Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Arts In The Ville - Intrepid, Brave and Careful.

Sunrise over the Tin Shed in The Ville
Arts In Helensville (The Ville)

It's a bold step taking a small town Arts Centre from its safe world of children's holiday art programmes and Outsider Art Workshops to a smart new space that invites a wider community of existing working artists. Those of you who have sat on the committees or stood in echoing dismal halls minding the works of passionate visual artists will know what I mean. There is always a gap between excited entry-level participation and experienced working artists remaining in their ivory towers. 

I have found there is invariably a dedicated mob of friendly supportive mindful arts people (usually women) who bridge that gap and communicate beautifully with all egos.

This is what served as our Arts Centre until recently...

Helensville Arts Centre until October 2015
 This brick building (a little unusual in NZ) was the abbatoir and storage area for the building at the front, which was the butcher.

Soon after I moved here two years ago I heard rumours of a general up-grade of the whole Arts scene in Helensville.

A craft co-operative was set up aimed at tourists. It was a good project but a little early in Helensville's story. Tourism here is lightweight to say the least...but it's slowly changing, as HV (Helensville) is. Auckland is an hour away by road. Living here has attracted more people wanting a house and garden, so city-dwellers visit their compatriots out here in HV and descend on cafes and Art galleries.

I knew that the general feeling was that real artists needed to be recognised even though funding for the Arts Centre relied on classes for very mixed abilities. Helensville houses the Mt Tabor Trust which looks after adults who are intellectually vulnerable. Mt Tabor was the name of the mountain that Noah's Ark is said to have rested on after the deluge.

After some craft markets with fellow artisans we patiently waited for the Next Big Thing because we knew our small town and we knew its limits....

Then it happened.....


and these three women and many others gently nudged and encouraged and then bossed everyone to just get it done.

There was a new venue opened and an Art Trail organised where you visited artists in their studios....my kind of thing.

Small towns are great but it takes persistence to get something like this done...and you will notice how I stayed out of it. My experience told me to just stay quiet...for now anyway.

Here are two studios of visual artists we liked.  

The first was Leda Daniel....a lovely, lively woman from Argentina who could only paint in reds and oranges....being the transplant that she is. She warmly greeted us and Chris couldn't help blathering in Spanish to her, so we were away!

Leda Daniel visual Artist....and Chris.
  I noticed the light in her space....all at one end and she never works outside. Leda uses acrylics, some oils for effect and gels too. She paints landscapes and some portraits. Like Chris, she acquires her paints from various suppliers.

Then in the car (it was persisting down) to the one artist (HV) Helensville is famed for, Jeff Thompson. There is a bit of a link here back to Waiheke. His previous partner lived on Waiheke, same time as Chris did and the same conclave of artists, and we think he vaguely recognised Chris too.

Anyway, Jeff's studio is a veritable treasure trove. It is another of those wonderfully useful archirchitectural masterpieces...a tin shed, only a giant 100 yr old one.

Jeff works in corrugated iron tin. A few bits can be seen here.
 Jeff's work goes up and down the country. He has mastered the business of art, developing more than one income stream and using assistants. We found him deeply connected to an intellectual world of thought and reading. Chris was deeply impressed by his book collection.

 Rosemary McLeod was on that shelf somewhere.

The workshop area of Jeff's Studio.
Again, the light was fascinating...in pools from windows in the ceiling, diffused through perspex or focused around lamps. He too greeted us warmly and was keen to show us his art books. He explained he had a sculpting background...and we could have stayed hours but more and more visitors arrived and I had to disrupt one conversation he was having just to ask about taking photographs.

Visitors to Jeff Thompson's
Model ships made by Jeff's dad.
I have a thing about the sentimentality of model ships...not the sort that come in a box with a tube of glue, but the real ones made from scratch. These were made my Jeff's dad.

More model ships...and gorgeous paintings.

It was fascinating to enter someone else's world. We felt privileged and awed.

I am planning to open my studio next year (gulp).

Our thanks to all the team at Helensville Arts Centre.

Many thanks to Leda Daniel.google.co.nz/search?q=Leda+Daniel&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CC4Q7AlqFQoTCPDNzuWrhMkCFaUypgodCoENlA&biw=1147&bih=637

   ..and Jeff Thompson http://www.jeffthomson.co.nz/

Allowing photography in both Jeff and Leda's studios was much appreciated.

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns 

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