Something creatively geothermal is happening in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Whakatane Museum has begun actively connecting artists and cultural producers with Aotearoa’s only active offshore volcano—and the early results are earth-shaking. New Zealand’s first Volcanic Artist Residency programme has begun, and creative people are now coming to Whakatāne with a sense of adventure and the spirit of partnership. While here, we give them time, space, support, and inspiration—and send them home with new ideas, expanded community relationships, and spontaneous cultural programming with a unique geothermal influence.
Our guests come from throughout Aotearoa and around the world. It all began earlier this year with Christchurch-based duo Victoria Edwards and Ina Johann, film writer and theatre makers Briar Grace-Smith and Ainsley Gardiner, and Wellington emerging visual and conceptual artist Jordana Bragg. Each has responded to the experience of walking on active volcanic earth and exploring White Island in their own unique way. Initial residencies were followed by senior curator at New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Paul Brobbel, former Mayor of Wellington and environmentalist Celia Wade-Brown, and documentary film maker and television producer Julie Hill. They too now have Whakaari under their feet.
This month, Whakatāne Museum and the historic Harbour Master House welcomed its first international visiting artist, Michaela Pilar Brown. The African-American visual artist from South Carolina recently won the $50,000 ArtFields Prize, and is currently making new work and exploring New Zealand for the first time. While here, she will hear the whistle of the tui, taste Ohiwa Harbour oysters, learn about the Mataatua wharenui, and journey to the active volcanic island that lies 48km outside her window. It’s all thanks to White Island Tours, the District Council, and the Museum’s wonderful partners.
On behalf of our creative guests—past, present, and future—Whakatāne Museum is grateful to everyone who has made the Volcanic Artist Residency possible. It’s only just begun, but my team and I think we’ve established something pretty powerful for poets, painters, film-makers, playwrights, musicians, and cultural managers. Thanks to responses from Edwards + Johann, Briar and Ainsley, Jordana, Paul, Celia, Michaela, and dozens more to come—we know that a new source of creative energy has been found here in the Eastern Bay of Plenty! And it’s already shaking us to the core.
Following the pilot programme year, from early 2019, applications will open to creative people from around the world interested in a volcanic residency with Whakatane Museum.