A coastal community is drawn together each year by its hosting of art awards that attract artists from around the country.
Volunteers put hours of work into the Taranaki National Art Awards: Pensioners man the doors, people help hang the artworks, children take part in workshops and hundreds flock through the doors.
“It’s a wonderful event. It has that sense of community ownership about it. It’s always been in Opunake and the community feels it belongs with them,” says secretary Clare Moss.
There’s an annual prize pool of at least $10,000, although this year’s tally topped $12,000. The trust running the event is supported by a $5,000 programme and event grant from the TSB Community Trust.
“We always apply to the TSB Community Trust and they have been wonderful supporters for many years,” says Clare.
“The money assists with a variety of costs associated with running the event.”
In 2015 254 entries spanning seven categories filled the exhibition: Painting, Rural Taranaki, 3D, Works on Paper, Fibre Art, Toi Tu Taranaki and Photography.
The art works are not pre-selected and all entries are displayed in the exhibition at Sandfords Events Centre, ensuring inclusivity for all entrants. There is a $20 entry fee in order to keep costs low.
This inclusivity is a key aspect, providing creative opportunity for everyone from newcomers to seasoned entrants, says Clare.
“It suits everybody. We have students who enter, retirees or people who might be entering for the first time but who see this as a platform for other exhibitions.”
The majority of the artists hail from Taranaki, although there’s also many from elsewhere. This year entrants were from between Queenstown in the south and the Coromandel in the north.
The art works are on sale, and income made is one of the main sources of revenue for the awards. The funds go back into maintaining and improving the event, including improving the space at the Sandfords Event Stadium, and transforming it into an art gallery once a year.