Wintec campus becomes hive of creativity for Spark arts festival

Australian artist Nell is one of the featured creatives taking part in this year's Spark Festival at Wintec.
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Australian artist Nell is one of the featured creatives taking part in this year's Spark Festival at Wintec.

From chatbots to fonts, all kinds of creative endeavour will be revealed, discussed, critiqued and workshopped when Wintec's annual Spark Festival begins on Monday. 

Organised by Wintec's School of Media Arts, the four-day festival - now in it's 19th year, - provides rare opportunities for people to meet and learn from specialists in the music, media, arts and design industries from around New Zealand and beyond.

"The presenters we've gathered ... reflect what's going on at the cutting edge of the creative industries and the format will enable sharing ideas and insights in a unique way," festival director Megan Lyon said.

"There's no substitute for live presentation or performance."
 
This year's event will showcase the work of New Zealander Kris Sowersby, the type designer responsible for the sans serif typeface National and the serif typeface Feijoa. Sowersby graduated from the Wanganui School of Design in 2003 and two years later began releasing commercial and custom typefaces under the brand Klim Type Foundry. He has gone on to design customised type "families" for clients ranging from the Financial Times to the Chatham Islands (as part of a campaign to "rebrand" the Moriori).

Hollie Smith will be performing at Wintec on Monday.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Hollie Smith will be performing at Wintec on Monday.

Another highlight will be a conversation between Auckland Art Gallery director Rhana Devenport and the Australian artist simply known as Nell. Nell's artworks explore the notions of birth, sex, death and combinations of contemporary and religious iconography. She has also recreated AC/DC's iconic It's a Long Way to the Top video in a performance, and collaborated with fashion label Romance Was Born.

Nell's work will be on display in an exhibition at Wintec's Ramp Gallery, for the duration of the festival.

One of the more intriguing events is a "chatbot prototyping session" with Jason Little and Johanna Roca from the Sydney-based design agency For the People. Chatbots are computer programs that conduct conversations - often in a manner that a human would. Common chatbots include Google Assistant and the one available through the Facebook Messenger app.
 
The festival will also feature many home-grown creatives including singer-songwriter Hollie Smith, who will open the festival with a performance; Luis Viale and Bren Imboden of design agency Makebardo; and Kristine Crabb of the clothing label Miss Crabb.

Kris Sowersby, from Klim Type Foundry, will talk about the power of fonts at this year's Spark Festival at Wintec.
Cameron Downey

Kris Sowersby, from Klim Type Foundry, will talk about the power of fonts at this year's Spark Festival at Wintec.

Also in the lineup is journalist Melissa Davies; critic and writer Anthony Bryt; Te Mahuki's Tui Te Hau and artist Judy Darragh.
 
A programme of small-group workshops will accompany the main presentations, where attendees can work closely with the practitioners and receive feedback on their own personal projects and ideas – all at no entry cost.
 
This year's workshops include a typographic illustration lesson with graphic artist Sarah Maxey, and a practical exploration into fashion design with Kristine Crabb.
 
The programme runs from Monday to Thursday, with presentations and panel discussions at Wintec's Gallagher Hub and workshops in assigned rooms around the city campus.

Exhibitions, events and an after party will also be held. Festival programmes including maps and timetables can be found at spark.net.nz.

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