A snapshot of the Curatorial Hui 2014

By Tamara Patten, Communications Officer, National Services Te Paerangi

This year’s Curatorial Hui (known as the Middle Earth Curators’ Hui in previous years) was hosted by The Dowse Art Museum during November. The hui had a very full programme of talks from people mainly working with social history and art collections.

I particularly enjoy hearing about the projects and exhibitions people from other museums and galleries are working on. The hui provided a great opportunity to learn from people whose projects have come to fruition after a lot of hard work, and there were several stories that stood out for me.

Rowan Carroll from the New Zealand Police Museum showcased the museum’s newest exhibition – Armed Offenders Squad: Cordon, Contain, Appeal. Working with Police and families of deceased officers presented unique challenges for Rowan and her team in developing this exhibition. In a rather different arena, ARTSPACE’s Amelia Hitchcock and Ahilapalapa Rands discussed recent collaborative projects at their gallery, giving a glimpse into the particular rewards and challenges of curating performance art.

Welcome – curated by Ahilapalapa Rands, ARTSPACE

to and fro – curated by Amelia Hitchcock, ARTSPACE

ARTSPACE, Auckland

Billie Lythberg and Tui Emma Gillies of the University of Auckland discussed the exhibition Tauhi Vā, held at Fresh Gallery in Otara, Auckland. They provided insights into engaging and working with the Tongan community and artists to get this exhibition off the ground.

New museum and gallery developments were also at the forefront of the hui. Brent Fafeita from Wellington Museums Trust discussed the development of Museum of Wellington City & Sea’s new exhibition space, which is set to open sometime in mid-2015. Staff offices are moving out of the museum’s attic space to make way for a new gallery. As well as telling Wellington stories, the new exhibition space will showcase the architecture and special period features of the old Bond Store – Museum of Wellington’s home and, as Brent says, their main taonga. I am very much looking forward to exploring the space when it opens next year.

Further north, the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui is also undertaking a long term redevelopment project. The Sarjeant’s Greg Donson and Sarah McClintock talked the group through the redevelopment process in progress – from realising they had a severely earthquake prone building, finding and fitting out a new gallery in a temporary location, to moving the collection and redeveloping their original building. Sarjeant On The Quay will be the gallery’s main presence until they move back to their strengthened and redeveloped gallery building around 2019.

Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui

Another highlight was a short talk by Bruce Roberts, a tour host at Te Papa. Bruce’s specialty is tours for museum visitors with disabilities. Bruce stressed the importance of providing appropriate access for disabled visitors – New Zealand’s largest minority. He gave tips and suggestions for ways a museum or gallery could let blind and visually impaired visitors ‘see’ art in their own way; through touch, large font interpretation, allowing some visitors to get closer to the art, and so on. He gave the curators in the room a lot to consider. Arts Access Aotearoa provides audio-describer courses if you are interested in developing your skills in painting a picture of an artwork using words.

Finally, other stand-out sessions, in brief:

  • Whanganui Regional Museum has two great projects on the go – an open storage project for the museum’s extensive collection of moa bones, and an upcoming photographic exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of the Moutoa Gardens occupation.
  • Art After Death – this panel, led by Te Papa’s Rebecca Rice, discussed ways of working with the families and estates of deceased artists, and the responsibilities around representation of artists who have passed on.
  • tautai.org ­– Tautai works with artists, galleries, curators and schools to promote contemporary Pacific arts.

I really could go on and on. It was wonderful to get a glimpse into innovative and creative curatorial practice in New Zealand, as well as learn about projects in development.

Tamara Patten