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Trails of visitors eyed as artists open up studios

Raglan artists putting the finishing touches to preparations for the Open Studio Weekend starting Saturday have their fingers crossed for an “avalanche” of visitors and buyers this time, thanks to better advertising and signage than for last summer’s successful inaugural event.

Art trail administrator Jacqueline Anderson says a significant sum’s been poured into advertising nationwide, with 7000 brochures also directing art buffs to 38 studios from Waitetuna to Whale Bay, and it’s now over to the artists themselves to “take ownership” and help turn the town into an art destination.
It would be a major coup, she told the Chronicle at a pre-launch art trail get-together at the Old School, to see the Open Studio Weekend grow to become an iconic annual event like Waiheke Island’s wine festival.

“It’s about bringing all the artists together for the benefit of Raglan,” she said.
Held over Auckland Anniversary Weekend both this year and last, the three-day event also just happens to coincide with an annual fishing contest at Manu Bay organised by Raglan Sport Fishing Club.

“Perhaps the guys can go fishing while the girls look at art,” suggested Jacqueline.
If there was any spinoff it wouldn’t be the first time the arts trail has gained leverage off a sporting event, though last time it was a massive international one September’s Rugby World Cup, when a lower budget open studio weekend was organised to lure here some of the hordes of cup fans in Hamilton for the All Blacks vs Japan match.

Meantime several local artists visited nine fellow artists’ studios in a three-hour recce last Saturday to familiarise themselves with the variety of art and craft on offer, which includes everything from pottery, painting and photography to textiles, bone carving and jewellery-making.

While the aim of the exercise was to ensure artists could talk knowledgeably to visitors about the sort of art on show at other studios, they also found it a privilege to visit others’ workspaces.

Whale Bay painter Miranda Jane Caird, who works in isolation, saw the Open Studio Weekend as a great way of “connecting” with Raglan’s arts community, and particularly enjoyed that aspect last January.

Jewellery-maker Sarah Steed said the weekend was a very good opportunity to get people to take your business card and follow up, while potter Clare Wimmer welcomed what she described as the “amazing” exposure. As a direct result of last summer’s weekend her work was publicised on the CleverBastards website.

Photographer Stuart Mackenzie — who works from home in Raglan West with partner Jane Galloway and her son Julian Godfrey, both painters — agreed the exposure was great but also found it a little scary contemplating the possible avalanche of art buffs this time around after the trio still saw more than 200 through their doors the same weekend last year.

The Old School Arts Centre attracted 200 to 300 visitors on each of the three days of last summer’s Open Studio Weekend. Several artists will again be at work within the Stewart Street building this coming weekend.

As in 2011, artists will keep a tally of visitors to their studios so the Raglan Community Arts Council which runs the event can report back to funders — among them Creative Communities NZ, the Waikato District Council and major sponsor the Raglan Land Company.

The event has been advertised this time around in national magazines Life & Leisure, Artzone and Artists Alliance. Turquoise and pink flags and posters will also be placed outside every participating studio and gallery.

Arts council chair Roger Gallagher has stressed to artists the importance of signage. “Make it easy (for visitors) to find your front door.”

Edith Symes

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