Against all odds, it’s been a busy few months for Hastings District Council’s Arts & Culture teams. We’ve hosted the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival at Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre in October and opened two new shows at the Hastings City Art Gallery, Te Whare Toi o Heretaunga. There really is no stopping the arts in Hastings!

As I’m sure you can imagine, keeping our arts and culture facilities open in Level 2 can be a bit of a challenge. At Toitoi, the small-but-perfectly-formed Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival was a great opportunity to thoroughly test and tweak how we deliver events in Level 2. We were thrilled to welcome audiences into the venue for the Festival, making sure to wrap all the necessary safety measures up in a big dose of manaaki. Our team is fully committed to ensuring that every Toitoi experience is a great one, even when you’ve got a mask on and are distancing from other audience members.

The feedback from Festival audiences, artists and producers was amazing and the experience has helped us improve how we continue to host events in what is quickly becoming ‘the new normal’.

There are huge challenges to holding events in Level 2 – the Government guidelines change constantly, with every venue and facility interpreting them to fit their individual spaces and seating arrangements, while also meeting the needs of each unique event or show. With that in mind, we’re working closely with our industry colleagues across the country to ensure we are delivering best practice events, while keeping you and your whānau safe in our spaces. 

Over at the Gallery, the team is working on a plan to continue safely delivering its much-missed exhibition opening events in Level 2. Openings are an important opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate the hard work and achievements of our artists, so we want to see these continue as soon as possible. With that in mind, watch this space for the next one and make sure you sign up to the Gallery’s email newsletter to receive an invite.

The Gallery team has also been busy installing two new shows since the August lockdown. Out of the Shadows: A print journey with Carole Shepeard and friends is a large-scale, retrospective body of work from prolific print-maker and feminist, Carole Shepheard, while Made You Look is an immersive experience which just opened in the Foyer Gallery. By local artist and Muse Gallery director Kaye McGarva, Made You Look playfully toys with shadows and the viewer’s perceptions. 

If you haven’t seen these shows yet, I highly recommend you check them out. The Gallery is now open from 10am till 4.30pm Monday-Saturday, and from 1pm till 4pm on Sundays (including public holidays). Over the summer break, the Gallery will be open every day, except for Christmas and Boxing Day, so if the weather packs in, there’ll still be great arts activities to entertain your friends, whānau and out-of-town visitors.

I am also looking forward to 2022, which will bring with it phase two of the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival at Toitoi and plenty of immersive, innovative arts experiences at Hastings City Art Gallery. We know Covid-19 can make things tricky, so we’re developing new ways of delivering high-quality arts and culture experiences in Hastings, regardless of what alert level or traffic light we’re in.

So, please, come and support your arts facilities – bring your mask, sign in and keep social distancing. Our team are prepped and ready, smiling under their masks! We can’t wait to see you again, soon.

Photo by John Cowpland / alphapix

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