Meteor theatre goes to trust, sculpture all go

'Now the hard work begins'

DANIEL ADAMS
Last updated 05:00 27/09/2013
Maria Eaton
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

RELIEF: Maria Eaton, left, George Harrison, and Justine Francis celebrate the Meteor Theatre’s new lease on life.

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In a notable double for the arts, control of The Meteor theatre has been handed to a trust and the proposed Michael Parekowhai sculpture finally endorsed by Hamilton City Council.

The council has unanimously approved in principle a proposal which will give operational control of The Meteor theatre to the One Victoria Trust.

The council has also supported the Mesh trust's proposed sculpture by renowned artist Parekowhai to detailed design phase, with five retiring councillors pledging a personal donation for the project, intended to mark the city's sesquicentennial.

The One Victoria proposal had recommended council "gift" The Meteor to the trust for use as a community based performing arts hub for an initial period of three years.

Instead it will take over its operation for that initial period of three years.

A grant of $75,000 to the trust for each of the next three years was also approved.

Further discussion around the specific terms of the contract will take place between council chief executive Barry Harris and the trust board over the next few weeks with an agreement scheduled to be finalised by October 8.

The issue had become a political football, and was only added to the agenda of  Thursday's full council meeting as a late item by Mayor Julie Hardaker after a group of councillors forced an extraordinary meeting to discuss it. The trust was "thrilled" with the outcome: "This is an historic moment and a huge step forward for Hamilton's creative community," said trust chairman William Farrimond.

"It is indeed a vote of confidence and the trust looks forward to working with the council to create a vibrant hub for theatre and the arts in Hamilton."

"Now the hard work begins."

"For too long, too many people have been excluded from our performance venues because of high user-costs, often imposed by bureaucratic systems unsympathetic to the working realities of individuals and groups who are non-commercial in nature but enormously creative in expression."

Councillors Pippa Mahood, Daphne Bell, Marijka Westphal, John Gower and Peter Bos said they would each make a personal donation to the Parekowhai sculpture, The plan was backed 12-1, overturning a heavily-criticised vote to reject it, with Roger Hennebry against.

The unnamed sculpture would stand eight metres high and be constructed of metal sections representing Cuisenaire rods in the the shape of a grand gateway.

A tongue of water falls into a shallow pool beneath the artwork, referencing King Taawhiao's Waikato River creation legend.

Mesh chairwoman Nancy Caiger said the vote meant it could formally begin fundraising to get the estimated $700,000 sculpture commissioned and installed by November 2014.

"2014 is an important milestone in the life of our city and Mesh wanted to commemorate that with the gifting of a significant piece of contemporary public artwork. We are delighted that Michael Parekowhai has agreed to collaborate with us in creating a work that will be an iconic addition to the cultural landscape of Hamilton," said Mrs Caiger.

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"We have been overwhelmed with the level of support for this artwork - it is time to turn the dream into reality," she said.

Creative Waikato chief executive Sarah Nathan said the agreement to go ahead with the artwork was significant and "demonstrates the extraordinary power of philanthropic collaboration and the passion these individuals have for this city. It signals a leap forward in Hamilton's reputation as a contemporary and vibrant city."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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