets interest going and then when it opens the interest is already there. One thing about organization, and with all due respect, when they come out of a creative industry, the most creative people are not always the most commercially savvy. They can provide the material/product but need some group to help steer the commercial side of things and the placement of it.
I can reassure you that I am very aware that creative people need to be trained and we certainly teach Professional Practices here at SIT and that vocational training is very important to us. When you are out in the world, just starting out, you really need to have some skills to position yourself in the industry.
It will be a while before you earn money and a bit of luck is involved. In the mean time you need to be organized and position yourself in the best possible place to be recognized.
All of our student’s intern in their final year, so they are in the workplace. It would be good to see more of those students stay in Invercargill and I don’t know whether council could be involved in this, but I would like to see some sort of creative business incubator. I actually thought this could be connected to a new Art Gallery or Museum facility. There are examples of this happening in other places, so there could be some encouragement for creative people to base themselves here and perhaps get together in some kind of group where they could share resources.
I could see that part of it in the CBD. They can go out to the galleries, but come back to the CBD. This creates activity, the buzz and the ideas, and I also think the students as they wander around town will see the pop-up stuff and think maybe they could get themselves a wee corner somewhere and at least get themselves started, rather than pack up my easel and pastels and go on the road, I can actually stay here and trial a few things and see what people buy and what they don’t. That sort of activity I think we can present them with one - the education, two - the initial chance to get it underway and then of course with these other structures longer term opportunities.
If you think about what we have here in this Campus - Downtown is the creative campus, we have Visual Arts, Film, Animation, Fashion and Music. We are in the CBD, but does anyone know we are here?
No, only when you walk past you can hear the noise. It is hard as you are way off the road, but there is no reason why you could not have an outlet or art class held in one of the empty shops. People can walk by and watch. It is scary the number of empty spaces. We have art collections in cupboards, we have museum things uncatalogued and we have all this empty space. I would join the two together and get them out.
All of these things have been discussed a lot since I have been here and I have been to numerous meetings and forums and this and that, but there seems to be a lack of an essential kind of base from which to drive proposed activities.
That is why - there is no central leader of the Arts Community is there? So this is what I say to them, you all have different interests and all come and we can be the central hub to say OK we have 5 art groups here, we’ve got100K and ten premises, let’s have two each and we can be the central hub of it. I don’t think that could be just one person, because the arts are so diverse, it would be impossible for one person to speak without the other being annoyed and trying to push their own barrow.
Maybe there could be a subcommittee - someone from Council who is allocated that role, and then maybe someone from Venture, Community Trust etc.
That was raised at the Arts Debate and the question was - is Venture if the natural place for it? There is Ange Newell who does a lot of performance art stuff, and Anna, but she is the only allocated resource person they have. You can’t organize Shakespeare in the Park and then everything else. Give her a resource to do that role. Then it does not have to be the Council. You are going to have to pay someone $70K a year or whatever to do the job. Considering we spend very little on it, and I know for instance that Venture have $120k to spend on wages, they have made a profit. Who is going to decide that? Well, it’s my money, I’m the Mayor in charge of your money, so I’d like to have a say in that and there is a big push for having someone do that and take a bit of work off Council, but under our guidance and these are the protocols under which you work. Listen, allocate, come back and report. That then is a very good use of money. It needs to be someone who can touch all areas of the community. I go back to performance arts because they all feel neglected if the art gallery goes up, they will say don’t forget us, we’ve got singers and dancers etc.
Well that is the thing about art galleries or museums or whatever you want to call them, they have all that happening - performance, music, it all happens there. I have been to all of these things at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery - they are multidisciplinary venues and they should be set up as such.
I went to the Miruhiku display at the museum which was a little disappointing I have to say. They had the lantern festival on a much smaller scale. There were very few people there and no one teaching flax and it was a bit low key - could have been better. One thing that was great was a guy sitting there playing an instrument of some kind and people were all gathered around asking how he played what he did. It was interactive and that is what people want, they want to ask questions. That was a classic case of someone curious can go and ask the artist - how do you do that? People are fascinated by how it works. For example, have a string quartet, have them play, people will ask questions, interactive things.
So what is your perception around why some of these things have not been addressed at Council now? For example, the cataloguing of the collection at SMAG, and the fact that Anderson Park Art Gallery has been closed to the public for nearly three years and is still being funded at the same level which means from a ratepayer’s perspective they missed out on a service over quite a long period.
Correct. There is a couple of issues here. One that the building and the complexities of the codes and logistical argument there. I think in your first question, maybe an artistic driver was not among any of the people elected, it might be low priority, they may enjoy it, but it’s not a high priority for them. That is what normally gets things over the line. If you look at other communities, they may have an artistic driver. Dunedin and Wellington made a direct choice that we need to develop this area of our business and that is where they have put the emphasis and you can see what has happened. For example, the murals in Dunedin started off as tidying up a few buildings, now you can go on a tour of all the paintings. My understanding is that it was not high cost. It was such a simple thing to do. That is why someone must have been a driving force there. Because that is my passion, my interest, that is why I am keen. I would have loved to have brought that temporary Globe Theatre to Invercargill, instead it’s packed up or whatever. It was a huge success in Auckland. Maybe it could have toured the provinces, could have had it in Queen’s Park for a week - that kind of thing, but nobody gave it a second look. It was a fantastic experience. We could have sat down with three or four cities in New Zealand and said let’s share the costs of bringing it through.
There are Councillors on the SMAG Board, Darren Ludlow was on there for some time, Lloyd Esler is now the Chairman of the Board, and Anderson Park Art Gallery has had Lindsay Abbott and Neil Boniface, so it is not like there have been no Councillors in the mix, and I assume that they would take what is happening there back to Council. There must be some kind of issue there where it is not getting through, not being discussed, not being prioritized…
Again, I think, and this would be a guess, that it would have been prioritization issues. And this is one of my drivers as a business to drive down your costs. Look at what is available and allocate it across the board. When Neil came up with how little money we spent compared with Gore and Dunedin on arts per head and in total, it is astonishing the difference. That is where there has to be change. Why does it have to be gradual, why can’t it be significant straight away? Money would have to be taken from somewhere else of course, but there are savings that could be made in other areas to be redirected in that way. This is why I favour, if you are going to do that, an appointed positon, someone to be responsible for driving this through. OK if you say I am going to allocate $400k to the Arts, the ratepayers are going to say well who is doing it, who is driving it? We have someone at Venture who is accountable for making sure they can tell us how it has been spent, not for the Council to sit down once every 6 weeks and decide which art gallery is going to get the money. It needs to be done in a coordinated approach. That would be my driver. I don’t know why we could not have done that in the first meeting?
With regards to what SORD’s (Southland Regional Development Strategy) is doing at the moment about an Art Gallery and Wachner Place, do you think this is an unusual way to come to a decision for a community?
I am a fan of SORDs and then I sat down with them and said OK, if I am going to champion your cause I need to know that you are going to deliver and not just sit around and talk for ages and ages and achieve nothing. I appreciate that not everything is going to be perfect, you are not going to talk to everyone in town, but at least you do something. If you have a plan to do something, people will be encouraged by seeing activity/achievement. I understand they have consulted widely, some 100 people involved in the committees, it is not something they have jumped into and they have sought advice. I think the process has been thorough as far as I understand. I think the findings of what are shortfalls in the city are consistent with my own experiences in the business community. I am hoping that the recommendations will also be consistent with my wishes. You need to remember if you are enticing private money to pick up most of the bill, which may be the case, you have to have a reasonable say in what is going on. That is way better than spending it on nothing. From that point of view and because the Council cannot pay for the work that needs to be done, we are going to be reliant on these funders. There are things I like and things I don’t like. But that is not the point, it is what is the best return for the ratepayer.
