Posts tagged ‘Fresh Gallery Otara’

I was invited by Ioana Gordon-Smith and Lana Lopesi to write one of five feature articles on the subject of community art for Localise, a temporary newspaper publication that accompanied this year’s Whau Arts Festival. Check it out…

When stars align

The idea of community arts is a loaded, emotional topic for me; my position is muddied by several competing tensions.

Being a Pacific Islander, in diaspora, being a marginalised ethnic(mixed race)-other in the context of dominant culture.

Being a former public servant and messy restructure refugee in post-Global Financial Crisis, National Party-led New Zealand.

Being over-qualified and under-employed.

Being poor.

Being privileged.

Having the agency to be outspoken about all of the above.

But mostly, being an artist based in the Ōtara-Papatoetoe area of Manukau/South Auckland, where I’ve lived for most of my adult life.

I’ve been a vocal critic of the ways ‘arts and culture’ are delivered as public service in my city in recent years. From public art decisions to cronyism and questionable curating, I’ve come to think that in between my ideas of best practice and what “aspirational”[i] programming looks like to the powers that be, there is a galaxy of disengaged stars and black holes of cosmic confusion.

On my planet, aspirational community arts programming is about people first, art second. It’s part grassroots, part global, part digital, part old school. It’s all ages, all the time. It’s holistic and healing. From my lived experience on this far-flung planet, worlds away from Auckland’s Queen Street, the arts are people-centric, voice-enabling, capacity building.

If a community arts centre was to reflect my aspirations, the power and potential of local artists would be harnessed and honed, supported and celebrated. You could spend hours at my aspirational art centre; meeting people, laughing, being moved, playing, thinking. As an artist, you would feel empowered knowing your contribution to the world is valid, and you’re part of a global community who reflect and respond to their lives and environments through creative languages.

This aspirational community arts centre would prioritise those who are local to the area in which it sits. It would have a firm grasp of the histories of its space and residents, and the experiences of those who live, work, shop… struggle and thrive within its shared environment. It would be sensitive towards vulnerable groups, and understand and promote the potential of art to heal, engage, open minds and affect change. Through this knowing, it would be able to offer profound and grounded experiences to visitors from beyond the area, who are afforded an insight into a unique community, as represented through its arts and people.

Exhibitions at this aspirational arts centre would be diverse and exciting; every single one designed with the audience in mind – children, tourists, old people, young people, critics… mums, dads, cynics, bureaucrats. Exhibitions wouldn’t please everyone all the time, but clever interpretive texts, bold and innovative public programming and user-friendly curating would help break down perceptions of artistic elitism. Exhibitions would be programmed by a committee of strategic, brainy, community-minded individuals, 75% of whom would be local residents to capture the vested interest that only locals can impart on decision making that affects their own community.

Exhibition proposals would be welcomed all year long, and this community arts centre would host free exhibition planning workshops and curatorial skills seminars, because the community would be seen as an immense creative resource, not a threat to curatorial egos. Artists, curators, marketers, film makers, project managers, musicians, brokers and advisors would be invited to monthly networking hui with inspiring speakers, arty speed dating and locally sourced catering.

Exhibiting artists would spend time in this community of mine, understanding, talking, responding to the site their work would sit within. Their exchanges would be respectful and reciprocal. Meaningful engagement with local people and groups would be the primary measure of success in this aspirational arts centre, not incentivised surveys taken at exhibition openings, or reviews in mainstream media.

This aspirational arts centre would constantly question its own practice, and listen, all the time. It would draw on the knowledge and insights of audiences to understand what works and what doesn’t, call on artists to inform its creative services, consult with businesses and NGOs to develop collaborative projects and partnerships. As an evolving space, change would be exciting and considered, not threatening and personal.

As a space activated by people, it would be proud to provide areas for gathering, for sitting and talking, for breastfeeding, singing softly to babies, for calming toddlers. Spaces for raucousness, for reading, spaces for privacy.

And there would be coffee… the best coffee in town! The kind that people would drive for, that makes the heart beat faster, and it would be good, really good, every time. The café owners would be happy because this aspirational arts centre would attract diverse audiences every day. Excellent WiFi, comfortable seating and lots of plants and natural light would make this the freshest spot in town and people would come back again, and again.

