Curator pinpoints disconnection

VIEWPOINT: Art curator Ema Tavola at the reopening of Fresh Gallery Otara  early last year.
VIEWPOINT: Art curator Ema Tavola at the reopening of Fresh Gallery Otara early last year.

Community art galleries are no longer connecting with their people and it's partly because of a centralised focus, art curator Ema Tavola says.

The former Manukau City Council Pacific arts co-ordinator believes exhibitions are becoming regionally focused rather than local.

She expressed her concerns, particularly about the Mangere Arts Centre, at the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board's first meeting for the year.

"I find it frustrating that a publicly-funded community gallery clearly prioritises for industry and academics before considering the experience and expectations of its local community," she told the board.

Ms Tavola, a Fijian-born South Auckland resident, says some Pacific Island people see art as an elite form of entertainment because they don't feel a connection.

"I'm not alone in wishing that such a well-equipped facility [like the Mangere Arts Centre] could better serve the community.

"Disappointment and frustration is evident at a community level but rather than complain, people just don't go back," she says.

And Ms Tavola says the centre's summer exhibition: Len Lye: Agiagia is better suited to a museum than a community gallery.

"I felt detached and emotionless at the lack of information and assumed importance of the works," Ms Tavola says.

The management of community arts facilities is becoming too centralised and disconnected from their communities, she says.

"This is not just a South Auckland issue. I have heard it's happening in other art spaces, like the North Shore.

"It's important to have art available to people in the community. If people don't express themselves they get all blocked up."

When working for the former Manukau City Council Ms Tavola helped establish Fresh Gallery Otara.

She resigned from her position with the newly formed Auckland Council in 2012.

The local board has passed on her comments to the Auckland Council.

Its manager of arts and culture Kaye Glamuzina says galleries run a mix of local and regional artists.

"Gallery and other facility staff provide critical connections to local communities on a day-to-day basis and there is a constant feedback loop to all arts and culture staff," she says.

There were no cutbacks in funding or level of service made when Auckland Council was formed, she says.

"The way we organise the work and delivery at our community art galleries has changed so that better use is made of specialist skills in curating, production, public programming and community engagement in every local board area."

A range of Pacific exhibitions will be on show at Mangere Arts Centre throughout the year.

Manukau Courier