Do you get a sense that this is going to progress in a reasonable period of time?
Yes, that was my other thinking. One deliver. Two in a timeframe where people can see activity. I think what will help, it’s our responsibility to maintain the momentum while the big projects are happening. OK the Motorcycle museum was going to open relatively soon, but if we can get the Pop-Up concept working quickly and people can say that wasn’t there yesterday, and by the time the museum comes on board the rest of the town is bubbling along very nicely. We should be driving things we can afford to help with. We cannot afford to help much with the big projects.
You see a private project (like the Transport Museum) and the building is up, but with a public museum - sometimes 20 years later…
Because that private person needs to make a profit. The council are going to get paid anyway and that is the difference. This is the mentality I want to change. We should be approaching this exactly like a private business would and making the decisions along the same lines because instead of shareholders we have the ratepayers. Same thing. We owe it to them to give a return and to do it quickly. Nothing is worse than inactivity. They may not always agree with what you do but at least they see you doing something.
I have seen some discussion about that in the media, talking about you being a Businessman and saying that the Mayor should not have a Business focus within Council.
That is what some people are suggesting. But Ratepayers – shareholders. Same thing. Same debt to the both of them. Same obligations, exactly the same. This is why I think it is transferable skills.
I think there is not enough, in terms of obligation in the arts sector itself at the moment in Invercargill. The Southland Museum and Art Gallery is fairly well established in that regard, but I would expect as a ratepayer by providing funding to other institutions that there is an agreement with the organization to supply a specified product or service. If I apply for funding from any funder, I would need to meet all of their expectations otherwise I would not get funding or I would have to pay that funding back.
Correct. I come from a funding society where we get New Zealand on Air funding for programmes, very strict criteria on what you deliver and how you deliver it, but if you deliver well and high quality like we do with some of our programmes you would get more funding. Once you lose it, it is hard to get it back. It is good, it keeps you on your game. That is what happens in business and is what should happen in Council. It is a bit of an easy cop out to say we do drains and water and things, but you actually do other things as well and it does not always have to have a bill attached. It can be a facilitation role. It facilitates everything that goes on in the city and makes sure we all work together. I don’t see it being any different. At the next debate I will explain again, and again and again, it is the same deal.
Council must be seen as a leadership role surely, if not what are they?
Same thing. Companies are leaders. Leaders give companies the direction. You don’t have to fix the pipes yourself, but you tell them when they need to be fixed and how much you are going to spend on it. Same philosophy.
So you talked a little bit about exhibiting Invercargill stories or histories and one of the things that is talked about with regards to SMAG at the moment is that there is a lack of an institution that is telling the stories of Invercargill specifically. SMAG’s brief, as I understand it, is to tell the stories of Southland which is why they have such a huge collection as well, but over that period there has been a lot of museums established around Southland. There are actually 30 or more museums in Southland. What this means is that these communities want to be the voice of their stories in their communities. They don’t want someone else telling them what their stories are. So they have their own museums requiring funding and resources. At the same time, we have SMAG which is partly funded by ICC and the Southland District Council, but it looks like the Southland District Council does not really want to increase its contribution to that institution. One of the debates is - should that continue to be the Southland Museum and Art Gallery or should we be looking at the big picture across our cultural institutions in Southland - if we have 30 museums, maybe what we need here is an Invercargill City Museum?
Yes, and then let them do their own thing.
Maybe some of the collection items could be repatriated to these smaller areas and perhaps the collection needs a must tighter focus than what it has now. What is going to happen in 10 years – 2 million objects?
Again they’ll go in the cupboard and that is the worst thing, they don’t get seen at all.
That is museum culture. Even the biggest museums in the world, there is often less than 10% of the collection on display, but that does not mean that your institution in your city has to do it that way.
No that’s right and if you have other places to put them, put them out. Tom said it is only a space factor that demands that and the ability to keep the product fresh by moving in new stuff so people keep coming back. There is a reason for some of it being withheld. 10% is a poor amount. 50% would be a better amount as you need to rotate the stock, but certainly 10% is way under.
It is one of the things that makes me a bit nervous about the discussions around a centralized storage facility. Have you heard those discussions? It is a little bit frightening as you just don’t want this to become a warehouse with a whole lot of crap that you are storing up without any sort of policy or procedure around how you are going to sustain that collection or how it is ever going to be used. As you say the value of a collection is the people having the opportunity to engage with it and that requires interpretation and people to be able to provide avenues for people overseas to do research and all of those things. So do you think there is potential for the Southland Museum and Art Gallery to re-evaluate its stance?
Yes I have heard the discussions. I think there is a good argument for that. There is not a right or wrong on that one. I think there needs to be careful thinking about first of all what resources we have and who is best to control it. You could not put a demand on them to do that could you?
No. It would have to be driven by some kind of review around the collection which needs to happen from a Council perspective.
So long as the review does not take too long. Reviews make me nervous. By the time you say let’s have a review, sit down and talk about, it has lost its momentum. Then again, I know I am harping on about Pop-Ups, but that building is empty now, what can you give me next week to put in it while we work on the big picture. That is the whole Council thing is to work on the big picture. It can do no harm to work on the little things while the big picture is going on. Some might not like that sort of thing, but temporary things can become permanent, that is another good thing about art.
We were talking about a possible committee or sub-committee for the Council and one of the things that I am aware of being here is that I am already immersed in an arts community so we are able to get things done fairly quickly, and our students do pop-up in empty shops for events that we have every year. There does not seem to be the cohesion in arts and culture here in Invercargill that creates the scene. It happens in Dunedin because there is a ‘scene’ there. So when you wander around and go and talk to businesses and say I want to open an Art Gallery can you help me, they say sure, as that is the culture there.
As our culture grows, and there are two ways to have a plan, one: is the plan and go ahead with the activity, but sometimes it is good to have activity that develops into a plan. This is where I think the arts is different from everything else - you can start with something and I am sure that is the way Dunedin and Wellington did it, let’s do a little bit of that and a little bit of this, and that works. Let’s develop this. Like let’s put a mural on the wall. Better than the horrible wall that was there before. Oh OK so let’s paint one over there. I don’t think it was any more organized than that, and people embraced it. It worked from someone just getting a paint brush and going and doing it. That is the attitude that we need. That Pop-Up shop next door was great, people loved it. I said well there is one on the other side of the Kiln and two others, they are all empty. Why can’t we fill them up? I am sure the landlords who are trying to fill their buildings with something, would be happy to help. It makes their building look better and it gets some sort of income, we could do some sort of deal. Negotiations are there to be done. Not a 6 month thing but a few days. If I turned to the arts community and said this landlord wants this as a pop-up shop, we have someone ready to go in there. Pop-up means its ready to pop-up not wait 6 weeks.
Having been involved in pop-ups in Dunedin there was a trust one called the Higher Trust. There was a facilitator and they were able to do things like sign leases and do things we struggled to do just out of Art School, but that facilitated great projects and filled up those spaces. The only down side I could see was that eventually you got kicked out because the area becomes revitalized by the activity. I know that is one of the issues that is discussed with regards pop-ups.
