Is the Tauranga Art Gallery only for the elite?

Tauranga Art Gallery.  PHOTO / SUPPLIED

Tauranga Art Gallery. PHOTO / SUPPLIED

I’m telephoned by a longstanding Tauranga resident to tell me as part of the ARTbop team there is another “letter to the paper” criticising the Tauranga Art Gallery.   The word “elitist” was mentioned.  Before I moved to Tauranga at the end of 2007 I was warned that Tauranga was a less than open and friendly community and that wages and salaries were comparatively low.

I haven’t found Tauranga any more closed or unfriendly than any other place I’ve lived in around New Zealand – I’ve actually met all sorts of wonderful people in all sorts of roles and walks of life including the creative world.  I have however often been bemused by the on-going opposition to the development of a museum and the constant complaining about the Art Gallery and the work of creative organisations.

I agree Tauranga may still be getting used to having a public art gallery in its midst but I can’t agree that the Gallery is elitist.   For a start – it’s free to go in at any time.  The Gallery staff are collectively some of the most pleasant and helpful people around.  I joined the Friends of the Gallery – it costs $25 a year for my membership.  I’m regularly invited to events and functions where I’ve met a wide range of people. Also, my understanding is that the numbers of visitors to the Tauranga Art Gallery are increasing.

Do I believe the Gallery is meeting its responsibilities re exhibition content.  If the Gallery only exhibited what I like it would be like eating the same sandwich every hour, every day, all the time.  Do I always like as personal or residential art Gallery exhibitions or totally understand them – no.   And if I don’t,  I generally say so or ask for work to be explained to me.  Despite the hours I’ve spent as a young person in galleries and museums I have no formal training in art or art history.  One thing I can say,  I’ve consistently enjoyed the variety and scope of exhibitions that the Tauranga Art Gallery has been able to attract and present.   I regard the exhibitions as part of my continuing education.

As an organisation receiving territorial authority funding the Tauranga Art Gallery must, like other ratepayer funded organisations, remain accountable on all levels.  My understanding is that the Tauranga Art Gallery is doing that.

If anyone feels at all uncomfortable about visiting the Tauranga Art Gallery, drop me an email at  we could organise to visit the exhibitions together.

[Note: ARTbop decided that we would have two special projects which we as an enterprise would support – one is the ArtBus funded by the Tauranga Art Gallery to provide free transport to the gallery for local school children for art education and appreciation.  The other is The Hairy Maclary and Friends Waterfront Sculpture Project]


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