My aspirational community arts centre would be integrated fully and purposefully into its natural, social, cultural and economic landscape. It would host meetings, training sessions, pop-up art sales, poetry, performances, workshops, product and book launches. It would respond to the needs and interests of its community and be transparent about its agendas. Good governance and effective leadership would be practiced, encouraged and promoted. The centre’s internships would be so well designed that it would become a turbine for community arts leaders, enablers, movers and shakers.

Artists would be on waiting lists to be part of the rich and vital professional development programme this arts centre would offer! In workshops and seminars, projects and publications, artists would have the opportunity to learn about pricing and selling their work, diversifying and monetising a creative practice, writing artist statements, proposals, bio notes, starting blogs, taking good photos, project management and communication skills, marketing, branding, budgeting, funding…

In my community, the economic potential of creativity is rarely demonstrated; the creative industries are hard to quantify when most artists people know are teachers / WINZ case managers / administrators / call centre operators / video shop clerks / road workers… or on the dole. My aspirational arts centre would understand this reality.

Exhibitions and events are great, but education pathways and tangible opportunities, role models and success stories are necessary to make the creative industries visible, tangible and accessible.

Here, the WORD art is unpacked, redefined, owned / disowned. Art is inextricable from people; it is embedded in culture, intuitive and empowering, a gift and a privilege. My aspirational art centre would discredit the common perception that Pacific youth somehow have disproportionate talent in the creative arts, because the potential of Pacific youth is limitless, in any field.

And everything this aspirational arts centre would deliver would be underpinned by an acute understanding of service, audience and accountability.

Back in reality, my local community arts centres are still galactically dislocated from my expectations and aspirations, which are grounded in 15 years of living, breathing, loving, teaching, hyping up, blogging, picking up, framing, hanging, installing, advocating, hosting, buying, selling… and listening to artists from my community.

I think longingly of the kind of programming, partnerships and innovation that happens in places like Studio Museum Harlem, the incredible and inspiring entrepreneurialism of local artists in Bandung, Indonesia, and the way the four-yearly Festival of Pacific Arts embraces the breadth of socially and culturally entrenched creative practices, from healing arts to tattoo, poetry to pan-pipes and literally everything in between. I think about the site specificity and casual sophistication of Footscray Arts Centre in Melbourne, and the effortless cool of the The Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt.

In New Zealand’s largest and most ethnically diverse urban centre, the country’s super city guinea pig, the local has become the pan-local. Territory gained in wholesale branding and global rankings of ‘liveability’, is lost ground in terms of social inclusion, meaning and mana.

How do we measure quality in the delivery and presentation of community arts / art in community spaces?

Ask, listen and take time to understand the community’s aspirations. Respond, enable, facilitate, and channel resource. Watch the stars align.

Ema Tavola
October 2015

[i] Scott, H. (23 March, 2014). Local galleries and the community. Retrieved 29 August, 2015, from

I love painting, and I love collecting paintings. Niutuiatua Lemalu’s works in my personal collection give me life everyday, and often scare visiting children, but I love them a lot. Know what I mean, jellybean? is the final show in the inaugural PIMPI Winter Series and the exhibition’s themes inspired the South Auckland-based painter to make three brand new oil paintings…

Niu! It has been a while! You had a solo painting exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara almost exactly five years ago – what have you been up to?

Yeah it’s scary to think that exactly five years ago Alias was opening, must be a sign. I’ve been mostly working. I seriously considered making a go at having another show but decided to put those on hold, primarily for economic reasons. The struggle is real.

Your Alias (2010) body of work investigated masking and the layers that make up identity, the acts of revealing, hiding, being exposed. The premise of Know what I mean, jellybean? for the PIMPI Winter Series, made me think of you straight away; I’m so happy that you’ve been inspired to make three beautiful new paintings. Tell me about them!

Yes and thanks Ema for this opportunity, I was very excited when you approached me about the show particularly because I felt like “Know what I mean jellybean?” struck a personal chord. I mean, that phrase for one has probably popped up in a LOT of conversations so to me it offered a possibility of discourse, a starting and departure point; about gangs, fitting in, not quite fitting in, nostalgia, popular culture, success, failure, youth, marginalisation, politics, the ghetto, religion, family etc… Talking about my recent works is kind of difficult mainly because my first instinct is to rely on memory to describe the experience of making these works and also because painting has a way of flipping the script on you. Looking at them as they are now there’s somewhat of a departure from the original thoughts I had when I initially found out about the exhibition.