They are very, very popular and may be part of the new museum. If they work so well they may say we could integrate these as part of the museum.
The pop-up in the incubator model could be a compatible partnership. I learnt a lot of what I know through just doing it - through pop-up projects that you just start and make happen. You do need a team of people to do it, but certainly possible.
It sounds good! Not only do I have the desire for it, but I have actually got some plans in my head on how it can happen and that is what frustrates me. You need to tell people what you are going to do. Some may like it and some may not but at least you are doing something.
The frustration for me is I am on lots of committees here, but I am not interested in governance, I am a task person, I want to help projects grow and flourish. There is certainly lots of potential here for that to happen, if there was more people in the doing pool.
The ‘let’s talk about it’ pool is massive, as is the thinking pool, great ideas pool…
I have heard great ideas and am supportive of those and am at the point where I would like to see some leadership within different organizations that can help drive some of these activities forward.
I have probably mentioned this before but I feel we need quick traction with arts, and this will be a nice look to say we’ll take on progress in the arts and I can physically see it in place and the whole city looks better as a consequence.
Have you ever looked into what Tim Walker did at the Douse?
No. Is that in Lower Hutt?
Yes. He established a sort of a Creative Business Hub at the Douse where young entrepreneurs partnered with the institution.
That model worked in Lower Hutt.
It is an interesting partnership between arts and business but also helps to grow the next generation of creatives, because I am seeing them all leave Invercargill and I have to support them in doing that because there is nothing here for them - at least they have been trained here and they will take their skills away and talk positively about Invercargill, but I would like to see them be able to have the option of staying here.
This goes back to our original, discussion that if you can offer them a studio to get their first work underway and get people through and sell a bit of product, get their confidence up. If there is nothing they may as well go somewhere else.
A lot of our students are interested in the idea of a small business but they are afraid and it is quite scary. Even some sort of mentorship scheme. It does not have to be with an arts professional/organisation.
Then they could get an objective perspective instead of being worried about what it looks like but to just look at the business model and say this is what you need to do.
I am certainly a supporter of the arts and feel that we have an opportunity at present unlike any we’ve ever had before. With the closure of Anderson Park House, we have the opportunity to bring the art into the central city. This means bringing the art to the people. And by doing this we also utilise some of our existing heritage buildings which are art in their own way.
My thoughts are that different buildings in the same area could house different permanent exhibitions. I would also think that each building would hold special exhibitions and sometimes have the exhibiting artist in residence demonstrating and teaching. There is a real opportunity for Invercargill to really become the cultural capital of New Zealand. We have so much local talent here already, it’d be awesome to have the facilities to really encourage them.
We already have private enterprise creating fantastic exhibitions in town, with art galleries and other specialised museums in the same area, it can only create a true interest area in the inner city with easy accessibility for everyone. People will travel here especially to spend time in what could be, possibly the best precinct in the country. We have displayed local artists work in our restaurants and even these small exhibitions stir interest. Imagine a town that appears devoted to serious displays.
With people, will come more cafes to entertain between exhibits, then suddenly a clothing boutique pops up. It’s important we use the opportunity we have in the best possible way to have all our art on display. It’s no good in cupboards………. If the money being bandied around re, the museum rebuild, I support this money being spent where it will make a real difference.
These are my thoughts and I am always open to discussion and better ideas……………………Oh and an after-thought is that, “Maybe Anderson Park House could become a House on display fitted out with Victorian displays” (Museum Collections, a period fine home) and still have a café that serves Devonshire Tea’s………….
When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, “Then what are we fighting for?” Arts and culture is part of the heartbeat of a community. A vibrant arts and culture scene transforms a city into an extraordinary place to live or to visit. Invercargill’s arts and culture scene is good, but it could be so much better. Yes, there are many things we need to spend money on. That’s not the point. Would we deny our children toys and opportunities for creative expression? Just as children learn through play, so we as adults and as communities continue to learn through our playful engagement with the arts and with cultural activities. The focus of my campaign is not arts and culture. It’s innovation. But I believe that as a community we can develop innovative ways of funding and increasing participation in arts and cultural activities. I’ll work together with others that hold a similar passion to see vacant buildings made available for creative activities at little or no cost. I’ll engage with the community to hear their ideas on how to make Invercargill a more vibrant city to live in. I stand for innovative, inspiring community. If you’re reading this page, you probably do too. Get in touch with your ideas via my website bit.ly/nrs2016
In terms of art and culture in the city, does Council have a role or responsibility?
There are at least two different schools of thought in this - similar candidates express Council should stick to core business as defined in the local government act. The scope of Council’s responsibility was narrowed down to remove the four wellbeings in the last several years. There is no legal responsibility. The other school of thought and the one I tend towards is that the Council are our elected leaders in the city and really should seek to promote the wellbeing of the community in every way that they can. If there is not a budget allocation available, they can still do a lot of things to support the wellbeing of the community and the decisions that they make. Arts and culture are an essential aspect of our community, we need a vibrant arts/cultural scene in order for people to thrive. The Council needs to think carefully about this and make it a priority.
Do you think there is funding equated to that? Do you think there is a responsibility for Council to deliver arts and culture and do you think this should be funded by Council?
Personally yes, I think so. This is my personal view and obviously different members of the community will have different thoughts about this. Because we live in a democracy if the majority say we don’t want any of our rates money going towards arts and culture, then I would say it is difficult as an elected Councilor to go against this and say we would allocate money to this. Personally I would say yes as I think it is essential to community wellbeing.
Invercargill City Council currently funds Anderson Park Art Gallery and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, both of those institutions are currently looking at redevelopment or upgrades. What is your position on conversations around the proposed inner city museum that is mentioned in the Southland Regional Development Strategy?
So in principal in terms of moving the Invercargill City Gallery (Andersons Park Art Gallery) into the city center, I think it is a really good idea, however there are some bigger picture issues that people need to be aware of as well. One thing to bring into the discussion around the council table is in regards to climate change and predicted sea level rises. I am just a little hesitant to say unequivocally, let’s put things in the city center until we have considered how our city is going to be impacted with sea level rises and until we as a community have had a discussion about how we are going to plan towards that. This is a difficult issue to broach with a lot of people as there are climate change skeptics out there. Invercargill City Gallery put forward a proposal to the Council to get funding for them to temporarily occupy a Tay Street Building and I think Council should have approved that money. This [site] is now to be used for a motor cycle collection which is great, but it would have been really cool to have had the gallery there.
I think that part of the thinking around not approving that funding would be the concern that you could spend an awful lot of money renovating a space to be suitable for an art gallery and collection for that not to be the final location? So anything that you are going to do would be an interim solution. There was some discussions for example around Anderson Park moving in with City Gallery over on Don Street. Anderson Park declined that offer and that is already obviously a renovated building currently operating as an art gallery. I think there are some other agendas going on. Art galleries/Museums cost a lot of money to develop and build, but I have received an e-mail recently stating that the Inner City Development Strategy Committee has made the decision for an art gallery to be construction in lower Esk Street, just behind Wachner Place - Council actually owns a lot of those buildings and to leave the Museum where it is, obviously it is hearsay, but I am curious about the fact that no arts organizations, to my knowledge, have been consulted about the potential of an art gallery in the CBD or about what should happen with regard to the Museum and any potential collaboration that could be possible between the museum (SMAG), City Gallery and Anderson Park for example. Given your thinking around climate change and planning for the future, what do you think about how Council and the Southland Regional Development Strategy consults with the community?
