Transformation and rebirth are words I do not usually associate with art galleries but Lightwave Gallery has been transformed and reborn.

The Lightwave indicative style invitation said I was to come over to a birthday party at the Gallery located on the main access road into Mount Maunganui township. I was to bring my invitation with me as this was an invitation only event. Apart from displaying diverse and interesting art, Lightwave Gallery directors Ken and Karen Wright are known for the generosity and professional presentation of their gallery hospitality.

It wasn’t a big crowd but there were some faces I didn’t know and people to meet and inform about ARTbop. There’s the usual “moment of speech” and Ken Wright tells us that Lightwave Gallery is about to be transformed and reborn as a virtual, online gallery . The reality for this gallery and its affiliated artists is that much of the interest in their work, and therefore sales of work, is from art lovers and purchasers who do not live in the immediate vicinity of the gallery premises on Totara Street. This is the same reality facing all product retailers and is even more so for artists where the creative, through the internet, has direct contact with viewers and therefore potential purchasers.

Nothing exemplifies this situation more than the $10million listing on the Trade Me site of Fran Mens “250kg, 3D cement, rock, oak and copper – Last Supper” Anyone who has created anything has the ability to have an international audience without affiliation to a street level gallery space.

After Ken’s comments there’s talk among the guests about how their own gallery businesses survive in traditional form; part of their home or supported by a primary business with the gallery as an associated activity.

But what has the community lost? It’s lost another colour from the palette of our environment. While the rebirth of Lightwave Gallery is an appropriate and commercially sensible move, and not to do so would have been a Kodak decision, we have lost another strand of the fabric of visible urban society. You only have to look around Tauranga to see what the loss of actual street level business means to the community.

The current reality therefore for a traditional art gallery is that they are most probably going to be the community “owned” and supported establishments such as the Tauranga Art Gallery and The Cargo Shed on Dive Crescent. The recent exhibition of art (Bethlehem College Art Exhibition) within the community supported retail spaces of The Cargo Shed was extremely well presented and drew viewers and therefore provided the community with the colour and interest it deserves. The diversity and quality of exhibition at the Tauranga Art Gallery likewise more than justifies the community financial contribution to its existence.

The incubator, the working spaces of an artists’ collective and a small gallery space, within an old (and I mean old) building in the Historic Village at 17th Avenue, Tauranga is another example of a gallery supported by other activities. The incubator is a hardworking and innovative group of artists taking every opportunity to put their face and their work into the community both online but more particularly through traditional street level participation – festivals, activities, learning experiences for young people etc.

It was also wonderful to see all the work from the incubator filling the unused window space in a downtown Tauranga arcade. Congratulations and thanks to both the owners, lessee’s and artists for this exhibition of work. We at The Window Project – bringing art to the street! invested a lot of time (without real success) trying to get landlords and local artists to use vacant retail spaces in downtown Tauranga to display their work. The incubator has achieved what we were working towards. I recommend all artists looking for a central city exhibition space to contact the incubator and see how they did it!

And for the transformed and reborn Lightwave Gallery, well done and I leave you with this morning’s words of creative Richard O’Brien “…It was a very different world…..”

Take a look at and

For more information phone Gallery Director Ken Wright on 021 995 092

Rosemary Balu


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