Initially I’d find some images that were direct and in your face. But there’s a kind of absurdity that goes hand in hand with trying to make painting go along with an idea. I mean the material is so crass and dumb and then it always becomes like a physical thing to make a painting submit to an idea – it refuses to lie down or be invisible and in the end no matter how fast your ideas are or even if you’re painting from an image and you don’t have to worry about something basic like, composition you still find yourself watching and waiting. So yeah, there’s some frustration in there, failure, a little bit of awkwardness and humour or not quite fitting in, a kind of longing to find the zeitgeist and not quite attaining it.

This exhibition is an attempt to visualise the interface and negotiation of difference in the spaces between cultures, class, gender. Your work is in excellent company alongside new and recent work by Leilani Kake, Waiora Palalagi and Pati Solomona Tyrell. I’ve worked with you in a traditional gallery context, deeply embedded South Auckland kaupapa; what did you think when I pitched the idea of being part of a Pacific art exhibition in a barber and tattoo studio in Mt Eden, central Auckland?

My first thought was “cool”, besides I don’t know of many people who wake up and think “hhhmmmm, I think I’ll go visit my local gallery today” and I’m an artist! Barber shops/tattoo studios on the other hand…… Seriously though, I like the idea that this could potentially be a lot more accessible to the public. I know that art galleries and museums are always heading this way too but I’ve always felt that they targeted a specific audience and the pre- requisites to enter a gallery would be a degree in art history or something! By the way this is not necessarily how it is everywhere, just a personal observation.

You’ve got mad skills, and I remember your family taking the opportunity at your artist talk at Fresh to call you out on the paintings they wanted you to give to them!! I loved that! I’m interested in the prolific practice of banner painting, key making and memorial t-shirt design; a creative economy which happens every day in the Pacific community. To me, this is contemporary Pacific art in practice; art that speaks to Pacific people, values lived experience, love, family, history. I know you’ve done your fair share of banners; what’s your views on banners, on painting for exhibitions, and the difference in audience and value, meaning and purpose?

I know my family’s pretty hardcore when it comes to supporting anyone in the family. Speaking of family my mum and dad would volunteer me to do banners towards the end of high school for church and other family members. I’d been painting since 5th form so I guess they had to find out whether I was any good or not (LOL). Banners feel like what I would imagine doing a commissioned piece would be like, only with probably a lot less creative freedom, give or take. Doing banners can be physically exhausting because of the sheer size of some and also because you’re having to negotiate around time constraints, skill limitations, whether or not the people you’re doing it for have a clear idea of what they want. Most times it’s; here’s the theme, here’s the materials and away you go. On very rare occasions you get someone who is very specific, like my aunty; which is good because someone else is calling the shots and making the decisions so it’s easier. You instantly know whether it’s a success or not based on whether someone likes it, or not. Most times the target audience are just hella grateful. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I’ve received a bad comment or where my banners have been received poorly, even in instances where I am not too happy about the end product or where I felt that I could have done better but there’s a perceived priceless exchange, almost sentimental to whoever you’re doing it for.

Painting outside of this is a lot more anxious, no one really knows what’s good. I mean painting has so much baggage, it’s been pronounced dead and revived so many times, yet people are still finding stuff to do. Maybe I chose to paint because of this possibility of resistance.

Know what I mean, jellybean?
27 August – 12 September
Featuring Leilani Kake, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Waiora Palalagi, Pati Solomona Tyrell

Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio is located at 159 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland. Open Mondays from 9am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-7pm. Barber and tattoo appointments and enquiries: /

Exhibition and Artwork Enquiries

Oceania Interrupted produced this video for a gathering on World Press Freedom Day, Saturday 3 May, in collaboration with South Auckland-based film maker, artist and activist, Tanu Gago.

As the fourth of 15 planned interventions to raise awareness for West Papua  in Aotearoa New Zealand, Action 4 took the form of a call for women to conduct interviews and discuss the issue of West Papua, visibility and freedom with people in their lives. The interviews are woven together with footage from previous Oceania Interrupted interventions or actions, along with imagery and footage that has inspired the collective.

