Getting the people involved
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