Shortly after Tauranga Art Gallery’s jubilant hosting of the 2020 Miles Art Award, Covid-19 forced the vibrant central city hub to close. At Level 2, we were able to re-open with social distancing and extra hygiene measures in place. Covid-19 has changed life as we know it, everywhere in the world.
Along with every other gallery in New Zealand and around the world, it has meant major cancellations of exhibitions and education programmes, and put a stop to visitors – who are now slowly emerging and returning to visit.
Our efforts have been thrown into devising new initiatives fast to retain strong community support and engagement, and our online projects have been met with engaged support by thousands.
Post-lockdown, we plan to explore new ways of reaching out into the community and supporting artists.
There is also an extensive array of exciting creative projects to work on from home (including with kitchen ingredients).
We are developing online studio visits and workshops for the period while we are limited to small groups at the gallery (capacity 50 at Level 2).
Mana Moana, a dynamic audio-visual water-screen proposal for the waterfront to stimulate the CBD, and also the theme for our 2020 programme, will no longer be possible for the moment. Another major exhibition from Te Papa, which had taken several months of negotiation, will now need to remain in Australia.
And we have also had to indefinitely postpone the visit by Rydal Art prize winner Christina Pataialii, who was due to arrive three weeks ago in Tauranga to paint her fresh new vision for the entry atrium walls following her successful residency in London (due to open May 2).
Our amazing school holiday programme was about to start, and along with numerous school trips and other education programmes, we have been missing those joyful kids. School groups will be welcome back soon, in smaller numbers.
Exhibitions are extended through August (Lianne Edwards: Sentinels and Sea Change, Miles Art Awards) and Matatoki through September.
What has transpired for the gallery over these past few weeks has been a monumental shift utilising our imaginations as our toolbox to devise new strategies for creative and inspiring outreach and to
provide fun, and educational and creative activities for families.
Fortunately, all of our new exhibitions had just opened and been photographed, while many other galleries around the country had to pause and leave off mid-way through installing.
All artworks in international and national transit stopped, everywhere.
We have been fortunate that we have been able to continue to promote our programmes by inventing new fresh ways to stay connected to our audiences and community.
Emerging from bubbles
This has included our new virtual galleries, conducting interviews with artists for video productions, and the beginning of new endeavours.
Under lockdown, I have been editing our first major bilingual English-Te Reo publication in partnership with Toi Ohomai – Kelcy Taratoa: Who Am I? Episode 001, which we hope, can be used as a national curriculum resource. Our education team remain busy behind the scenes creating and developing a diverse range of online art resources and activities that can be easily accessed from our website, beyond the bubble.
These educational resources are designed to encourage the creation of exciting and imaginative artworks from home, using everyday materials, responding to current and past gallery exhibitions.
We will also be showcasing artwork later in the year by some of the leading figures of New Zealand art history, which belongs to the people of Tauranga.
The rarely seen collections of the Tauranga Civic Art Collection owned by the Tauranga City Council, alongside highlights from the Tauranga Art Gallery collection, are also being digitised to begin our online collection database.
We look forward to welcoming the gallery’s visitors back in many ways.