I love being part of Oceania Interrupted; it is life-giving and deeply empowering. Massive thanks to the women who participated and to those who were interviewed, to Tanu Gago who laboured for many hours processing footage and editing, to all the women who have been involved and will be involved in future actions. To Fresh Gallery Otara for hosting our launch and gathering on World Press Freedom Day, to the Faculty of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology for supporting the project and to everyone who has contributed to this collective effort. We ALL share one love for West Papua and in small ways, hope to be contributing to broadening awareness, mobilising action and affecting change.

Oceania Interrupted: Empowering Collective Action

More information:

I STAND WITH YOU is a project developed by Luisa Tora, a third year Visual Arts student at Manukau Institute of Technology Faculty of Creative Arts in Otara, South Auckland.

Marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), the project features 13 artworks produced as posters for display at both the Faculty of Creative Arts and in a pop-up exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara from 12-17 May, 2014.

I’m pleased to have partnered on this important project along with the Faculty of Creative Arts, Fresh Gallery Otara and FAF SWAG. The artists involved have produced an excellent body of work; they represent students, staff, alumni and friends of the Faculty of Creative Arts, each with a unique relationship to South Auckland.

I’ll be speaking as one of seven quick-fire lunchtime artist talks on Tuesday 13 May from 12.30pm at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts, 50 Lovegrove Crescent, Otara, South Auckland – all welcome! The project’s other public event is a lunchtime panel of LGBTQI youth service providers on Thursday 15 May at 12.30pm. On the actual IDAHOT day, Saturday 17 May, artists, friends and family are invited to morning tea at Fresh Gallery Otara at 11am.

The posters are not for sale, but check out the project’s website and contact page for enquiries.

Auckland-based collective Oceania Interrupted launches its fourth of 15 planned ‘Actions’ on World Press Freedom Day, Saturday 3 May at South Auckland’s Fresh Gallery Otara.

Oceania Interrupted Action 4: Freedom is... Video Project

Oceania Interrupted Action 4: Freedom is… Video stills

Formed in November 2013, Oceania Interrupted is a collective of Māori and Pacific women committed to undertaking public interventions to raise awareness for issues that affect Pacific Islanders both here in Aotearoa and throughout the region. The collective is currently engaged in producing a series of 15 Actions to raise awareness and demonstrate solidarity for the people of Papua and West Papua.

Past Actions have been performance based; women have assembled to march silently with the Morning Star flag down Queen Street in the Auckland CBD (Action 1: The Rise of the Morning Star), through the notorious Otara Market (Action 2: All We Want for Christmas is a Free West Papua) and most recently at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival (Action 3: Free Pasifika – Free West Papua).

All I Want For Christmas Is A Free West Papua, photo by Tanu Gago

Action 4: Freedom is… takes the form of a video project and gathering to mark World Press Freedom Day. Oceania Interrupted extended the invitation to participants to produce their own videos asking people in their lives about the meaning of freedom, awareness of West Papua and the visibility of the Pacific in New Zealand mainstream media. Filmed on phones, cameras and tablets, the contributions were collated and edited together with footage from past Oceania Interrupted performances by Samoan artist and activist, Tanu Gago.

Designed by Katarina KatoaDrawing attention to the power and privilege of media freedom, and freedom of expression, the Action 4: Freedom is… video will be launched on YouTube at 5pm on Saturday 3 May at a gathering at Fresh Gallery Otara.

Bringing together participants, supporters, families and friends, the Action 4: Freedom is… gathering is an opportunity to discuss and broaden awareness for West Papua as well as invite contributions for future Oceania Interrupted actions.

A limited edition Oceania Interrupted T-shirt has been designed by Cook Islands visual arts student, Katarina Katoa, who is currently completing a Bachelor of Creative Arts degree at Manukau Institute of Technology. Katatrina has undertaken the project as part of an internship for PIMPI and Oceania Interrupted; the t-shirts have been designed and hand screen-printed in Otara, South Auckland with support from the Faculty of Creative Arts. They’ll be for sale at Fresh Gallery Otara on Saturday 3 May from 5-7pm for NZD40. All proceeds raised go towards future Oceania Interrupted Actions.