So, what do I think about the consultation? It is a little difficult to answer that question as I don’t think that anyone at the moment is having the conversation around climate change, predicted sea level rises and how that is going to impact Invercargill specifically. The Council cannot really consult about something that is not even on the table for them. Other City Councils have climate change strategy, like Dunedin does, Wellington, but we don’t yet. A little difficult for Council to ask the publics’ view on something they have not even begun to look at themselves. There should be a discussion about it and needs to be put on the table and considered. I am guessing there will be a lot of people who will have a negative reaction to it as it is quite scary to think about our city changing so dramatically and being impacted by a huge change that is affecting the whole planet at the moment. I would like to encourage people that the sooner we get onto this and confront this issue in terms on making sound decisions that will stack up in the long term.
Do you think that given the kind of issues that are coming up for arts and culture in this city that the Council should have some kind of Arts and Cultural Policy or Strategy?
Yes, absolutely, for sure. SoRD’s is interesting because it is absolutely an important conversation to be having. I have heard a lot of people say this strategy is something that the Council should have already – that we shouldn’t need SoRD’s to develop strategic direction for the Council, the Council should develop its own strategic direction. This is a very good point when you think about the fact that the members of the SoRDS working group have not been democratically elected. They have just been picked by whoever decided to select them. It is not guaranteed that they represent a good cross section of the community. Whereas hopefully, given that we have the opportunity to vote, hopefully our councilors will represent a cross section of the community, so we need the Council to be engaged in more strategic discussions with regards to the city and the region and absolutely we should be taking a strategic approach to arts and culture. It is great to see the opportunities that are presented to us but how do you know whether it is a good opportunity - you only know that if you understand your long term goals in the strategic direction. We need to develop that first.
I can certainly see the logic with regards to the various committees that have been set up particularly coming from an arts and cultural background. I am aware that Councils may not necessarily have that expertise, and that it would seem like a good idea to get together what could be described as sub- committees of professionals in the community to help work on some of those issues, but who makes up those sub-committees and how are they chosen is obviously an issue, and how widely those groups consult with the particular areas they are in charge of. This is why I mention that there has not been any real consultation with the arts and cultural sector in Invercargill with respect to making a decision about a site for an inner city arts/culture institution.
In terms of all this redevelopment going on for Anderson Park Art Gallery at the moment, you are aware that they have not been able to operate for the past almost 3 years now. So Council have been funding them to a usual level throughout that period of time despite the fact that they have not been able to offer a public service - what do you think about that?
I have never seen a service agreement between the Council and the Anderson Park Art Gallery, so I am unsure of what agreement has been made in terms of receiving that operational funding. But, I would assume that the public would expect that they would receive a service as a result of that funding and if that was not offered then there should be some consideration of a reduction until something happens or some action is taken, or they are able to resume business. It is quite a strange situation that they have been in with the building as I understand, so they were unable to open the building to the public because of earthquake risk is this right?
That is the decision that was made by the committee…
I guess it is a little difficult, because if I understand it correctly, the Anderson Park Art Gallery wouldn’t have been paying rent on the building, and would have had the building for free, and so the funding that they were receiving from the Council would have been purely towards salaries and operating costs which $180K sounds like a lot of money but once you employ a few staff, gets gobbled up very quickly. I would say that even though their building was not open to the public, it would be really difficult to keep the organization in existence and have any chance of continuing the operation without retaining good staff. I guess paying money to an organization and not being able to open it for the public to enjoy, is not a good use of money, but does that mean that the funding should have been cut or the Gallery laid-off staff? This is difficult for me to answer as I don’t think I have enough information. Sounds like a better solution could have been found more quickly, but also it can take a lot longer to move an organisation into finding a solution to an obstacle or challenge that is thrown up. We can’t expect that people should just make a quick decision and jump into it. Sometimes it can take a lot longer. Yes, it is a shame that we have not been able to access that collection for a few years now.
So in that respect do you think the Council has been too slow? Because the Anderson Park Gallery Committee has been approaching the Council since very early on saying - we need to find an interim venue so we can continue to operate until a longer term solution has been found and/or we need to look at a time frame/plan to repair the current venue so that we can look at continuing to operate there. There had been no response from the Council for a very long time. Obviously now there is some discussion in the pipe-line. Do you think 3 years is too long for Council to respond to this issue?
Yes, it seems too long. 3 years is a very long time. I have my own personal view around initiatives that we can take now to revitalize our CBD whether or not we choose to develop it significantly. I am not advocating necessarily for an inner city development, but we can rejuvenate or revitalize the inner city without a lot of cost and investment in my view by simply using an incentive, a rates rebate incentive to get owners of vacant buildings in the CBD to make their buildings available to community tenants for free or at a very low cost. This is something that has been done in Dunedin and Wellington, possibly in other places as well. Pop-up exhibitions or all manner of different activities in the CBD. Some would be more suitable than others and some may need some work. I think we need to think a little creatively - out of the box in order to deal with these difficult situations that come up. Give me three years to think on a problem, I think I would come up with some pretty interesting and well thought through solutions by the end of that time. Strange that something has not come back before then.
You may be aware that there has been a proposal to redevelop and extend the Southland Museum & Art Gallery calculated at a cost of approximately $40m. The Board asserts that the collection has grown to such an extent that it can no longer be stored safety in the area that it is in. However, when the plans were created for the Museum a large portion of the collection was not (and still isn’t) catalogued which is problematic in the sense that they wouldn’t have had the full picture of what is in the collection. A collection store is a costly part of a museum development and you really need to base that collection store on the collection. Different objects require different conditions e.g. photographs require refrigeration etc.
My husband was involved in designing the building services for a museum in Oxford, I can remember him talking about all these sorts of challenges.
Therefore, there is a lot of questions around this and the museum is in the position now of really needing to catalogue that collection in order to think about a future direction. This however brings up a whole host of issues for the Council around collecting and collection policies as this is a Council controlled organization. So what role should a Council have in terms of what and how a museum collects, how big a collection gets, what the focus of the collection should be? Do you think Council has a role in the collecting practices of an institution like the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, who now have close to 1 million objects/artefacts that it cannot store in its current facility?
I don’t think that it is a good idea for people who don’t know anything about collecting to be making that sort of decision. I think if the Council is giving a lot of money to this organization, then this Council is going to want to know that its money is being put to good use. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Council needs to be intimately involved in the decisions around collecting. I wouldn’t know the first thing about collecting if someone asked me to make those decisions, then I think the likelihood would be that I wouldn’t make a very good decision as I don’t know anything about collecting. I will take a slightly different tact. I think that if we are looking a re-development of our museum I think we will obviously need to consider how big we want our collection to be, whether it would be practical to store that amount of stuff, are our museum collectors secret hoarders…I don’t know. I think we should also be thinking about what kinds of learning opportunities we want to provide to our community through our Museum and Art Gallery. What have we been doing so far that has been successful, what have we doing that has not been successful. What do we see happening in other places in New Zealand and around the world that is inspiring that we might want to consider bringing here? For example, Te Papa Museum has set up an innovation hub where there has been central government funding allocated to people working on projects to make exhibits in the museum interactive and use digital technology to enhance learning and it sounds really interesting. This can be very exciting and help people learn more easily. I would love for us to think about whether we can incorporate some of the approaches Te Papa has been applying here in Invercargill. Because we are small does not mean that we can’t have a museum that is really well presented and professional looking and where people have an incredible experience powered by technology.
