Nelson Arts Festival officially starts with the Masked Parade tonight. There'll be lots of performances, exhibits and tours in the next ten days.
Nelson was/has been long considered the nation's art/s capital, with a nationally known weaving program at the Polytech and a large number of potters opening studios in the 80's. It still has a fair number of art practitioners of many disciplines, but the city has been going through an identity crisis in the last few years symbolised by two issues.
First was the move of Wearable Arts Festival (now knows as WOW) to Wellington; convener Suzie Moncrieff started the show in a paddock in Brightwater (with the help of, among others, Eelco Boswijk) in 1987; since around the 10th year, rumors were rife she wanted to move the show to a bigger city, and off it went to Wellington in 2005. This was devastating to all of us who felt a kind of ownership of the show, having previously donated much volunteers hours and energy. Wearable Arts was also the only annual event which brought visitors to Nelson on regular basis, and was the main event of the Nelson Arts Festival.
The other is the long and troublesome upgrade plan of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, the name itself being a point of contention. The Board wanted to upgrade the building to improve storage, increase administration area, and to move the gallery into the new millennium, with the help of some foreign money and influence, and at the cost of a much-loved but underutilized theater, and a portion of the adjacent Queen's Gardens. This, in a town where the only other theater is begging. The community did not approve, the upgrade is on hold, and the board structure is going to be changed in the next months.
The Festival seems to have evolved from a showcase of Nelson arts to the rest of the nation, to something for us locals to get stuck into and enjoy. We'll try to post a few pictures from the Festival.
(Doesn't the poster look a like the flag of Japan during WWII? Cringe... Ben, thanks for the pic.)