Get­ting the peo­ple in­volved

Rotorua Weekender - - News -

Tell us a bit about your­self.

I grew up in Ro­torua — my fam­ily im­mi­grated here from South Africa in 1996, and I went through school­ing here at O¯ whata Pri­mary, Mokoia In­ter­me­di­ate and Ro­torua Lakes High School. From 2007 to 2012 I stud­ied at Waikato Univer­sity to­wards a con­joint de­gree in Pub­lic Re­la­tions and Pol­i­tics at Waikato.

It has been nice to have moved back home af­ter uni. My fi­ance Danny moved up from Christchurch last year and we have three cats — we got en­gaged ear­lier this year and are start­ing to think about plan­ning our wed­ding which we will have at my par­ents place in Ma­maku.

Out­side of my role at the vil­lage I am an artist (mostly draw­ings/ il­lus­tra­tion) and writer — I pub­lished my first piece on The Spinoff last year which was very ex­cit­ing!

I have al­ways been into the arts but never pre­dicted that I would work in the arts sec­tor. I am re­ally pas­sion­ate about the en­vi­ron­ment and NZ’S amaz­ing nat­u­ral habi­tat and crea­tures, par­tic­u­larly the birds. This is some­thing that I re­ally en­joyed bring­ing into my stud­ies at uni and now into my arts prac­tice.

■ How long have you been an artist/di­rec­tor of The Arts Vil­lage for and how did it start?

I first started out at The Arts Vil­lage as a vol­un­teer in late 2012 be­fore work­ing here in early 2013. I have been in my cur­rent role per­ma­nently since 2015 and am very lucky to be sup­ported by a small but mighty team. I have grown a lot in the role and am very ■ Mary-beth Acres speak­ing at the open­ing of her solo ex­hi­bi­tion in Ja­pan last year.

proud of our mahi.

My pre­vi­ous work­ing back­ground was in com­mu­nity devel­op­ment roles and cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. My job can be hard at times as there are a lot of things we are jug­gling at once but I love it — we have an amaz­ing com­mu­nity and the work is com­mu­nity driven which is very re­ward­ing.

■ Where do you get in­spi­ra­tion from for your work?

I love the arts, but I am re­ally driven by the ben­e­fits of the arts to our com­mu­nity rather than purely by the arts them­selves. Last year I took a six-month sab­bat­i­cal do­ing a re­search project talk­ing to sim­i­lar com­mu­nity-based arts or­gan­i­sa­tions in Ja­pan and South

Africa. It gave me a lot of new ideas and new peo­ple to talk to about the peaks and val­leys of our work. We have done a huge amount of com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion over the last eight months about what our vi­sion is at the vil­lage and from the over 3000 pieces of feed­back we re­ceived we have a re­ally solid strate­gic vi­sion for the dif­fer­ence we can make in Ro­torua.

For my own arts prac­tice I draw a lot of in­spi­ra­tion from our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. Re­cently I have been do­ing a lot of botan­i­cal stud­ies — re­search­ing dif­fer­ent plants, where they grow and how the va­ri­eties change based on where you are, and draw­ing them from dif­fer­ent an­gles and per­spec­tives.

■ What do you en­joy about your work with The Arts Vil­lage?

The peo­ple. The Arts Vil­lage has an amaz­ing team of staff, vol­un­teers, and com­mu­nity mem­bers who keep things tick­ing here. We have had a lot of growth over the past few years in the num­ber of peo­ple tak­ing part and it has been won­der­ful to see our com­mu­nity grow.

■ What do you have com­ing up? What will you be up to in the near fu­ture?

We have an amaz­ing sea­son ahead for our Sum­mer res­i­dency pro­gramme, The Open Stu­dios Project, where over sum­mer we will have over 35 hours of free com­mu­nity pro­gram­ming in work­shops, talks and other arts ac­tiv­i­ties open to the pub­lic. We also have lots of other bits and pieces over Sum­mer like the 200 Show and Art in the Park.

Look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture, over the next year I re­ally want to in­crease our ac­ces­si­bil­ity at the vil­lage and make it eas­ier for peo­ple to get in­volved, take part, and feel like they be­long here.


A water­colour of the vil­lage by Mary-beth Acres

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