There is very knowledgeable and talented staff at SMAG and the collection has enormous educational potential which is outstanding. In order to capitalize on that though they need to know what is in the collection.
Can’t we just employ someone to catalogue it, surely that is a no brainer? How much is it going to cost to employ someone to catalogue this? Is it going to take several years?
There is the potential for national funding, it would get reasonable priority as the city’s collection is also a county’s collection and there are some very significant objects in that collection. This would certainly be an option.
Certainly you would find some money somewhere to catalogue the items as soon as possible.
Another one of the problems could be that there has been no Director of the museum for a number of years now and the Council put a Council Manager in place who is an Engineer effectively, and who has now been running the museum for some time.
Does he have training or work experience in the practice of collecting?
No, nothing apart from being a museum visitor.
He may have had some wonderful transferable skills, perhaps it would be beneficial to get some more specialized input there.
In terms of the bigger picture you have got the additional issue of SMAG representing the people of Southland and therefore it is funded by the Invercargill City Council and the Southland District Council. However the SDC is not keen on providing any further funding to the museum which is understandable as there are at least 30 museums in Southland. Collections are held in all of these different parts of Southland that are relevant to their individual respective communities.
So in a population of 100,000 that would mean a museum for every 3 thousand people!
Each of those museums has a collection. The point being these communities really want to drive their own stories. Maybe they do not wish to be represented by one big institution that is located in Invercargill City away from their communities. In the meantime, Invercargill itself does not have a museum that is focused on the stories of Invercargill City and the collection has a Southland wide focus. Therefore, there are conversations around whether the institution should represent Southland or whether there should be a focus on Invercargill, and what other collaborations are possible with other arts/cultural groups in this community. The collection issue as you can see is just not a SMAG issue, it is region wide.
This is another question that has come to my attention from a member of the public, which is interesting, about the name of the new Motorcycle Mecca that is being constructed on Tay Street and I can see that it could be considered to be problematic given that Mecca is Islam’s holiest site (in Saudi Arabia), and in fact if you are a Muslim you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once. However, I also have to wonder if it is appropriate to take that term and use it to describe a museum of motorcycles for people who are really into motorbikes. Do you think that the cultural appropriation of the term ‘Mecca’ is appropriate, particularly when thinking about Invercargill’s strategy to grow the population by bringing immigrants to make a home in Invercargill?
First of all, I think when somebody has a concern like that it is a good idea to go to the person who is making the decision and raise it with them directly. Scott O’Donnell from HWR would need to be approached and asked the question: had he thought about the fact that using the term ‘Mecca’ in your name title could be offensive to some people? They possibly have not thought about that. I don’t think people are offensive on purpose. I’m guessing they chose that name because of alliteration and it is something that needs to be thought through, because cultural appropriation is real and it can be deeply offensive and we do need to make a special effort to be respectful towards people who are different from ourselves. Something that may seem light hearted to us could cause offense to others. I am sure they could come up with some other really cool names.
Do you know anything about the Southland Art Foundation, and the William Hodges Fellowship?
For the last 20 years the Southland Art Foundation has been offering a residency called the William Hodges Fellowship and it has been bringing artists to Southland every year to work with the community and to create work that is inspired by the people and the place. There have been over 40 artists that have come to Southland and as an outcome of that residency the Southland Art Foundation chooses artwork/s from each resident that goes into their collection, which is why there is now a really significant collection cared for currently by SMAG. Last year the Southland Art Foundation announced they would no longer be offering the William Hodges Fellowship because they basically have insufficient funds. This means the residency has come to an end and the collection has also come to an end in terms of it being built on. The collection is a very Invercargill/Southland focused collection and probably the only way to get that kind of focus on the people and the place is through that kind of medium and time. So, I wonder what you think about the residency no longer being offered and whether you think that Council has any role in maintaining or contributing to these kind of activities in the region.
It sounds like something really valuable that has been around for a long time. Personally I would want to know in terms of the collection that has come from the past fellowships, is the public getting to enjoy that collection for one thing because if the public is never able to view it then that would be an issue because of the investment in the artists and collections which are never seen. I am sure the artists want their pieces to be enjoyed. I would say that the Council should definitely look at it and consider whether it is something that could be funded but that the frequency of the residents may need to slow down for a period of time. Perhaps one a year.
Another benefit of the residency is that we are at the bottom of the country and we can be quite isolated in terms of access to some of those practices that are happening around the country. It has brought artists here that presumably people would not otherwise have access to. Very well-known artists. There is some very valuable work in the collection.
I don’t know if this is even offensive to suggest this but would you look at even surveying the collection and maybe auctioning off once piece in order to help with funds, or other creative ideas around how to make it attractive and exciting for the Council to be putting money in that direction. Obviously you would not want to sell a lot of it, just the one piece. Just because it has been happening for a long time, does that mean it should continue? It sounds like a great idea and I love the idea of it, but you do need to look at all aspects of what is going on, and make a decision in light of the whole context. I think that it is probably quite difficult for SIT to provide a high quality visual arts programme if there are not some top quality artists in the city as well. I know there are, but we do need to think about the importance of keeping the arts scene vibrant through having people of a high caliber coming to our city from elsewhere regularly.
Yes the payoff for SIT is good hence the reason why SIT has been a financial partner in the residency although we also bring tutors from other parts of the country as guest tutors which addresses the issue of access to contemporary practitioners. In terms of the community part of the brief for the artist in residence was a requirement to engage with the community. So there were a lot of workshops/talks and numerous other activities going on as well. There has been another residency somewhere that has proposed or has a policy to sell some of the artworks that it obtains. The issues that I can see from the point of view of the artist is quite often the artworks that are chosen are commercially worth a lot more than sometimes even the value of the whole residency. They can be losing out financially when those artworks go to the collection so to sell those artworks off would be very problematic from the point of view of maintaining the relationships with the artists. There is good-will required on both sides as the residency is not highly paid either.
So that is part of the context that needs to be factored into the decision making process and probably if you are going to auction off a piece, perhaps it would just be one that is quite far in the past so that you are not just waiting until this resident moves on then selling their work a few months later. That would be insensitive. If the artists understood that this is the reason to help fund and keep the programme running, they could be ok with this.
Some of the resident artists have remained quite connected to Southland as a result of their time here. We had Ans Westra here not too long ago and I think her residency was one of the earliest and we have had a lot of residents who have come back to Southland as a result of the time that they spent here, to exhibit, deliver workshops, give talks, catch up with people, so it also functions to connect people of Southland. Artists take their experiences away with them and talk about them, so the value is far beyond what you would see in in the dollar amount spent.
This needs to be put forward to the decision makers when they are making a decision and that is why making decisions purely based on dollars and cents does not work, as there are so many factors that need to be taken into account. The Council, although legally their role is just to deal with infrastructure and dollars and cents and that kind of thing in actual fact people stand for City Council usually because they are passionate about the City and they want to see it become as vibrant and successful a city as it can be. You do not get that vibrancy through just managing the budget well, you get that through considering all different aspects of wellbeing in a community including art and culture which is huge. Is it Winston Churchill that said, a community without art is dead or something like that?
Where would we be without creativity? My whole reason for standing for Council is because I believe that we need to apply equal measures of intelligence and creativity to deal with the problems that we face this century to ensure a good future for our children and grandchildren and the arts are a key part of keeping our creativity flowing.
