A long desired and much needed arts facility for the Te Whanganui o Hei | Mercury Bay area has come a step closer to realisation with funding from the Lottery Community Facilities Fund awarded to Creative Coromandel/He Mana Toi Moehau Trust to conduct a feasibility study that will explore the community’s needs, options, opportunities, and best short- and long-term solutions to cater for the diverse range of arts activities that happen within the region.
Mercury Bay has had the highest population growth across the Peninsula in recent years but has no facility entirely suitable to provide a home for the community’s many and varied arts practices. The arts community has had to make do for decades, demonstrating resourcefulness, perseverance, flexibility, and a determination to perform and exhibit their talents.
In the case of performing arts such as theatre productions, The Monkey House at 18 Coghill St has served the community well with many popular events held in the past, but as a privately owned and administered facility, it cannot provide the long-term security the arts community needs. The Whitianga Town Hall has a multitude of community groups with divergent needs vying for space most days and nights of the week, and as such, remains unsuitable for local theatre productions which often require a block of at least three weeks to accommodate set builds, rehearsals, and a season of performances. Jan Wright and Sharyn Morcom have first-hand knowledge of what is involved in ‘making do’ with the public facilities currently available. “Over the ten years that Creative Mercury Bay Trust was operating, we facilitated a tremendous variety of performances in the town hall,” says Jan. “The set-up and pack down of sound, lighting and seating was time-consuming and exhausting for volunteers, and ultimately contributed to CMB not being sustainable”.
The successful funding application was prepared by Sharyn and Jan (Creative Coromandel’s District Arts Manager) in 2022 following consultation with Ngāti Hei representatives, local artists, arts groups, and community organisations, and had the backing of the Mercury Bay Community Board. The funding secured is for the first stage: a feasibility study into the establishment of a public arts facility that has space for dedicated live theatre, music performance, exhibition, and workshopping. Although detail around a proposed facility design will emerge from the results of the study, the vision is for an affordable, inclusive, and flexible public space suitable for all art forms, key to which is providing space for Toi Māori | Māori arts. The study will seek information through robust consultation with iwi, local government, local arts practitioners, schools, community organisations, arts organisations, and the local community.
The grant from the Lottery Community Facilities Fund covers most of the feasibility study costs, however costs associated with project administration and communicating detail of the project and its progress to our community are not covered. The Steering Committee, established to oversee the feasibility study, recognises the importance of keeping our community informed during the consultation process, and is therefore inviting collaborative, community-minded businesses, and community members to become grassroots partners in this exciting initiative, helping to support the shortfall for communications and project administration costs.
To help drive the next phase and success of the project, the Steering Committee also invites expressions of interest from community members who may wish to hold active roles on the committee as chairperson, secretary, and treasurer. Please contact Creative Coromandel at email@example.com to talk over a possible involvement.
A 2022 Waikato region-wide survey undertaken by Creative Waikato highlighted “the vital role that arts, culture and creativity play in the wellbeing of individuals and communities both through its direct impact, as well as [being] a medium for supporting other key predictors of wellbeing, in particular mental wellness and place-making.” To quote Jan: “All arts create platforms for self-expression; they create social connection and vibrancy in our somewhat remote communities, and participation in the arts is really just great for the soul. It is time now for us to explore making a public place for the arts in Te Whanganui o Hei | Mercury Bay.”
firstname.lastname@example.org – 027 224 1927.
Caption: “…the vital role that arts, culture and creativity play in the wellbeing of individuals and communities…..”