The new Fibre Gallery is distinctly a Moana gallery dedicated to the display of community-engaged, digital and heritage arts by Moana artists and creatives from throughout Aotearoa.
We spoke to Nina Oberg Humphries about the aims of the gallery which opened this month.
Fibre Gallery has just opened, how did the gallery come to be?
I did some work for Creative NZ and Council around the Pacific Arts Strategy and what it is that our artists or arts community need and a big thing was about feeling comfortable in spaces, but the biggest thing was we have nowhere to show. Unless you are picked up, which is quite difficult to do in the South Island, it’s very challenging to be able to work in a contemporary fine art context. There are so many people confined to places like their own garages who have passion but there’s no vehicle in which they can see themselves beyond that and expand their practise. So in opening Fibre, our key focus is in giving South Island artists a platform but also having engagement from our heritage artists, and established and emerging artists from the North Island because that way we have a really nice cohesion between somebody who might have never even thought about putting their work in a gallery space and somebody who is working in that space already.
So it caters right across the board, from inexperienced to professional?
That’s the benefit of being a Pacific art gallery run by Pacific peoples. That’s the way we learn – inter-generationally – it’s community all the way through, that’s generally Pacific peoples at their core. So it’s about elevating our arts practice.
Is it hard to find artists? How do you find people who, as you say, may be doing stuff in their garage, who may not be showing work?
Last year we started doing artists dinners and that helped spread word of mouth. We say ‘Hey, Pacific arts community, in whatever discipline – be it the guy at the church who does all the posters, or the person who’s behind the camera doing promos – come along and bring some food and we’ll just hang out.’ That’s been a cool model because people have come out by themselves to connect with a community, but it also gives us an avenue to talk to people about coming and being a part of Fibre.
What sort of things are out there? What is actually going on?
There are some cool artists who are working with digital technologies. We found a carver who’s working in his garage. Even my child’s pre-school teacher’s husband is doing amazing stuff with storytelling. There’s some amazing things and I just know there’s more. So if we can try and gather these people and have somewhere to show these things then hopefully we will see a more robust Pacific arts community.
And the momentum will just keep building…
We have some incredible people, internationally renowned artists, who are living in our city. We have Lonnie Hutchinson, Tusiata Avia, Daisy Lavea-Timo does amazing stuff with poetry and leadership. Pacific Underground – we have some really great groups that have kept going – lots of writers. Eventually though there will be fatigue and we really need to be able to grow this or at least provide a platform that shows its value.
Who are you hoping will be exhibiting at Fibre?
Everyone and anyone! We’ve got funding for seven shows. I’d like there to be a really good mixture of people who have never shown and maybe need some encouragement to do that, but also maybe some established artists, that’s what I hope.
Is it hard for artists – established or not– to approach a gallery and ask for a show?
We making that process as easy as possible. We’re not interested in artists CV’s or if they’ve shown before. If you can show us some images of what you do. Write us something that’s like 200 words or if you don’t want to write, then send us a video or ring us up and we’ll go from there. That’s the proposal.
That’s a great idea.
We know that access is a barrier and it can be extremely daunting – even ringing people or sending a proposal. Just putting yourself out there is daunting. It’s about breaking down the hierarchies. High arts or low arts and essentially we want to make Fibre Gallery somewhere where that doesn’t exist.
If people want to get in touch with you, how do they do that?