When you visit a place with an arts and cultural community that is highly valued you see it in a range of ways. It brings vibrancy to community spaces through art works and street performance, there is a buzzing night life e.g. bands and shows and of course bustling museums and art galleries telling local stories. These local stories instil a sense of pride - they tell us who we are, why we are here and what is possible. For me Invercargill does not tell its story well. At the museum the story is barely touched. You can’t find it in our civic art collection because it doesn’t have an exhibition space. You can’t see it in our heritage buildings because their stories are not enhanced or appreciated. Something needs to be done to tell our stories better. I also believe we must stop comparing the arts community to the sporting community. This is like comparing apples and oranges. They are completely different and so they should be. The way forward for arts and culture in Invercargill is to look for innovative and exciting opportunities to collaborate and to tell our stories. This can be done in a myriad of ways but yes it will involve resourcing and taking the occasional risk. As a community we need to look at our strengths – our art and heritage collections are a massive strength. And as a community we need to look at how we can best manage and enhance those collections into the future. Authorised by Rebecca Amundsen 161 Earn St Invercargill
Do you think the Council has a role or responsibility in terms of arts and culture in the city?
The role should be that they support the community, but I think they also have to be quite proactive in that it is not a passive support of the arts community. There needs to be an acknowledgement that arts and heritage have a huge role to play in making a city a vibrant place and can be viewed as a ‘nice to have’, but if you want a thriving city for example, it needs to move out of the ‘nice to have’ basket into ‘core business’.
When I say arts and culture I am definitely talking about heritage within that. So what do you think you would do differently to what is happening right now?
If I could have my own way and no limit to the amount of money that you could spend, first thing I would do would be to put a museum in the inner city which tells the Invercargill story. There is no Invercargill story being told anywhere. We have the buildings and fantastic stories about the green belt and all of that stuff, and there is no evidence of that anywhere except for tourists taking photos of decrepit old buildings not knowing what they are taking photos of and what the significance of them is.
The second thing I would do is create a walkway from the inner city to SMAG along Dee Street with information about all of the historic buildings on the library side of Dee Street as that is where there is a huge run of buildings and you could have amazing information and you could use that, hold your phone out, see photos, have panels with technology and that would to me, create a good link between the inner city and you would go as far as the War Memorial and then the link to SMAG which is not a long way to walk. People do think it is a long way, but it is not. Then I would do something down Kelvin Street to get you back to the inner city, a circuit if you will that has some kind of artistic focus. There are a few little buildings along there like the old Liz Thomas building which used to be the Council Chambers back in the old, old days. I think you could create some kind of artistic sculptures, some information about artists of various kinds that have come from Invercargill, so you have a circuit.
Sounds good. I actually heard a bit of ‘goss’ today in Invercargill that it was speculated that the Southland Regional Development Strategy’s inner city group has made a decision that there is going to be an inner city art gallery and it is going to be located in lower Esk Street behind Wachner Place, and that the SMAG will stay where it is. Have you heard anything to that effect?
I knew there was a meeting on Wednesday that I was unable to attend, someone told me that there is talk about using lower Esk Street for an art gallery, but I was not aware that that meant not moving of the museum.
The reason why all of the art organizations in Invercargill rely on hearing the gossip is because we have not been consulted about it at all. So what do you think about the process of making that sort of decision?
Obviously my whole platform when I ran in 2013 is very similar to the platform I am running on in 2016 and that is all about community engagement and working with the community to make decisions, so I have been disappointed with the engagement that the Council and SORDs have done with the community on some things. I have spoken to several people about this and I think they could have done a better job of getting buy in from the community and that there is a group of 100 business people basically who are making decisions on behalf of everyone without consultation. They are doing exactly what Councils traditionally do. They have decided what the problem is, they have figured out what the solution is and now they are telling everyone what is going to happen. That has worked really badly for councils up until now and might not work so well for SoRDs either.
Initially I thought the principle was really good but many think this kind of decision making should be the Council’s responsibility. I can certainly see the potential in getting groups of people in the community to consult and address these issues and come up with some ideas, but I didn’t actually think that it was going to be people chosen specifically rather than democratically just to come up with a final decision.
Yes, several people including myself tried to get some arts and cultural influence on the urban rejuvenation or vibrant urban centers committee and failed. To me that is disappointing. It is all well and good to have building owners and businessman on there, when they travel overseas and have all this experience, they get to see all of these great places and they think they know how all of this stuff works. One of the saving graces of the whole situation is that it will require the council to fund some of this stuff, in particular anything that involves the art gallery. The council is required by legislation to consult, so there will be consultation on some of these elements that the council is going to be a funder of. This is a slight glimmer of hope for the arts community to be able to have some input. But by no means do I think that the way it has been done is the way it should have been done. Because I think that recently for example, I went to the opening of the wedding dress exhibition at SMAG and Priscilla did a great little presentation at the start talking about all of the work that happened to go into setting up the exhibition, assessing all of the dresses, making sure that they could be hung and all of this sort of stuff. Whilst I was sitting there, I was thinking this is why people think you can just chuck all the stuff in the museum in a box and stick it in the boot of your car and move it to another building because they don’t understand or realize that this is not good practice when it comes to museums. You may be able to do that with your stock and do that when you shift house, but not when you are looking after precious things that belong to the community, and you are charged with looking after, then you have a raft of time consuming processes that are involved in, and that is why you have 70 thousand or more uncatalogued items in the museum. I have been really disappointed with the community buy in. I think it is great that the business community is getting involved the SoRDS stuff and at that level, but…
So would SoRDS stump up some money for this?
I think they probably will for parts of it that they don’t deem to be council responsibility.
When I imagine this now right - we have got this brand new purpose built facility that is going to go in the bottom of Esk Street, Council owned section/property down there which is a fairly substantial size, and then we have a re-development that still needs to happen at SMAG, because that problem is not going away. The last estimate around that was about 40 million dollars and then you are going to look at a purpose built facility in the CBD, so are we looking at 100 million dollars plus that we have to make palatable for ratepayers do you think? How do you think that will go down?
Potentially. I think it won’t go down terribly well with the ratepayers. I am not even sure it will go down that well with the Council. My impression is that SoRDS are going to sort of pick, like all of these 9 action groups are coming up with all of these ideas - 3-4 ideas each, and in some cases more. The governance group is going to pick the priorities and then those things are going to be given to the respective funders shall we say. Not all of these things will involve the Council. Like some of the more business related ones wont as they are business related, like the innovation hub but then there will be some that fall very heavily on ICC and the vibrant urban centers will be one, potentially the other is around the ease of doing business because that is around making Councils easier to work with. So probably more around a cultural change.
On top of that you would obviously have the cost of running two cultural institutions in the city at a cost of what could be 2-3 million dollars a year.
Lots of people say that arts and culture in Invercargill is underfunded compared with other places of similar size.
Yes agreed, it is currently underfunded.
Maybe it is time we stump up and start paying for it.
I guess the question is whether we need two? I have wondered this myself for quite a while - is it hard for people to get passed the mind set of historical objects and art works represented in one institution? Do you think that is a barrier? Art is part of history afterall. Art has a story too.
I guess in some ways it can create confusion for people. Some art can or can’t be historic, I’m not sure. I guess this is where the line is drawn around what makes a heritage item or story is what makes the item significant.
You don’t think art works have a story?
Yes but the artist also makes it significant even if there is no ….
Artists usually draw inspiration from what is around them. The people and the place are generally a significant part of the story of the art work.