Oceania Interrupted Action 4: Freedom is… | 5-7pm, Saturday 3 May | Fresh Gallery Otara


Photo by Ema Tavola

The OTARAcube is a permanent exhibition space in the Otara Town Centre; it is a 10×10 foot customised container gallery managed by Manukau Institute of Technology Faculty of Creative Arts developed with support from the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board.

A week-long event called Proudly Otara is taking place in the Otara Town Centre this week and to mark the occasion, I’ve installed a quick pop-up exhibition showcasing photos, posters, fliers and artwork from community art events that have taken place in and around the Otara Town Centre over the past decade. The material is from both my own and Fresh Gallery Otara’s archives; the Gallery’s programming since 2006 is well represented, but there is also material from Fresh Gallery Otara’s predecessor, Artnet Gallery, which ran up until 2004 and was managed by Wahine Malosi Charitable Trust. Artnet Gallery was where I cut my teeth as a curator; it was a foundation that embedded a sense of community arts service delivery and relational accountability deep into my psyche.

This past week, I was interviewed by Justin Gregory for Radio New Zealand’s weekly arts programme, Standing Room Only. In January, I presented some concerns to the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board of Auckland Council regarding the exhibition programming at Mangere Arts Centre, a community arts facility in the Mangere Town Centre. I’m concerned with the disconnect regional arts programming has with local communities under the unitary Auckland Council and that there are no public opportunities for feedback or dialogue between those who produce local arts programming and the audiences they supposedly serve. The Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board were responsive to the concerns I raised saying that similar sentiments were felt both within the Board and from community members; they planned to follow up with Auckland Council’s Arts and Culture unit to respond but as yet, I’ve heard nothing. The Manukau Courier published a story and since then, I’ve received a huge amount of support from South Auckland residents who believe strongly in what was said.

Radio New Zealand’s story was aired on Sunday 23 March and features comments from Hanna Scott, Arts and Culture Programmes manager for Auckland Council:

[audio|titles=Local Galleries and the Community, Standing Room Only, Radio New Zealand, 23 March 2014]

Interestingly, I listened to this whilst installing the Proudly Otara exhibition at the OTARAcube. Whilst the exhibition only represents a sliver of the arts and cultural events and activities that have happened in and around the Otara Town Centre since 2003, there is an overarching theme of community accountability and ownership. The voice and visibility of community aspiration and pride is at the forefront of what I’ve been fortunate enough to produce and be involved with during my time here in Manukau, South Auckland. For people who live and work here, a connection to this community is not as simple as catching a “South Auckland bus” (Hanna Scott) and relational accountability is demonstrated in action, not just words.

I’m happy that from a blog, which led to a presentation to the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board, that inspired a story in the Manukau Courier, a national radio discussion about Auckland Council’s accountability to the Mangere and wider Manukau community has happened. I’m also developing an article for an upcoming issue of The Vernacularist on the theme of community and relational accountability – watch this space!

Proudly Otara starts today in the Otara Town Centre and this morning, Toakase Women’s Group have presented an impressive display of Tongan hand-crafted adornment. There are performances, displays and activities scheduled for the Otara Town Centre stage areas throughout the week; check out the Otara Business Association Facebook page for more details.

Tattoo 4 TongaDriven by Stanley Lolohea from Urban Kupesi Tattoos, TATTOO 4 TONGA is a unique event seeking to raise funds for Tropical Cyclone Ian relief for the people of Ha’apai, Tonga.

Featuring Polynesian tattooists Duss Malaesilia, Kirby Tavita, Geoffrey Siale Thomas as well as Stanley Lolohea, TATTOO 4 TONGA will be a one-day live art event at Fresh Gallery Otara on Saturday 15 February. Audiences will have the opportunity to watch the artists working live from 9am – 2pm, artworks and prints will also be available for sale with ALL proceeds going to support Cyclone Ian relief efforts in Ha’apai.

  • Tattoo appointments need to be made in advance by contacting the individual artists – see below for details.

Supported by Auckland-based Tongan art collective, No’o Fakataha, TATTOO 4 TONGA will also be an opportunity to pick up artworks and prints by contemporary Tongan artists that are priced to sell! PIMPI + Friends will also be selling a range of artworks from contemporary Pacific artists; details of which will be released via Facebook leading up to the event.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ian hit Tonga’s low-lying islands of Ha’apai in early January with wind speeds of up to 279km/hour. The Category 4 cyclone caused widespread destruction with homes and buildings flattened and thousands left homeless.

