John Eaden

Hawke’s Bay expects to see further population growth with people moving in from other parts of New Zealand, a growth spurt that includes residents of the many retirement lifestyle villages. 

The wellbeing of a community is nurtured by the engagement of citizens in the local community, with regular recreational activities and common interests facilitated by well-appointed community facilities with adequate provision for creative interest groups. 

Toi Tū 

Inclusiveness in the arts and culture has been recognised by Napier City and Hastings District Councils and is at the heart of the Toi Tū Hawke’s Bay Strategic Framework guidelines that are being applied to all future planning. Both councils have formally adopted the Toi Tū Framework and it is anticipated that Central Hawke’s Bay and Wairoa will also adopt it, covering the whole region. 

It reinforces the fact that we need creative spaces to work on our projects, develop new learning, and foster friendships while finding joy and communal fun in collaborations with others. A stimulating, participative life is essential for wellbeing, whatever the age. 

Developing more community facilities 

By community facilities, let’s consider a genuine community centre, i.e. somewhere people can gather in their own localities with meeting rooms, creative workshops or artists’ studios, a café or food store, etc. 

Such a cluster of buildings would be a great asset and would provide a cultural balance to the big investment in sporting facilities located in every town and suburb in Aotearoa. 

We have seen buildings originally conceived as community centres, such as the Havelock North Function Centre and the Napier War Memorial Convention Centre effectively lost as community facilities when they became commercial venues geared to business and entertainment events. 

In Hawke’s Bay, established specialist membership-driven groups such as pottery clubs, art societies and woodturning groups provide an introduction for beginners and weekly 2-hour sessions for established members. The most popular of these groups are bursting at the seams – in particular, the thriving pottery groups for which there are waiting lists for courses and membership all around the motu. 

Retirement creativity

Many would-be artists and creatives reach retirement age before they can fully engage in their creative passion. Now, at last they have the time, savings and National Super to explore their long-delayed talents … an opportunity for fun and stimulating creative work as they make the most of this precious time of life. 

Younger generations of young people study art and design, media, filmmaking and a myriad of creative skills courses, if that is their desire. That was not the case for most of the post-war generation who started work when they turned 15 or 16, learnt trades and made a living in practical jobs that would fund a family and a home. After a lifetime of work and raising a family, now it is their time to really focus on their own personal growth. 

But then the decision looms – to downsize the family home or move into a retirement village? Either way, there may not be space for the creative activity after the move and why would you stop your creative work because you’ve changed your address? Isn’t it time our decision-makers were proactive in this respect?

The Retirement Lifestyle companies aim to provide facilities according to the perceived needs of their residents and some have a room or small shed that could be used for a project. When I enquired of several villages about workspaces I was told it wasn’t seen as a priority and that people could convert their garage into a workspace.

Designated studios

For the serious artist there is an urgent need for a designated studio space. 

Hastings painter, John Eaden, managed to maintain his painting practice alongside his working career in an arts-related role in Auckland. He retired here a few years ago and turned over his double garage to serve as studio. “Having a designated space to work is pretty much a requirement for an art career,” he says. “An artist needs an ongoing workable space that they can work in, where they can leave their works-in-progress.” However, he believes a committed artist would find a space to work and he has known of successful artists who have worked on a kitchen table. But that would depend on the medium and the family situation.

Having a dedicated workspace made all the difference to my own art practice. I was then in my early sixties and a late-starter. On my property was a long-disused orchard shed that I converted into a studio and I’m certain that without the studio to work in constantly I would not have established the skills or momentum to create a body of work worthy of exhibit. 

Affordable studios

Fulltime artists always need somewhere to work and like Eaden, some would say those who are committed to their art will find a space, somewhere, somehow. True, but rent can be a killer and is a serious dilemma for the dedicated artist living on an unpredictable income stream.

A solution to the ‘affordable studio’ problem can be a cluster of studios for artists where socialising and creative vibes may result in collaborations and new ideas. They are quite commonplace overseas and a few exist here. The Waiohiki Arts Village in Taradale is such a place and an enviable solution for those fortunate enough to rent one. Waiohiki is governed by a trust that provides separate art studios with affordable rents for up to a dozen practising artists. When one of the studios becomes available there is a scramble amongst local artists to acquire it. 

Spaceship is a shared working space for eight artists and creatives located in Karamu Road. It’s a social enterprise collective that has been operating for just over a year and is a unique model that doubles as a bar and live music venue on Friday and Saturday nights. Its contributing artists take an active role in the running of the bar and venue instead of paying rent, but now Spaceship is at a crunch point in terms of viability thanks to intermittent Covid restrictions and its volunteer manager, Sophie Watkins, feeling overwhelmed by the conflicting demands on her time and goodwill.

Evidently, there is a need for art studio facilities that are localised and suited to purpose, but shared community facilities must be formally set up with a salaried manager to administer their operation. 

FabLabs worldwide

The FabLab Network is an open, creative community of fabricators, artists, scientists, engineers, educators, students, amateurs, professionals, of all ages located in more than 149 countries in approximately 2,000 FabLabs. Christchurch opened its first FabLab in 2014, Wellington has a FabLab attached to the Massey Campus and in Auckland’s Sandringham, The Pocket Lab has been going since 2017. Each is unique to the community it serves. 

The FabLab may employ a skilled technician who can repair broken electrical goods and often has a recycling focus. Some provide access to 3D printers, Laser engravers and cutters and other tools. The mission is to provide ordinary people with opportunities to learn, invent and innovate.

Historically, ‘Creative Spaces’ is not new in Aotearoa. Helen Clark’s Government funded creative spaces that were accessible to all, whatever the age group or demographic and they bloomed around the country, establishing artist communities. They largely disappeared when the National Government scrapped adult community education in its 2009 budget, along with community funding for the arts and creative spaces. 

Now, the only government designated creative spaces in Hawke’s Bay are for clients of the mental health and disability agencies such as Hohepa and Presbyterian Support, funded through the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. 

However, in the bigger cities a number of successful creative spaces offering open access do exist. They are funded by MCH, but currently, building costs do not come under the existing community arts funding structures and would require special budgets. It is likely that such funding would have to come from central government. 

If there is a sincere intention within local and central government to support participation in the arts, access must be a priority for those who want it, no conditions, no age limits. This requires buildings in which people can work and gather. 

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