I guess from a point of view of having a number of tourists or a number of significant attractions in the inner city area that provides an opportunity for people to spend a good amount of time like as in more than one day, in Invercargill, experiencing some great stuff. Having more separate places potentially means that you have got Transport World where people would spend half a day, a museum where people would spend half a day, and then the next day they still would have an art gallery to go to and a motorcycle museum to go to provides that potential tourist product and attractions if they are separate. I guess I would also suggest that because they are in separate buildings does not necessarily mean that they have to have separate management, but in saying that part of the issue with SMAG in the past has been management that has not focused so much on the heritage but more on the art, and some could say that is why the heritage cataloguing has fallen so far behind because it has not been prioritized. It may be difficult to find a person who can manage both collections together in an equal and fair and equally supportive way potentially.
Museum practice is relatively new in New Zealand and it has developed significantly since the days of people driving up to the back of museums and emptying their boot into a makeshift collection store, while a volunteer writes acquisition entries into an exercise book. So it is not uncommon nationally or internationally for that matter for museums to find themselves in the same position that SMAG is in. They have this huge collection now which requires cataloguing and that is about the transition to professionalism in museum practice as well. But, also Councils have progressively learned more about the institutions that they fund and therefore there is a greater understanding of those issues - it has got to be a partnership between Councils, galleries and museums to try and address these issues and to make sure it does not continue to develop along these lines. So with regards to what is happening with SMAG at the moment, I just wonder about the management of it and why there has not been a Director put in place, why a position has not been advertised since the previous Director departed, and why still have a Council Engineer managing the museum?
I am not 100% sure on what the reasoning is there myself. I think Paul was appointed before I was elected on Council, so I am not overly familiar with what the situation is. The impression I get is that following the employment of the two most recent Managers before Paul, and the difficulty that they had with those people, they may have just got scared off.
Have you ever looked at the diagram of the staffing structure there? It is unusual in that it is quite a long horizontal line. The Director is usually the person who steers the ship which is particularly important at this time when there is a lot of conversations about redevelopment and strategy happening. Having no Director is really problematic for the Museum and its place in the debate.
I think Paul does a great job as far as his skills allow shall we say, and I believe that he is studying towards a museum studies qualification at the moment, unsure of what it is called. I think this is a great indication that he does care about the museum.
I don’t doubt that, my question is… is he the best person for the job? Particularly at this time. I could get someone in who I knew had a museum certificate and who would be a good person, but would I throw them into the Directorship of SMAG? Probably not, particularly right now.
I think that there is a whole raft of things when it comes to that whole museum and art area that really needs a look at. I think this is starting to get looked at, but it is quite a big can of worms and when you start opening it. Some of these things, the more you know about situations and the more you think about it, the more confusing it becomes. I don’t think this is going to be an easy fix at all. If they do move the museum, what part do they move, do they move the exhibitions, or do they move the stuff, if they are not moving the stuff do they have to fix the building, which means they still have to move the stuff, and if they can’t move the stuff if it is not catalogued………
If I was thinking about how to tackle this problem right now? I would look at getting someone in to work with the Council and create some viable options based on all of the issues/options that have arisen - a feasibility of three options that are going to address these problems and maybe that is what becomes part of the regional development strategy. So I think the approach at the moment is a little bit odd from my perspective, but you know that’s the way it has gone.
I did want to ask you about Anderson Park Art Gallery. There has been a lot of discussion in the community about the fact that they have been closed for nearly three years and during that time Council has continued to fund the institution and there has certainly been a lot of discussion about that particularly from say the City Gallery who struggle for every penny and run an annual programme of exhibitions and events. So in terms of the money being spent on operating the gallery while it has been closed, do you think the Council has been two slow to take any action with regards to either relocating Anderson Park Gallery to another site, or repairing the building?
Rebecca said definitely too slow to repair the building, but I think now that the Gallery is separated from the building I think that is positive. I have just recently been in Whanganui where they are doing a big renovation to the Sarjeant Art Gallery and went to a temporary space that they spent a lot of money on, and it was a space that got flooded in the recent floods and from my understanding they have relocated the collections to that space as well as an exhibition space, which interestingly they found some art works they did not know they had which I think was kind of cool, especially as one was one of my great, great grandmothers! That got a little article in the newspaper. I think that it would have been good if Council had of shown more leadership in providing a space for them to at least have an exhibition space while the building has not been able to be used. Sometimes what I think happens with Council when there is a governance group involved is that Council just leaves it to the governance group to make decisions or come up with ideas. This seemed to not be very effective as a way to get Anderson Park Art Gallery into a space and when they finally did try prior to this most recent annual plan, the Council decided that double dipping by paying for a temporary space and then paying for a permanent space was not the best way to go, so that is why they granted the money but only for them to move into a permanent space. Which I found quite frustrating as well and I did try and argue against that.
I can definitely see the logic in that as if you are just going to renovate a place and move a collection into it we are talking about a pretty significant amount of money that potentially could go towards a purpose built facility or other long-term solution. I did understand that thinking, but at the same time then it depends on how long the wait is. Are we talking about 5 years, 10 years?
The Gallery is going to have this pop up exhibition a few doors down which is really great, but after I think that it is really great, I think why haven’t we been doing this the whole time? If they can pop up in there for however many weeks they are popping up in there for, why can’t they just have that space and permanently have an exhibition in there and just keep changing it?
That is a valid question.
Why did that not happen years ago?
My question would also have to be why did they not use City gallery? They struggle with funding; it is a gallery in reasonably good condition. It is a bit unfortunate that there could not have been a stronger collaboration.
I sometimes think what seems like happen, and this is not just in the arts sector, I see it happen in other parts as well - you have the Council doing their thing and you have the governance group or committee busy doing their thing, and you have in some cases a shared service type thing like you have with SMAG for the Southland Regional Heritage Committee. They are doing something else, and on it goes, they are all doing it in their own little bubbles. I go to one meeting and they are talking about this, go to the next and they are talking about something else that is to do with the same thing, and I am thinking………..
That is why we are sitting in meetings going….have you heard anything about what those people are doing??? Do you know what these guys are doing???? I heard this the other day……I got an e-mail about this……and just trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together when these groups are in the same city we are in. What can we do about that do you think?
They always say that the sector needs a person who can drive the sector but then how can you find that person or how does that person come to the top, but you know, can I self-appoint and say I am going to call a meeting and I am going to bring all of these groups together and get everyone in the room talking and we are going to keep working together instead of having all these conversations separately and doing our own thing. Who has the ability to be able to do that?
I can see that Council has some power to do that and I think they can in some respects because they are the representatives of the community and also because they are the major funders of the art and cultural institutions of Invercargill. Maybe sometimes it does need to come down to saying you will all come and talk about this and find a way forward together which is undoubtedly the best case scenario in terms of long-term financial sustainability. Groups who will not talk or have their own agendas they are trying perform in their own areas are clearly problematic for Council’s trying to support or help drive a future direction.
