New manager helps arts centre keep its community focus

Last Updated : 20 Apr 2017
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Angela Suh, General Manager Mairangi Arts Centre, and Chris Berthelsen, Board Deputy Chair and researcher.

Mairangi Bay Arts Centre has appointed a new manager, Angela Suh, as the gallery takes steps towards a new strategic plan to help it keep serving the changing community.

Angela grew up locally, and says she has noticed a big change in the people living in the neighbourhood.

She is excited to reconnect with her community, and hopes to help the arts centre reflect the ethnic diversity of Mairangi Bay.

This year Angela will focus on settling in and identifying opportunities to express her curatorial vision.

She hopes to interact with established practitioners in the wider Auckland area, but is adamant that the centre will remain serving its local community.

Community: more than a place to live

Board of the Art Centre Deputy Chair Chris Berthelsen is helping Angela achieve her vision for the gallery.

He plans to run a series of workshops to explore how the centre could be a starting point for creation, community engagement and collaboration.

As an example, Chris mentions there was a slip from a cliff on the beachfront over the summer. It had really good clay, so local expert and potter Jack Tilson and Chris ran a workshop for the community right on Mairangi Bay beach - just making stuff out of clay. People walked past and got ‘hands on’ at a level that suited them.

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Mairangi Arts Centre.

A changing community

When Angela arrived in New Zealand from South Korea at the age of 4, she says she knew of just one Korean grocer in Takapuna.

Twenty-five years later, she says we are “blessed with a great variety of Korean-owned and operated businesses. They provide goods and services to the Korean community as well as exposing the wider community to Korean culture.”

The centre’s programming is reflecting this change in the population – the Korean community contributes annually to a calligraphers’ exhibition, and the gallery exhibits photography by members of the Korean photographers association.

Cultural diversity is also reflected in the centre’s Children’s Programme, says Chris. While language can be a challenge for tutors, they are also inspired by the number enrolled with English as a second language.

Both Angela and Chris’s families are included in the 40 per cent of Aucklanders born outside New Zealand.

What We Call Home

An upcoming exhibition curated by Angela, What We Call Home, will explore how the community visualises a sense of belonging, and what we consider a community to be.

“Community is more than just a place to live,” says Angela.

The exhibition coincides with the Mairangi Bay Village association photography competition ‘Moments of Mairangi’.

Steps in a new direction

The centre’s strategic plan is also being overhauled. Now is the time to collectively rethink what an Art Centre could be.

Angela says she feels very lucky to have inherited such a well-functioning centre with strong membership.

Existing classes aimed at children and the retired are both popular, with well-loved tutors delivering them for over a decade. Angela now plans to reach less-represented groups too.

A tactile experience for the viewer

Angela hopes to see more projects that give visitors an tactile experience, like the garden structure called ‘A seat for many’ by Auckland Korean artist Jark Pane.

She wants to see more projects like this that activate the wonderful spaces around the Centre.
“We should provide more opportunities where people are encouraged to experience with their bodies rather than passively look at a picture on a wall,” says Angela.

Angela also invited indigenous female performance artists ‘Fresh and Fruity’ to take over the centre’s Hewson Gallery in March. They took part in a ‘Wikipedia Edit-a-thon’.

Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

The annual Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon was established in 2014 by a collective of artists, art professionals and scholars in New York. This is part of a global campaign to improve the profile of women in the arts as well as encourage female editorship.

The lack of female editorship on Wikipedia is because women have significant lack of leisure time," says Angela. "They are expected to do a second shift in terms of domestic labour.”

The Auckland Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon was a huge success, with more than 40 people attending. They collectively made over 81 total edits and created six new articles.

A talk ran as part of the event, and included women from different parts of the art sector such as curators, managers and administrators, journalists and artists discussing their experience as women in the creative industries.

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