TATTOO 4 TONGA is an opportunity for Pacific artists in Auckland to contribute their time, energy and skills towards supporting Ha’apai in an act of Pacific solidarity.


TATTOO 4 TONGA event enquiries: Ema Tavola, Mb 027 5779369 / Email

Tattoo Artists:

Stanley Lolohea (Urban Kupesi Tattoos)
Instagram: @urbankupesitattoos

Duss Malaesilia
Instagram: @Marxduss

Kirby Tavita (Sanctify Tattoo Studio)
Instagram: @owingcollective

Geoffrey Siale Thomas
Instagram: @teddytatts


Date: Saturday 15 February 2014
Time: 9am – 2pm
Venue: Fresh Gallery Otara, 5/46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, South Auckland

Venue enquiries: Nicole Lim, Gallery Coordinator, Ph (09) 261 8030 / Email

The first three exhibitions I’ve visited this year have got me thinking…

Waikato-based visual artist Margaret Aull (Te Rarawa, Tūwharetoa, Fiji) presented her Master of Fine Arts graduating work this week at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design in central Auckland (read more here). Cook Islands choreographer Tepaeru-Ariki Lulu French has curated an impressive exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara, and down the road at Mangere Arts Centre, there’s a long summer exhibition called Agiagiā, which is a Samoan title for an exhibition on the late Pākehā artist, Len Lye.

In the way that so many conversations in the diaspora about Pacific art and artists reflect and respond to colonisation, these exhibitions highlight three notions of cultural exchange. The artists critique and respond to the interface of coloniser and colonised, where cultures blend and bleed into each other. Consciously and unconsciously, the exhibitions present commentary on reciprocity, loss, protocol and power.

The entrance to Margaret Aull’s installation, entitled Rules of Engagement, was symbolically lowered. It required audiences to stoop upon entering the space, responding to the Fijian protocol of lowering one’s head as a gesture of respect and deference when in the presence of a chief (traditionally), entering a room or when passing in front of seated people. The installation is the outcome of Aull’s investigations into the notion of tapu, something she describes as “an indigenous liminal space… [existing] by way of knowing and doing, and activated when acknowledging the unknown.” (Rules of Engagement Through The Notion of Tapu catalogue, © Margaret Aull)

The audience experience of this work is an awkward maneuvering around large-scale objects, precarious mirrors and two slightly manic eyeballs. The installation is loaded with Maori mythological symbolism and rooted in Aull’s personal enquiry informed by her dual heritage.

Choreographer and Cook Islands tamure dancer, Tepaeru-Ariki Lulu French has curated an exhibition entitled, The Pacific Muse: The Art, The Dance. It consists of documentation of her ongoing performance piece, The Pacific Muse, from its original presentation during the 2011 Pacific Dance New Zealand Choreographic Lab to Auckland’s 2013 Tempo Dance Festival. From its most recent presentation, a series of stunning staged photographs were produced and are presented as relatively large-scale prints.

Central to the exhibition is the display of the costumes designed and constructed by Valentina Serebrennikova in consultation with French. They are hauntingly beautiful and feel worn, as in imbued with the dance and French’s ongoing research into  Pacific female body politics, stereotypes and the legacy and effects of colonisation.

Mangere Arts Centre’s summer exhibition, Len Lye: Agiagiā runs for three long months, an exhibition timeframe better suited to large public institutions and museums rather than community galleries. Len Lye was a New Zealand artist known for his innovative experimental film practice; co-curator, James Pinker states in the exhibition’s media release that “Lye was one of the first Pākehā artists to appreciate indigenous cultures around the world.” *side-eye*

The galleries are painted black. The exhibition consists of framed drawings, kinetic sculptures and videos. Whilst there is a lengthy introductory wall text, the exhibition lacks any interpretive text and moving throughout the space, my guest and I felt detached and emotionless at the lack of information and assumed importance of the works. Whilst a museum has a duty to inform and educate its customers, galleries seem to have less accountability for an exhibition’s transmission, a problematic dynamic in the case of a ratepayer-funded community gallery.