An example would be Surrey Park consultation that has just happened recently and the Surrey Park Stadium and wider space used by about 15 different sports groups including different sport codes and more than one soccer club. All have different needs and different requirements and the Council wanted to create a strategy for the area moving forward and they did have a meeting. The got an independent facilitator to facilitate a meeting trying to find out from all these groups what their goals are for the future and whether they are hoping their sport would grow or whether it won’t grow and all of that kind of thing, and what they would ideally like to have in terms of facilities and so forth. It was quite a good process. The only real pitfall happened afterwards as then there were a whole lot of other sports that are not already there who said, well what about us, we would like to be there to and you haven’t talked to us. That aside for the most part having that process to talk about it, was really good. Probably the only other pitfall that came out in the submission process was that Sport Southland came and they said but has anybody actually looked at whether the cricket club and the soccer club are going to continue to grow or whether their membership is going to fall off with an aging population and that next kind of level of ‘can of worms’. How do you start to do that for 15 different sports codes. Almost like how can you try and do a similar process with the arts and heritage sector. Then there is the same question to ask I guess which might not be about growth or what have you, but the use of museums and art galleries which is kind of dependent on tourism. How you going to judge what tourism is going to do? Then if you were some people in the community they might say that tourism is not going to last forever as climate change is going to mean that people can’t travel. The more you dig into stuff……
Museums have been built based on tourist number expectations in cities and this has been really problematic when visitor numbers to the city have fallen sharply. The position has always got to be that museums are for communities and what someone visiting a community really wants to see is a window into that community. If they are funded by the people then they are for the people, but there is a distinct advantage with regards to tourism and what museums can offer. ..
There is one more thing I wanted to ask you about - the Southland Art Foundation - so the William Hodges Fellowship is no longer being offered. It has been going for around 20 years, so has seen 40 odd artists come to Southland in that period to engage and make work with and about the community which has been collected by the Foundation and cared for by SMAG. What do you think about the fact that this is no longer offered, and do you think that the Council could have a role in the residency? There is a lot of benefits that that residency had that were perhaps unseen - the artists engagement with the community, the development of a collection of contemporary art specifically related to this region. I have also certainly noticed how much of Southland the residents take away with them back to their homes and talk and think about. And, how many of them come back to Southland - the benefits of that.
I think that is certainly a real shame and that it would be good to see some kind of artist in residence re-established and I have got a feeling that the MAI group have this on their agenda in terms of an artist in the broad artist sense not necessarily the visual artist sense which I think would be great. The plan with the CNZ funding is that it becomes a sustainable funded thing beyond the two years. So if that can be achieved, then certainly I think what you say - the benefits would be immense for the community. You mentioned that what’s been achieved and what reach those people have achieved while they have been here has not been really noticed enough. Part of that is when it comes to volunteer groups or trusts, or with a 5 hour a week Administrator whose primary purpose is to pay the bills and administering stuff and not having a person whose job it is to skite about what is happening. That is where lots of things fall down because there are great things happening but no one has time to tell anybody because you are so busy making them happen and that is where a role, if this CNZ funding comes to what it is supposed to come to, I would hope that having someone whose job it is to constantly be in the face of the media and out in the community talking about these people who are doing great things whether they are local people or artists in residence, I think would be a huge asset. But, again it is viewed as a ‘nice to have’ as it is not necessary but the flip side is people don’t necessarily know what is happening or don’t know that they can tap into that person or that group or whatever. That then creates that whole vicious cycle of what people don’t know, people don’t use, so less and less people participate. Maybe we won’t fund it as we don’t hear enough people talking about it.
The ‘nice to have’ thing must be so frustrating for you. Actually for me a swimming pool is a ‘nice to have’, actually I don’t go to the swimming pool. A sports ground to me is ‘a nice to have’ as actually I don’t use sports grounds, but in saying that I can understand that a community uses swimming pools and sports grounds and that is a valuable asset. Therefore, I can’t understand people who assert that arts and culture is a ‘nice to have’ option but we don’t really need it. Actually we do need it as much as we need a swimming pool and a library and a sports ground. This is frustrating isn’t it?
This is a huge frustration.
Do you think that is the general perspective around the Council table presently?
That the arts stuff is a nice to have?
But not particularly necessary? Have you noticed that vibe in the decision making that goes on?
It is hard to generalize about what other people think. I don’t think I have noticed that, I think that it is just not as high up the priority list as sports grounds and those kind of things would be. That might be partly because there is less engagement with the arts and heritage sector than there is with the sports sector. Sports are easy to engage with as you see them on TV or you want your kids to play sport because it gives them exercise, all those kinds of things. So it is easy, it’s in your face, it is normal, everybody does it.
I don’t do it!
Everybody seems to do it and it seems to be, oh I don’t know, but it seems to be the art and heritage stuff does not have that mass thing that sports have.
Do you think arts/culture has an image problem because it is part of people lives every day, but it does not seem to have that same community impact.
A good example would be that I am the Chair of the Dan Davin Literary Foundation now and we have, for a long time, provided creative writing workshops for students and also adults, but adults we made pay. For a 3 hr workshop it was going to cost them $25 with a published author. Incredibly subsidized by the funding that we received and the tutors were published authors form various parts of New Zealand, people like Owen Marshall, Lecturers from Victoria University. We have had the creative writers in residence at Otago Uni - people like that coming here to teach people how to write either stories or poems and we were aiming for about 12 to attend a workshop. Do you think we could ever fill a workshop? I belong to a writers group - some great passionate writers since 2008. This writer’s group has been going when the creative writer’s workshops were happening and trying to get people to come, and some of the people were like oh…don‘t know whether I can afford to spend $25. It is about the perceived value they put on it. I write quietly by myself as I enjoy it, selfish because it is all for me, so I can’t spend money on it…. A little bit of that kind of thing. I think maybe the arts have that kind of thing, where sport does not seem to have that kind of barrier - like no problem spending hundreds on rugby boots and subs each year, but spending it on something like going to a show or………..
I think we would have to have a debate about New Zealand culture and education in schools and goodness what else. I can see the imbalance in education where some of this probably stems from.
Thank you so much for coming in and talking with me.
I think it is great that you are doing this and the more things that we can be doing to draw attention to the election the better, especially given that the Chamber of Commerce and Grey Power who usually do candidate events are not doing them this time, they are only doing it for the Mayoral race. This means that there are only three opportunities to speak to the public and only two for Mayor. One of them was the Monday night one we have just had. The Youth Council is doing one in a couple of weeks’ time and the National Council of Woman run a candidate event but this is only for women candidates.
I might just throw you one more question I spotted out of the corner of my eye, which is about the name of the new Museum going into Tay Street, Motorcycle Mecca. What do you think about the cultural appropriation of the term ‘Mecca’ which is Islam’s’ holiest city to describe a motorcycle museum? The reason why I think it is interesting is because there is quite a lot of focus in the Southland Regional Development Strategy around bringing immigrants to Invercargill and I am quite aware that some of these immigrants are Muslim and given what is happening in the world right now and the sensitivities around cultural appropriation, I am just interested in what people think about the use of the term ‘Mecca’ in this context.
I have not given that much thought until you just mentioned that. I guess when I heard Motorcycle Mecca, it sounds to me like an Americanism for a big massive place that everyone kind of goes to.
Can you see how trivializing Mecca in this way could be the very thing that is offensive? Taking something really sacred…
It had not dawned on me until you just mentioned it. I would imagine it is the same for other people.
I would be interested to know or to hear from somebody who has moved here and who is Muslim and see what they think about appropriation of that term. I can see that maybe marketers have looked at it on the surface and gone Mecca, oh yeah that’s a pilgrimage and people are going to make a pilgrimage to this motorcycle museum, but is it appropriate?
I guess it probably does reflect on the whole thing that people do have that pilgrimage to Invercargill for the Bert Munro Challenge.
My concern is the sensitivities around the western world treating cultural appropriation quite casually, and I just wonder whether Invercargill should be doing that.
It would be quite interesting to speak to some Muslim people about it.