QSM for Waiheke Island Community Art Gallery director

Newly awarded the QSM for arts, Waiheke Community Art Gallery director Linda Chalmers.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Newly awarded the QSM for arts, Waiheke Community Art Gallery director Linda Chalmers.

A one-year contract with Waiheke Island Community Art Gallery turned into eleven years of living, breathing, and sleeping a job as its director for Linda Chalmers.

Now she has been awarded the Queen's Service Medal (QSM) for her services to art.

Just 35 minutes' ferry ride from Auckland, the gallery in the island's main village Oneroa draws visitors from far and wide as well as support from the community.

One of the exhibits in the small section of the gallery, currently displaying a tribute to artist Helen Mills, is a ...
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

One of the exhibits in the small section of the gallery, currently displaying a tribute to artist Helen Mills, is a favourite.

Chalmers and her staff ensure there are three different exhibitions running each month as well as staging special events, running an Artist in Residence programme, and a ceramics diploma course in association with Dunedin School of Art.

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Linda Chalmers initially trained as a journalist, writing about sculpture, and later went to work for the Apple and Pear Marketing Board and Mobil Oil NZ.

She left to work as an air hostess for Air New Zealand, travelling internationally before moving into a management role until the mid-80s.

Having a job where she could travel the world gave her the chance to visit many of its galleries and museums and feed her interest in art, which she'd had since her school days.

It meant she could also build up a personal collection of work and, in 1991, she opened her own art gallery, The Lane Gallery, in Vulcan Lane, central Auckland.

She completed a post graduate diploma in arts management at the University of Auckland in 1996.

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A chance encounter with two artists resident on Waiheke Island, Ray and Penny Ericson, led her to join the gallery's staff and become its director, working alongside the volunteer committee to develop the facility and its programme.

She said she received the gallery's entrance keys in the mail.

Long hours and dedication from Chalmers saw the galley thrive.

"But when I was told I had been nominated for the QSM, I was shocked and humbled," Chalmers said.

"I wondered whether to accept, then decided I would as a tribute to the dedicated and loyal staff and volunteers that work at the gallery.

"This recognition is for them.

"Some of them have been here for 20 years - since the gallery started."

She said there were also contributors like Geoff and Lesley Land, who owned a barn at Owhanake they'd been offering free every year to the Artist in Residence.

Chalmers said the artist community on the island had also grown over the years and she was proud of the way the gallery had been able to support it and to achieve their own sustainability.

She said it was hugely rewarding to be involved with the headland Sculpture on the Gulf outdoor sculpture exhibition overlooking the island's Matiatia and Church Bay, held every two years

"I'm astounded by the creativity of the artists and the way the community responds to  supporting the event with volunteers."

 - Stuff

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