The new Nelson Art Guide came out in the last couple of weeks. It's spiffy, at a handy price of NZ$15 - a great buy and a beautiful memento for visitors to Nelson. But there's two sides to the story, and it goes back to where the new Nelson Bays Arts Marketing regime wants to go. And I'll try to be fair here.
The new (or the original) focus of the group is/was marketing. That's raising the profile of art and artists in Nelson in the hopes that visitors and locals will spend a lot of money on Nelson art. To that end, it was gutsy of AM to halve the price of last edition (NZ$29.99) and double the initial print volume (I don't know the industry lingo). And I think they said the new guide would be sent to all kinds of tourism and arts organizations around the country. Good on them.
But the artists had to fund this. So 1/4-page advert in this edition was double the 1/6-page of the last edition, and for small timers with no advertising budget, it was a heck of a lot of money. To be fair, I remember Tim saying the cost for a full-page and two-page ad was lower than the last. Suffice it to say, many of the long-established Nelson artists are in, all us newbies who were encouraged by Martin the last time are out. There are two textile artists in the new one; only one is a practicing felt artist, the other is Sue Bateup.
It's not that I don't see Arts Marketing's perspective; in fact, how they operate now probably fits their name more properly. But I came to know AM during Martin Rodger's time, and though his way might have been an anomaly in the scheme of things, I miss his supporting-the-new-and-small-artists philosophy. And I miss the occasions and the mood of camaraderie Martin promoted.
AM still does familiar activities. They canned Re:fine this year, but had a live studio inside Wellington Airport terminal building during WOW shows. (Can't remember how this was done, but I don't think it was raise-your-hand style.) Those who got in the Guide had the option to hold an open studio during the spring Arts Festival in October. And they will hold the Twilight Markets, (unfortunately not suitable for what I'm flogging,) and individual guidance/consultation is out. And those who wish to subscribe is now called "supporters", not "members" because the board felt "members" expected too much service for their subscription. This change, of all things, sums it up for me; even their emails sound like they are barking orders.
I miss Maria who still works there, but I don't dare go anywhere near the AM office; never mind bringing cookies and cakes for their tea break. I need to come to terms with the fact that AM is now there to help established artists get bigger. And that all signs indicate towards my seriously having to find, on my own, groups and artists to play with.
PS. In case it wasn't obvious, I'm not in the new book.