Art group wants community creativity

Art is all around us and can be enjoyed by everyone, Marlborough Art Society president Gavin Kerr says.

Seven years ago the retired school teacher enrolled in his first art class, water-colour painting for beginners, taken by art society member George Dight in the society's studio in High St.

It made sense for Kerr to join the society at the same time and five years later he was elected to the committee. Last year he agreed to sit in the president's seat when longstanding president David Godden stepped down, but he sees himself as a "transitional" president.

However, until someone else is ready to take the reins, he wants to help the committee realise its plans to have "greater community outreach".

"We would like younger people coming in . . . and we want to find ways the community at large and the Marlborough Art Society can interact."

The art society is just one part of a greater art scene in Marlborough, Kerr says. Other sectors include the Millennium Art Gallery in Blenheim, The Diversion Gallery in Picton and hands-on art groups in the community.

"Each one complements the other in one way or another. It's important we share resources and we help each other out, in maybe attracting new artists to Blenheim and Marlborough.

"We realise we are all different; the Millennium caters for one particular approach to fostering and developing art, but it's not a working gallery in having members come and work there.

"[The art society] is a working gallery with facilities for people to come and develop their skills."

The society boasts 160 members who can enrol in art classes held five days a week: "Creative techniques in water colour" taught by Anne Johnson on Mondays, "Practical exploration in art" by Helen Chapman on Tuesdays, a "Painting for pleasure" group meets on Wednesdays, a "Time out" on Thursdays and "Pastels" with Prue Matthews is held on Fridays.

Adult sessions are complemented by Marlborough artist Craig Bluett's late-afternoon art classes for schoolchildren. Kerr is conscious that leaves a gap for people with week-day work commitments but says the committee is exploring ways to include the wider community. An important first step might be promoting art as something everyone can do and appreciate, he says.

"Some people view art as a rather elitist activity. In fact, it's not; there's art in everything we see. When you look at the way buildings are built, the way colours are used and the way gardens are formed . . . Look at the landscape, art is all around you."

Kerr teaches a U3A or Third Age of Learning "learning water-colour painting" class and the first instruction students receive is to go outside and look at the clouds. The shapes, textures, colours and tones of clouds in the sky are different every day, he says.

Artists are constantly learning, and the society provides a good forum, he says. New techniques are learned from other artists, observing others' work is inspiring, and there is a general buzz of being in a creative environment.

"You are encouraged by artists who are a million times better than you, and encouraged by artists still coming up to where you are."

Works by artists outside Marlborough are regularly shown at the society's Yealands Estate Marlborough Art Gallery and entries from around the country arrive each year for the society's Peters Doig Art Awards.

Named after the sponsor, Marlborough accountancy firm Peters Doig, it has become a main event on the art society calendar and is an example of local businesses supporting and promoting arts in the community, Kerr says.

More information about the society can be viewed in the visitors' foyer of its High St gallery or found on its website and Facebook links