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Arts & Culture

Mercury Bay Community Arts Centre project takes a step forward

In a significant development for the Mercury Bay and Coromandel Eastern Seaboard arts communities, a feasibility study has been completed, affirming the critical need for a public arts centre in the region.
 |  Jan Wright  | 
Mercury Bay Community Arts Centre project
Mercury Bay Community Choir performing in the Whitianga Town Hall,

Creative Coromandel, on behalf of the Mercury Bay Arts Centre Steering Committee (the Steering Committee), engaged Christine Ennis of CME Consulting to undertake an independent feasibility study for its project proposal to establish an arts centre in Whitianga. The study assessed there was a need for and viability of establishing a public arts centre to service the Mercury Bay and Coromandel Eastern Seaboard areas.

Consultation was undertaken late last year, all garnering key community insights. The study found strong community support from the Mercury Bay and Tairua arts communities for a Whitianga based arts centre.

“At the Tairua consultation hui, the local creative community enthusiastically supported the establishment of a flexible arts centre in Whitianga which would serve both performing and visual artists and audiences of the area. They see that such a centre, that also includes spaces for workshops and meetings, would develop a sense of community connection right along the Eastern Seaboard, support businesses and provide a destination for arts tourism on the Coromandel.

We also lack a public venue that is well set up for the arts here in Tairua and our arts events have become very popular. We see a real need for an arts space like this for the schools to encourage the development of the arts in future generations. At the hui, the Tairua arts community indicated they would travel to Whitianga and hoped that this vision of a multi-purpose arts centre would become reality soon”.

Jean McCann – Tairua artist and Mercury Bay Arts Centre Steering Committee.

 

The saturation of Whitianga Town Hall bookings, the importance of partnerships, and the alignment of a Mercury Bay Arts Centre with local, regional, and national strategies were amongst the recurring themes from stakeholder sessions.

“This concept of a Mercury Bay Arts Centre is the most exciting project for the visual arts and the wider arts community I’ve seen in 15 years working with the Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust and a great result for the steering committee coming out of earlier work by Sharyn Morcom and others. The eastern seaboard of the Coromandel Peninsula and Mercury Bay in particular are renowned for the arts with tourists and locals alike along with most of the Thames-Coromandel district, and now we finally have a live, do-able exhibition and performance centre proposal.”

Stuart Christie – Chairman Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust and member of Te Whanganui o Hei / Mercury Bay Arts Centre Steering Committee

 

While the Mercury Bay Arts Centre Project is aiming for a new purpose built Whitianga based arts centre in the long-term, the feasibility study also identifies the need to work towards securing a short to mid-term option possibly using an existing building as a solution while the vision of a future civic centre is planned and realised. The Steering Committee, for the time being a sub-committee of Creative Coromandel, is leading the Art Centre project. It is envisaged that the Mercury Bay Art Centre venue would include spaces fit for all art forms, ensuring accessibility, reflecting the district’s cultural ethos, working successfully for mana whenua, and demonstrating environmental sustainability. It is proposed that the Mercury Bay Arts Centre would include a dynamic combination of gallery space, a theatre/performance area, workshop spaces, and state-of-the-art amenities. The emphasis is on creating flexible spaces with movable walls and retractable tiered seating, allowing multi- purpose use.

The feasibility report concluded that the next planning steps for the Steering Committee and project should involve exploring a shorter-term solution of repurposing an existing building, and continuing to develop partnerships is seen as essential for the project’s success.

In 2024 the Steering Committee will be driving the project forward with a submission to the Thames Coromandel District Council Long-Term Plan 2024-34. The Steering Committee will also formalise the group’s legal structure, increase project communications and seek further funding to support the next phases of the project.

For further information or enquires about supporting or joining the committee, contact Steering Group member Jan Wright – Email: jan.creativecoromandel@gmail.com