Len Lye’s notoriety as an artist is not common knowledge even amongst arts educated audiences; the value of his work is not mutually translatable. He used Pacific imagery in some of his work, and the exhibition has a Samoan title, but the relevance to the Pacific, and potentially Pacific Island audiences, is superficial. Mangere Arts Centre’s audiences are diverse but I find it frustrating that a publicly funded community gallery clearly prioritises for industry and academic audiences before considering the experience and expectations of its local community.

Whilst attendance numbers and mainstream media reviews will translate to bureaucratic boxes ticked, measuring engagement rarely reflects the reality of disengagement. Mangere Arts Centre doesn’t have a suggestions box and there are rarely opportunities to provide feedback on their programming. I’m not alone in wishing that such a well-equipped facility and resource could better serve the community and context it sits within; disappointment and frustration is evident at a community level, but rather than complain, people just don’t go back.

So, 2014 – here we go, here’s to another year of art projects and real talk!



11 December 2013

fresh art logo full

A new pilot event at Fresh Gallery Otara aims to showcase the potential of creative entrepreneurship in South Auckland.

Fresh Art Market is a lively pop-up market day presenting a diverse range of creative products and services including fashion design, nail artistry, event and project management, homeware and photography alongside the more traditional paintings and prints.

Event organiser, Ema Tavola says, “Fresh Art Market is a microcosm of South Auckland’s creative ecology – our artists are not just exhibiting in galleries but earning a living in a range of ways from photographing and designing events, painting murals, facilitating workshops and creating works of art in hair and nails.”

The event is in part influenced from Tavola’s involvement with a colleague from the Indonesian city of Bandung, well regarded for its innovative creative economy. Dian Gesuri has been in New Zealand completing a Master of Arts Management degree at AUT University; the two have spent six weeks sharing ideas about creative entrepreneurship and sector development in an informal residency at Tavola’s home in South Auckland.

Gesuri will deliver a presentation at Fresh Art Market from 9 – 10am on what South Auckland can gain from harnessing creativity and community, collaboration and commerce. Her talk will introduce some inspiring models of creative entrepreneurship that have contributed to social change in Bandung.

Gesuri says, “The driving force of Bandung’s creative economy is people and community, something South Auckland is rich in; the potential for creative economic growth here is significant.”

Stallholders will be offering specials and discounts across all products and services from manicure and pedicure gift vouchers to couture garments, t-shirts, portrait photography, artworks and hand-made accessories.

Tavola says, “This is a perfect time to support local creative entrepreneurs – their products and services are priced to sell and locally designed and produced gifts and treats are an investment in our local creative economy. This will be a truly inspiring day!”

Artists / Creative Entreprenuers involved: Leah Espie Photography, FAF SWAG, Tui and Sulieti Gillies, Tepora Malo, Nesian Nails, The Roots Creative Entreprenuers, Czarina Wilson Design.

Event details
When: Saturday 14 December, 9am – 2pm
Where: Fresh Gallery Otara, 5/46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, South Auckland

Ema Tavola – Event Organiser
Mb 027 5779369 / Email / Twitter @ColourMeFiji / Web

fresh art logo full

FRESH ART MARKET is a lively pop-up market day presenting a diverse range of creative practice and free public programme events at South Auckland’s notorious Fresh Gallery Otara!

The event draws together a diverse range of creative practitioners from fine artists to activists, object makers and writers to fashion designers. With everything priced to sell, FRESH ART MARKET is an ideal one stop shop for conscious, hand-made, locally designed gifts and treats!

Stall holders include: Czarina Wilson Design, Leah Espie Photography, Tui Gillies, Luisa Tora and Molly Rangiwai-McHale, Tepora Malo, The Roots Creative Entrepreneurs and more!

Throughout the day, a series of public programme events will take place alongside the Market:

From 9-10am, join visiting arts manager, Dian Ika Gesuri for an inspiring discussion on what Auckland can learn from harnessing creativity, community, collaboration, innovation and commerce, introducing some amazing models of creative entrepreneurship that contribute to social change in the city of Bandung, Indonesia.

At 11am, check out a series of short films including Luisa Tora’s “Home Videos” (2013) and join the film makers for a Q&A.

From 1-2pm, exhibiting artists Sam Afu and ‘Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u are delivering a free painting workshop inspired by their current exhibition, Ua gau le sila, tuku ki Manono on at Fresh Gallery Otara until 21 December.

Keep an eye on the Facebook event page for updates and specials or send us an enquiry here:

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