January Artistic Directors Note

Jan 21, 2020 | News

Oh wow – I can’t believe this is the final note I shall create here at Square Edge Arts Centre!!! This idea conjures some mixed emotions, so a balancing act of reflection seems in order. I started here at Square Edge last May, and my last day is next Friday January 31. It’s been an amazing journey, and so much has been delivered and achieved – come on, let’s take a look at this time together… May 2019 – My first month at Square Edge was a little intense. The place was in a kind of shock. Core funding had been lost, long-standing staff had been let go, there was a lot of anxiety about the future. I could see though that the pieces required to rebuild and revitalise existed, but I also saw that a new story needed to be told to make that rebuilding a possibility. That is why it was so great to get to work on Community. Centre. The Art of Square Edge. This exhibition and performance day was a showcase of our diverse community. It was also the first time that I got to work with most of the brilliant artists and creatives that make Square Edge what it is. It put our Community back in the centre of our arts centre. I loved seeing us start to learn how tell our new story, to turn outwards to the city, and the celebrate the very special things we are and have. I’ve said it before, but I will repeat here, this was an important moment in terms of what was to follow. The HUGE turn-out to the Community. Centre. opening proved what an important space we have is and what an important asset our artists are. In May we also kicked off a really useful period of consultation around the strategic plan and direction of the organisation and the building with a far reaching and comprehensive survey. The survey results have also proved a powerful tool in setting us up for the future. Additionally we launched our regular E-News and kicked some much needed life back into the other communications including our social media. June 2019 – I ♥ Art Night so much guys. It’s a brilliant event in and of itself, but it was also a brilliant strategic initiative at the time as our community was reeling a little from recent funding decisions. Art Night #1 – Why do we even fund the arts? happened in June and I think it brought us back together as a (somewhat divided) community to talk frankly about the ups and downs and importance of arts funding. In June we also ran two excellent Strategic Planning Forums as a follow up from our survey. The forums allowed members, building users and the community at large a chance to participate in our planning processes in ways they have not been able to previously. The survey and the forums solidified thinking the current sharp descriptor – Art, People, Place – such a cool and simple method for us to describe the huge and complex activities we are custodians of. In June we also ran the Community. Live. Showcase of live art to accompany the visual art displayed as part of Community. Centre. – it was a such a cool Sunday! In June we also opened up submissions to be part of the Art Trail Manawatu 2019 which ran in September. Let’s talk about funding… In June we secured Creative Communities project funding for the new initiative – The Emerging Cultural Leaders Program. July 2019 – July is traditionally French Month here at Square Edge. We delved into our community once again for the inspiration of the month, working with Alliance Française who occupy spaces on Level 1 to present the Far and Beyond exhibition by the talented Émilie Géant. We also had the privilege of hosting Cluster – the Freyburg High School Senior Arts Exhibition as well as Rebuild the Palmerston North Girls High School Annual Exhibition. July was also when we ran my FAVORITE art night to date – Art Night #2 – What do we even mean by Human Rights? I’ve written before about this event where we created a map of the world in the gallery with which we were able to explore the back-ground, travels, languages and ideas of the attendees. This was also the month when we welcomed with big open arms our media /filmmaker artist in residence Jonny Walls. Jonny became a part of our community quickly and an ambassador or for our city through activities like the arts tour. Let’s talk about renovations… In response to some rather strong feedback from the community and resident artists in July we undertook an ambitious renovation of the Artpartment on level 2. With a new visiting artist arriving, we did not want to expose them to the “murder hotel” (actual public feedback) for three months. In basically a week we undertook a floor to ceiling renovation – transforming the murder hotel into a beautiful space for visiting artist to live and to create in. Nice! Let’s talk about funding… In July we secured a sizable contract from the Palmerston North City Council to develop a framework for the Arts Powerhouse process which helped carry the organisation financially at an important time. August 2019 – Square Edge sets a frenetic pace. August did not disappoint in this regards. Two great exhibitions ran in August. Muse which featured our artists Robyn Laing, Kate-Wilson Bryant and Nicola Gregory, and the MS Art Group’s annual show. We hosted Street Artist Haser who delivered an inspiring artist talk and who will be back to do the mural the weather made impossible for this visit! In August the Art Trail 2019 process kicked off proper with two Artivate Workshops to develop skills for our community. Let’s talk about funding… In August core funding for the next three years was confirmed via the COGS Program. September 2019 – September is Art Trail Month. The Art Trail Manawatu spreads its tendrils to embrace artists and venues all over the region. In the lead up we delivered two more Artivate workshops – all four of which were full attended. The 2019 Art Trail was bursting with art, workshops, public talks, performances and other experiences. The opening of the Trail Mix Exhibition here at Square Edge was full to brimming! We also ran a screening of Couch Survivor and All About the Afterglow (as part of the Art Trail) – both full-length feature films made by our resident artists Jonny Walls. That month’s Art Night 3# – What does an artist even do? was a really excellent one. Let’s talk about funding… In September we were delighted to have successfully negotiated Strategic Funding with our key partner the Palmerston North City Council. October 2019 – In October we also launched the new programming submissions process and held two Submission Forums to help guide folks through things. Such a great move given that arts orgs need to be more strategic and deliberate in this new epoch. Exhibitions included 200 Years On and the stunningly presented Ora Te Toi. Our screening of Bluegrass Spirits, a world premiere of Jonny Walls’ newest feature length film was standing room only! We also hosted the Placemaking Kickstarter in partnership with the Palmerston North City Council Placemaking Team as part of Placemaking week. November 2019 – November was a HUGE month at Square Edge. We hosted 4 really high-calibre exhibitions that month: Beyond Closed Doors by the Woman’s Art Initiative; New Mind Set by Serena Deane; Found – the Creative Journeys Annual Exhibition; and Finale – the UCOL Diploma in Photography Level Six Final Exhibition. It was super cool to have the gang from Woolly Riot take over the workshop space that month. I really loved the vibrancy they brought as a community and the colours they brought as artists. My favourite part of November was the AGM and Members Celebration. I think that night we proved once and for all that the planning of art and the experience of art can blend together in meaningful ways. It was super cool also to host the 7th Annual Palmerston North Record Fair that month. Let’s talk about funding… In November we were delighted to announce funding via the Central Energy Trust to upgrade the appliances in our kitchen spaces. December 2019 – Our final exhibition of 2020 featured the beautiful work of the Manawatu Camera Club in their Who We Are show. We celebrated the season with the Gratitude Tree project and the Christmas in the City event. Let’s talk about renovations… In December renovations to the level one kitchen and art room were completed, meaning both spaces are in excellent shape as well as being safe and asbestos free. With huge thanks to the Palmerston North City Council. January 2020 – we kicked off the year, and ended my tenure, in a big, bold and beautiful way in with Street Prints Papaeoia 2020. We acted as the hub venue for this important event. Supporting the artists who have created stunning works throughout the city which will be the pride of our place for years to come. All this and an average of 36 bookings per week for events, workshops, exhibitions and other activities; A monthly Makers Market; two monthly E-News campaigns; the redevelopment of our website; and a million tiny and giant acts of kindness and leadership. PHEW!!! I’m super proud of the work we have undertaken together over these last nine months. I’m also super-excited for the future of Square Edge as an Arts Centre and Community Arts Palmerston North as an organisation. Such a legacy to build upon and such an excellent 9 months to take inspiration from. I’ll see you around the city, at future Square Edge events, and in the arts everywhere and always. Nga mihi, farewell friends! Kane