I started this post about ten weeks ago. Cull as I have post ideas that looked good at the time, this one remained. I haven't researched all the details, (would appreciate input/corrections if you know any,) but feel compelled to finish so I can close my 2014.
It could well be a testament to how out of touch I am, as I really haven't been out and about in Nelson much since I started getting ready for our 2012 exhibition around the middle of that year. It expresses my perceived reduction in push for art in Nelson since before the Global Financial Crisis in exchange for increased participation in big sports events, (Rugby World Cup, Cricket World Cup, and Masters Games,) eroding Nelson's reputation as the arts capital of the nation. Most of all, I was utterly dismayed at the lack of dismay expressed at the demise of this artist-friendly facility by the general public.
I got a call from the board of Refinery ArtSpace in October while I was writing this post. The incongruence was so startling the bad news could have only been true. Since then, I noticed the gallery has remained open, but I haven't inquired about the probably-temporary arrangement.
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Refinery Art Space went into voluntary liquidation yesterday, October 17. That they were struggling financially was no surprise, but it further compounds the erosion of Nelson as (at least one of) the visual art center/s of the nation. It also comes as The Suter, the oldest public art gallery in New Zealand and the only other not-private gallery in Nelson, prepares to relocate for major refurbishment.
Refinery is under the umbrella of Kahurangi Employment Trust, so the gallery is not-for-profit, funded in part by the Nelson City Council, and all exhibitions are free to enter. I understand shop sales have dropped in recent years.
Compared to when we first visited New Zealand in 1992, but particularly since I became aware of Arts Marketing in May 2006, I can't help feeling there has been a sea change; the focus moved away from arts towards for-profit enterprises including hosting expensive sports games. Kiwis love sports, not even I would label sports events as bad, but Nelson used to have a unique feel which started to fade even while New Zealand was said to be booming before the Financial Crisis. It feels more like other places in New Zealand.
Selling galleries, including The Red as I knew it, and shops specializing in Nelson craft and souvenirs, changed hands, closed, (and opened); short lifespan of small businesses in New Zealand is
nothing new, but these lifespans feel even shorter. I think specialist selling Nelson works have reduced. (But also true, cafes and other venues "show" art so it's probably inaccurate to say there are fewer venues. Also, the old Red was not Nelson-only.)
The demise of Arts Marketing as I knew it was the biggest shock; first was the departure of Martin Rodgers, then the organnization itself, which tirelessly encouraged emerging artists and networking among artists, went. There is a new not-for-profit group which took over the Guidebook work and an event also called Arts Expo, a mega-market rather than artists-meeting-galleries/retailers, but participation fee in either is so expensive I giggled uncontrollably when I inquired about their first guidebook.
Art Council and Lloyd are still at the same premise but on a different lease; I think Lloyd is behind the gallery staying open for the time being, but I haven't inquired nor volunteered to help.
The WOW show, after
seven years since its inception in a paddock just outside Nelson, moved
to Wellington in 2004. We got a WOW museum in return, and to be fair it
has a fantastic classic car display and a hallway gallery, but it is a
poor relative to the show.
Trafalgar Centre is an indoor sports facility but have acted as a performance/function venue as long as we can remember. The day we moved to Nelson in 1996, Tina Turner performed here; one of the first and last concerts we've been to was also here, an unforgettable Joe Cooker. WOW also took place here after it was upgraded from the paddock. Some years ago the City Council invested in a back stage addition for performers, but soon afterwards the building was closed down because of low-rating on earthquake risk assessment.
Saxton Field, the newer sports facility, has a pavilion capable of some events; this has been used, for example for the Arts Expo but I haven't visited the venue.
Nelson School of Music, the oldest private music institution in New Zealand, has also been closed for a few years because of earthquake risks. Among their events, Adam Chamber Music Festival, apparently a premier chamber music event was put at risk but will go ahead in 2015.
Theater in Nelson played second fiddle to visual arts, but Theatre Royal
was refurbished a few years ago; this is a venue for
local and visiting productions. A new theater, The Playhouse,
emerged on the outskirts some years ago and seems to be run
successfully with many local productions, but we haven't been there.
About the same time a small private theater we frequented went bust, and
sadly I can't even remember its name. The theater in The Suter, where art house films and lectures were held occasionally, is also
closed during refurbishment. (Their millennium refurbish plan failed
because it proposed to do away with this theater, the director leaving after effectively telling the town to "leave it to us
We still have a Arts Festival in the spring, mainly performance, mainly visiting; there are other old and new "festivals" in the summer, and now in the winter. We have not gone to too many because I really stay away from crowds, and because of costs. I also don't participate in art-selling opportunities because I don't have the stamina to make a lot of things in a rush.
And while I mope about the demise of an art gallery, it's actually a slightly more serious social problem that the Trust is going down the gurgler, and very indicative of where New Zealand has been heading for a few years. The survival of the richest.
And the title of the post; that was Lloyd's comment when I went to pick up my pieces on consignment at the gallery shop.
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So this is the last post for 2014. And I feel I can move on. I had hoped to get some work done so I can present to you my looms in slightly different stages tomorrow, but that wasn't to be. Though we still have five hours of 2014, so maybe.
I didn't want to end the year on a downer, but I don't exactly feel optimistic about visual arts collectively in Nelson, or more accurately Nelson as art destination, but I don't know what I base this on. For me personally, well, I just have to get my head down, bum up, weave and hope for the best.
See you tomorrow.