New platform for artists

Enthusiastic entrepreneurs: Tim Palmer and Claire Turner - creating a forum for art to be enjoyed, not critiqued, and for people to socialise in a fun and energetic environment.
Enthusiastic entrepreneurs: Tim Palmer and Claire Turner - creating a forum for art to be enjoyed, not critiqued, and for people to socialise in a fun and energetic environment.

CHRISTOPHER MOORE talks to two Cantabrians with definite ideas about providing a platform for artists.

At first glance it appears to be a simple equation - to create a new platform on which artists at all levels of their career and expertise can exhibit and sell their work.

But as Tim Palmer and Claire Turner soon discovered, the reality and the challenges were far from straightforward - especially in a city hard hit by a series of natural disasters.

But the two 2011 graduates from the Canterbury University Masters of Business Management programme have not been discouraged from flexing their entrepreneurial enthusiasm. In the Rangi Ruru School drama theatre on Saturday, May 5, The Art Project will become a reality after barely a month of intense planning and organisation.

For Palmer and Turner, it's the point at which theory becomes reality; an opportunity to fuse the entrepreneurial with the artistic spirit.

The catalyst for The Art Project was a shared concern that emerging, non-professional artists in Christchurch had a lack of locations to exhibit and sell from.

"The art world seems to be too concentrated and elitist. The basis of what is considered to make you an "artist" is usually focused on image and branding. But it's an environment which makes art intimidating and exclusive and propels buying art into a high-end market unattainable to most people," they say.

After some consideration, they arrived at a workable concept.

"We want to provide the opportunity for art to be made and exhibited based on talent, not name, making it possible for people to purchase art at a more realistic rate. It will showcase young Christchurch talent at a time when Christchurch needs its talent the most.

"It will be an encouraging event where events are lacking. It will also boost the confidence of many artists who are diffident or unsure about selling their work."

Their core vision: "to create a forum for art to be enjoyed, not critiqued, and for people to socialise in a fun and energetic environment . . . a take-action approach within our demographic of Christchurch young professionals - the city needs them for the future."

They have also drawn on their arts background to assess the art being offered for sale. Ranging from painting to sculpture and photography, the contents of the exhibition is a result of a collaboration between organisers and artists.

"The results have been exciting and encouraging," Turner says.

"It's the perfect time to do something like this. The project made me realise that we're filling a void in a situation where nothing is destroyed - simply a little bit broken. All the people and their talents are still there."

Palmer also believes that previously there were relatively few avenues for young Christchurch artists to exhibit.

"When you go to places like Melbourne, things are exactly the opposite. There are platforms for young artists to be creative."

The Art Project will charge a 10 per cent commission on all sales. The public will also pay an entrance fee of $15.

"We're not organising the project for that purpose. Despite some very generous offers of help, we're trying to keep costs to a minimum. Other galleries can afford not to charge admission and offer free food to exhibition openings. But they can charge up to 30 per cent commission on sales," Palmer adds.

"We've been criticised for having a cover charge, but the blunt truth is that we are not in the position to pay everything out of our own pocket. Fliers and posters, even the hooks to hang the works on, have led to bigger things.

The whole project took a month and a half - "a massive learning curve", they add.

"It started as a small idea, but one which grew rapidly. It's one thing to start a project by ourselves, but when you start dealing with other people it becomes a question of being sufficiently flexible to make an idea work. You have to balance pragmatism with vision," Palmer says.

"You have to be mindful of others especially when they have attached themselves to our brand. At university you have ideas and talk about them. Then the time arrives when you face making them a reality."


The Art Project. 4pm, Saturday, May 5, Rangi Ruru Drama Theatre (Merivale Lane, Merivale). Admission $15.

The Press