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The Gala Opening of the Mercury Bay Art Escape at Hot Waves Café and Gallery on Friday, 1 March set the tone and raised awareness of the ever-expanding Art Studios Trail 2024, which stretches from Tairua to Opito Bay. The event was such a colourful success, attended by 130 enthusiastic art lovers, sponsors, and of course, artists mingling and talking all things creative. Guest artist Flox spoke of her inspiration to paint street art “before street art was accepted or appreciated.”
 |  Dorothy Preece  |  ,
Art show

She enjoys working out in the open, where the public can see the work develop and share the experience of making art.

Flox is passionate about birds, which feature large on her murals in public spaces around Auckland and elsewhere. Flox artwork also makes the backdrop for the TV One Breakfast show. She told her audience that it’s okay to be different, to work outside the square frame and to experiment with other forms of art.

Earlier in her career, Flox raised her profile as an artist by producing a range of clothing adorned with her own artwork.  Two of her works, one a white scalpel-cut bird stencil and an artfully painted umbrella, were auctioned for sale at the Gala event.  The bidding was brisk, the stencil selling for $1100 to people visiting from Rotorua, and the umbrella sold for $700. Flox is currently engaged in painting a mural at Mercury Bay Area School.

This year there are 42 Open Studios on the Peninsula, including nine new members this year.   All of the artists and craftspeople who are opening their studios displayed examples of their work on the Hot Waves Gallery walls, setting the ambience for the evening.  Some items were sold on the night.

Mercury Bay Art Escape studios are open for two weekends, Sat, 2 March – Sun, 3 March and Sat 9 March – Sun, 10 March.

The Art Escape began its life in 2006 when a core group of cultural enthusiasts initiated an Art and Music Weekend to attract people to the Peninsula.  Alan and Julia Rhodes were founding members of that group, being original members of the Hamilton County Blue Grass Band.  Their pottery studio on SH 25 is still open to the public.

Print maker and painter, Jane Parson was also a founding member. Jane said a Trust was formed in 2010 and the event has gone from strength to strength.

“The Gala Opening is a great event every year,” Jane said.

“When we first started, the artists were almost suspicious of showing and discussing their work with one another.  Over the years we have become great friends. It is the diversity of art forms and the camaraderie that makes it so special now.”  Jane said the Trust is keen to ‘bring people over the hill to Mercury Bay’ and to encourage new local artists. First-time member Annemieke Kregting has switched her attention from looking after rescued birds to portraying them in multi-media mosaics.

“Each year the Art Escape Trust sponsors a year 12 student at MBAS,” says Jane.

“Their teacher, Janet Hoogwerf, recommends a talented student for a Scholarship which includes mentoring by local artists of the student’s own choice.”

This year’s Scholarship winner is Siobhan Cox, who displayed her painting of the extinct Huia, ‘In Death I Rise’, demonstrating Siobhan’s concerns for the future of the planet. for the studio venues.