1492856453040 - Drop in Papakura Art Gallery visitors is ‘disappointing’, board says

Drop in Papakura Art Gallery visitors is ‘disappointing’, board says

A community art gallery has become too “elitist” and is the reason for declining visitor numbers, local leaders say.

The Papakura Art Gallery has seen “a significant drop” in visitors from 4939 to 3638 over three years according to its latest business plan report. 

The number of participants in art gallery programmes is also down from 1553 to 884 over the same period from 2014 to 2016.

A call for more Maori and local arts at the gallery were also among strong recommendations from a 2016 community survey with over 100 respondents.  

The gallery is funded by the Papakura Local Board and managed by Auckland Council. 

Local board member George Hawkins says the findings are “really disappointing”. 

“The Papakura Art Gallery is not reaching out to all the groups in Papakura … locals don’t hear from the art gallery,” he says. 

Hawkins, a former Rosehill College art teacher, says more community art which “never sees the light of day” should be showcased at the gallery. 

“I’m afraid it might be an elitist type of art gallery, which is not good,” he says. 

Local board chairman Brent Catchpole agrees and says Auckland Council is out of touch. 

“It’s been driven not by the gallery staff but by the next level above them …. they think they’re dealing with the likes of the Auckland Art Gallery whereas Papakura is more of a community art centre and needs to be seen to be providing more of a community service,” he says. 

Auckland Council arts and culture manager Richard McWha​ says the latest business plan has given gallery staff “a renewed focus”. 

A change in town centre demographic and “reduced foot traffic in the area” has also been a challenge for the gallery, he says. 

Building close relationships with local arts groups and schools and keeping the public “well-informed” with exhibitions and openings are key priorities, McWha says. 

“Many of the activities and initiatives … will continue to grow and develop over the coming three years.”

Public programmes offered by the gallery include Art in the Park, Ako Art Bus (during Matariki), dance and cultural performances, environmental projects, visiting speakers, classes and workshops.