For the past month, I’ve been coordinating a public events programme called OTARAfest on behalf of the Faculty of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology here in South Auckland. It falls under the umbrella of Auckland Council’s Southside Arts Festival but as a point of difference, OTARAfest is positioned to benefit, speak to and engage Otara and South Auckland audiences first and foremost.

The newly refurbished Fresh Gallery Otara is the centre of the OTARAfest programme. The Gallery’s large open space will be used for gatherings, performances and a workshop on professional exhibition practice. Two new outdoor exhibition platforms will also be formally launched during OTARAfest; the OTARAcube – a 10×10 foot customised container located in the Otara Transport Precinct, and OTARAlights – a series of five light boxes installed in the vicinity of Fresh Gallery Otara.

Pulling together the programme for OTARAfest has been a nostalgic and heartwarming experience; so much of it reminds me of the South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit. Having worked, lived and studied in and around Otara for the past decade, it is familiar territory; there is an accountability that comes with connectedness.

OTARAfest is largely funded with the agenda of revitalising the Otara Town Centre; all but one of the events are free and many are purposefully integrated into everyday life, using outdoor and community spaces as well as the significant audience of the weekly Otara Flea Market.

I appreciate site-specificity and social, historical and political consciousness as key considerations in event delivery. I’m also excited about the new direction of MIT Faculty of Creative Arts and so pleased that its geographic and cultural context is informing and inspiring a new consideration of the value of arts education in South Auckland. Read more from Grant Thompson, Executive Dean – MIT Faculty of Creative Arts.

OTARAfest launches at Fresh Gallery Otara from 6pm on Thursday 17 October at the opening of Fresh Out of School, an exhibition featuring six new graduates from MIT Faculty of Creative Arts. All welcome!

Read more about OTARAfest events here