A large crowd, fine weather and a carnival atmosphere combined to create a memorable reopening for Kāpiti’s district public art gallery, Toi MAHARA.
The redevelopment of Toi MAHARA in Waikanae is a story of partnership, determination, commitment and creativity, Kāpiti Coast District Mayor Janet Holborow told the crowd of several hundred attending the opening ceremony.
Before cutting the ribbon to open the new building, following a two-year rebuilding programme, Mayor Holborow quoted a whakatauki or Māori proverb about bowing to a lofty mountain.
“This whakatauki is about aiming high for what is truly valuable but its real message is about being persistent in the face of obstacles. This gallery was indeed a lofty goal and there were many obstacles. But here we are in the new Toi MAHARA.”
The Mayor described the new building as a “gallery for the district, the centre for our creative community, the home of the Field Collection and all the arts on the Kāpiti Coast.”
The project has been a partnership involving the Mahara Gallery Trust Board, Kāpiti Coast District Council and the Field Collection Trust. It was triggered more than 20 years ago by the Field Collection Trust’s offer to gift the collection to Toi MAHARA on condition that it be upgraded to accepted museum standard.
The collection of 44 artworks contains 24 by Frances Hodgkins. It represents the largest collection of Hodgkins’ works in public ownership outside Te Papa and the Auckland and Dunedin art galleries.
Mayor Holborow also acknowledged the contribution of construction firm Crowe Construction in completing the project on time and on budget.
The Mahara Gallery Trust Board raised two thirds of the $6.5 million project cost – including substantial grants from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the NZ Lottery Grants Board – while the district council contributed the remaining third.
Field Collection Trust trustee Kay Brown said that over the years the Collection has known many homes – some more secure than others.
“But now at long last we hope it is secure in its forever home,” she said. “They say good things take time. Here at Toi MAHARA, the Collection will be accessible to all art lovers, local, national and international.”
Gordon Shroff, Chairman of the Mahara Gallery Trust Board, likened himself to the last runner in a relay race who got to mount the podium. “But the fact is that our success today in bringing this long-standing kaupapa to fruition is built on the efforts of our predecessors,” he said.
Mayor Holborow was joined in cutting the ribbon by seven-year-old Ella Hawea who lives in Frances Street Waikanae and shares her April birthday with Frances Hodgkins.
Also part of the ceremony were representatives of the Gallery Trust Board, the Field Collection Trust and newly appointed Toi MAHARA patron Darcy Nicholas.
Following the ribbon cutting, a pou whakairo, freestanding carved figure created by Ōtaki master carver Chris Gerretzen (Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai) was unveiled in the gallery foyer and the opening exhibitions blessed by kaumatua (Koro) Don Te Maipi.
The new gallery is built on the same footprint as its predecessor but provides double the number of exhibition galleries and almost three times the exhibition space.