From the Director
Why I work here
I had been a visitor to The Dowse for many years before I got the job. I remember coming to see a skateboard deck exhibition and thinking how radical that was at the time. It made me re-think what art was and where it could be found – it was incredibly formative.
The Dowse is one those art galleries that people love even if they haven’t been for years. It is a warm, welcoming and generous place where we try and foster meaningful and memorable moments for our visitors. The kind of experiences that stay with you and have an impact – no matter how big or small- on the way you see the world and everything in it.
When I got the job here I was pretty overwhelmed – The Dowse is an important institution (with a capital I) on Aotearoa’s cultural landscape. Its history of breaking the rules and highlighting practices and artists that might not have had opportunities to show their work in a public gallery was an incredibly attractive proposition.
The Dowse is often seen as left-field or ‘quirky’, which I see as its biggest asset – what’s out-of-step today might be mainstream tomorrow. I see this as something to embrace – art is not about conformity, it is a testing ground and a reflection of all of the things that are important in our lives.
What is The Dowse like under your direction?
I don’t think it is about the Director making big changes when they come into this job, I think it’s about embracing the heart and soul of the place and its communities aspirations. The Dowse already has a long history with some quite radical and beautiful moments in it.
My purpose, alongside the team here at The Dowse, is to find ways to continue that dynamic legacy without losing sight of what’s important to people right now. It’s a difficult balance but I think The Dowse is one of those art galleries that can absolutely achieve it.
What are you most proud of during your time here?
Recent years have seen some dramatic shifts in how we think about each other and our continuing time on this planet, but I think the core of what we wanted to put our energy into here at The Dowse has remained. One of my personal goals was to provide more space for Māori and other Indigenous voices in our exhibitions, programmes and collection acquisitions. This is an ongoing aspiration that needs to continually be reviewed as conversations and interpretations change, but each step along the way brings us that little bit closer to a more equitable representation in our art galleries and other cultural institutions.
The Dowse has always had an incredibly strong commitment to studio craft which has been supported immensely by the ongoing dedication and generosity of the Blumhardt Foundation. While our programme and collection definitely reflect our ongoing engagement with the sector, I would like to think during my time we have expanded understandings to include practices and makers that might have previously been peripheral to people’s perception of ‘craft’. Perspectives on everything have changed and we need to make sure we are part of that conversation.
We refurbished the Nuku Tewhatewha space, which was a project initiated by former Director Courtney Johnston. As challenging as this was between lock-downs, it was extremely important in showing this significant Te Ātiawa taonga and its story the mana it deserved. Whānau want this to be a living, active space so we need to keep working together to achieve this, but I’m excited to see what that future looks like.
How do you want visitors to feel here?
I remember talking to former Director Tim Walker, not long after I started, and he said a big part of the Dowse’s personality was encouraging a sense of curiosity, which is something I have held onto during my time at The Dowse.
I would like all visitors, no matter what their interests, cultures or values, to come away from a visit at The Dowse having found an artwork that has stuck with them - making them think a little bit harder or feel deeply about something. The worst thing for me would be if people left The Dowse feeling bored or apathetic.
What's it like being part of the The Dowse team?
Everyone at The Dowse is super passionate about being here. We have a long history of being a workplace that many of our former team members remember fondly long after they leave. I think this comes through to our visitors and really heightens the sense of warmth and welcome that we are so well-known for.
The Dowse has also been an amazing training ground for many of us working in the arts, culture and creativity sector. Some of our former team members have gone on to significant careers as curators, directors, artists and creative professionals. It’s a melting pot of super-creatives that you can’t help but be inspired by.