Whanganui - New Zealand’s Arts Des­ti­na­tion

Go Travel New Zealand - - Whanganui - By Sarah Wil­liams

Whanganui is home to many large and rep­utable events through­out the year and boasts a thriv­ing arts com­mu­nity and an abun­dance of his­tor­i­cal her­itage build­ings and at­trac­tions. Look­ing into this par­tic­u­lar Artists Open Stu­dio event and chat­ting with some of the artists in­volved was the best way for me to not only ex­plore the thriv­ing arts com­mu­nity based here in Whanganui, but also for me to see the city it­self. I soon dis­cov­ered Whanganui is im­pec­ca­bly cared for and in­cred­i­bly gor­geous to stay in.

It seemed ap­pro­pri­ate to visit a river­side stu­dio first, as I greatly ad­mired the river’s pres­ence in Whanganui’s his­tory, and to be per­fectly hon­est, I was also a lit­tle taken by its beauty as I drove over the bridge to en­ter the CBD. The wa­ter was grace­ful and felt full of life - re­flect­ing the hum­ming com­mu­nity re­sid­ing along­side.

Vanessa Ed­wards lives with a wa­ter view, and I was pleased to see the life and en­ergy I felt from the river re­flected in this young woman’s at­ti­tude to her prac­tice here in Whanganui. Team­ing up with artist friend Tia Rang­inui, both Artists com­ment on their Maori Her­itage (Whaka­papa) and per­sonal sto­ries with a fresh and con­tem­po­rary per­spec­tive.

I was pre­sented with a few works on my ar­rival made by Vanessa and bound for Welling­ton’s Toi Maori Art Mar­ket 2014. The Mar­ket is an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed art event in­volv­ing New Zealand’s most Con­tem­po­rary & Up­com­ing Maori Vis­ual Artists. The event is gain­ing trac­tion and grow­ing big­ger ev­ery year. Vanessa nur­tures her re­la­tion­ships with Maori artists across the whole of New Zealand, and this in­cludes her as­so­ci­a­tion with ‘Toi Whakataa Press’ – a Maori Print­mak­ers Col­lec­tive work­ing to iden­tify print­mak­ing as a valid Maori artis­tic ex­pres­sion.

Vanessa ex­plains how her re­cent works are in­spired and in­flu­enced by the Maori Cre­ation Story, heav­ily based on the sec­ond stage ‘Te Po’ that refers to form emerg­ing from the dark­ness. Vanessa ad­mits to an ob­ses­sion with ‘Te Po’ and in­di­cates her work will re­main around the same theme and aes­thetic for the Artists Open Stu­dios week­ends. She shared with me some ex­cit­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive ideas in the pipe­line be­tween her­self

to her dis­tinctly fem­i­nine works.

Emerg­ing from the dark­ness of the black ink that dom­i­nates th­ese de­tailed prints, I see Vanessa’s self-por­trait. It may be an im­age of one woman, but it feels all-en­com­pass­ing and re­flec­tive of the many lay­ers of all women that have gone be­fore me - the prints are mes­mer­iz­ing.

Not only does the Artists Open Stu­dios event in­clude me­dia such as print­mak­ing, sim­i­lar to what I saw in Vanessa’s Stu­dio, but also many other me­dia such as sculp­ture, paint­ing, photography, drawing, jew­ellery and ce­ram­ics. As if that wasn’t enough this year the event is join­ing forces with an­other popular arts event the Glass Fes­ti­val. Mixed Me­dia and her cre­ative process is in­spired by Na­tional and In­ter­na­tional craft, fash­ion, de­sign and art which I could in­stantly see in her cast dresses and the cro­chet de­tail­ing which is a fea­ture she has be­come known for as a glass artist.

Most ex­cit­ing are her up­com­ing plans to take part in the In­ter­na­tional GAS Con­fer­ence in Corn­ing New York in 2016 as part of the Glass Fash­ion Show. From small town New Zealand to the in­ter­na­tional stage Whanganui has a spe­cial place on the world stage when it comes to glass art.

Car­men spends a great part of her year host­ing glass work­shops that en­able her to prac­tice full-time as a glass artist. At­ten­dees travel from all around the coun­try to stay with Car­men in this idyl­lic coun­try home/ stu­dio and learn the art of cast glass.

I found my­self won­der­ing about New Zealand’s Art Des­ti­na­tion and th­ese claims of a bur­geon­ing and thriv­ing arts com­mu­nity. It seems that Whanganui punches well above its weight with around 400 res­i­dent artists, her­itage galore and a beau­ti­ful river flow­ing life and en­ergy into the city.

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