Busiest month shows hard work paying off

By Sandra Conchie

Tauranga Art Gallery Tauranga Art Gallery has experienced its busiest month ever since its opening in late 2007.

Last month 7231 visitors came through the gallery doors, compared to 4776 in July 2012, and 3907 in July 2011, while 60,782 people visited the gallery in the year ended June 30, 2013 compared to 55,900 in the previous 12 months.

Gallery director Penelope Jackson said the public perception that the gallery did not appear busy was not the case, as visitor numbers had been steadily increasing.

However, despite last month's significant visitor milestone it did not mean maintaining and growing visitor numbers was not a constant challenge, Ms Jackson said.

"We're constantly having to find ways to attract new audiences, particularly people who might not ordinarily have visited the gallery before, and we do a lot of research before we decide on what exhibitions we are going to hold," she said.

"People need to understand we are still the new 'kid on-the-block' compared to other public art galleries, such as Auckland and Dunedin which have been in existence for 125 years," she said.

"It takes time to establish your credentials. We had to prove ourselves first before we were able to secure loans of significant artworks from major institutions, and we have earned some real respect so we are now able to do that," she said.

Ms Jackson said visitor surveys were conducted two to three times a year and daily clicker counts were also done, with 30 to 40 per cent of visitors hailing from outside Tauranga.

"A lot more people are travelling to Tauranga to see our exhibitions, including our current retrospective exhibition Corrugations: The Art of Jeff Thomson which has proved a great drawcard," she said.

Ms Jackson said the gallery's other exhibition Painting Mauao was also popular.

"Since both exhibitions opened we have had back-to-back school groups coming through the gallery, as well as their teachers, and number of parents," she said.

Ms Jackson said most weeks the gallery was fully booked with school groups, with every student travelling to and from the gallery on the fully-sponsored ArtBus.

The gallery's community outreach programme was also gaining traction, and the gallery was not just an art space, but was also hired out as venue for cocktail parties, AGMs and fashion parades, and last Monday the gallery was turned into a mini-movie theatre when 92 marathon runners turned up to watch the Trail Fest movie, she said.

Ms Jackson said she was constantly on the look out for new, exciting exhibitions and the potential to boost visitor numbers at the gallery and other local attractions would be huge if the Bay could tap into the cruise ship market.

More needed to be done by the city's leaders to promote the arts in this city, she said.

Tauranga Art Gallery annual report is due to be presented to Tauranga City Council next month.


Tauranga Art Gallery

  • Gallery opened Oct 2007.

  • Visitors July 2013: 7231.

  • Visitors July 2012: 4776.

  • 60,782 visitors between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.

  • 22 per cent visitors from Western Bay district.

  • 30 to 40 per cent from outside Tauranga.

  • The rest lived in Tauranga City.

  • Annual operating budget $1.2 million.

  • 80 per cent funded by Tauranga City and Western Bay ratepayers.

  • The other 20 per cent comes from sponsorship and donations.

  • Running costs less than one per cent of the total rates income.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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