Editorial: Creative thinking wins day for city sculptures

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All artistic endeavours should be given fair treatment when it comes to funding and it makes sense to me to have one umbrella agency - Creative Tauranga should be that umbrella agency for arts funding too."A YOWL, a wail and a howl, a scatter of paws and a clatter of claws."

So went yesterday's special meeting of Tauranga Council to discuss its involvement in the Hairy Maclary waterfront sculpture project, with five councillors voting against six to drop its demand for a $150,000 maintenance bond before the sculptures can be displayed on the downtown waterfront.

The council also agreed to contribute up to $50,000 towards the installation of the statues of Hairy Maclary and his storybook pals.

All nine statues are complete. Creative Tauranga boss Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell has done an awesome job of fundraising $550,000 to get thus far, and the council has rightly stepped in to give the project a much deserved leg up.

When the project was initially tabled, I was sceptical, but changed my mind after seeing the impressive sculptures and also seeing how the community supported it - hauling out their own lookalike pets.

It would have been a terrible outcome if the statues had to gather dust in a warehouse instead of taking pride of place in their intended waterfront home.

The council is right to contribute to this public art project, immortalising a part of Tauranga's history, which is being gifted to the city for the community's benefit for the next 100 years-plus.

It is concerning almost half the councillors were not in favour.

The council is often criticised for not doing more to develop arts and culture in the city but, in my view, the issue is one of equity in its funding - the council's art contributions are not evenly spread.

Art by nature should be inclusive.

Creative Tauranga, the umbrella agency dedicated to developing all things art and cultural in the city, gets just $252,000 annually even though its activities serve a wide and varied community of all genres of the arts and all ages.

Compare this to the $847,000 ratepayer contribution to Tauranga Art Gallery, 20 per cent of what it costs to run the gallery.

While I believe that a city absolutely needs a gallery, the funding situation seems lopsided considering this is just one visual arts forum.

While it is not the role of a public art gallery to return profit, the gallery has considerable expenses, including more than $500,000 employee-related expenses and is not attracting enough visitors to be self-funding.

As Richard Moore pointed out in a Bay of Plenty Times column (prior to his mayoral candidacy), Tauranga's visitors pay the bulk of the costs at $25 each a year in their rates. Those visiting from outside the area pay nothing - unless they make a gold coin donation.

The Hairy Maclary statues, on the contrary, will be enjoyed and seen by everyone who visits Tauranga waterfront, with ongoing maintenance and upkeep minimal.

It also seems odd for Tourism Bay of Plenty not to contribute to the costs of such a very Tauranga landmark, particularly when the latter is involved in the Owen Dippie murals.

Tauranga is rich in arts and culture - the Arts Festival just around the corner is poised to set the city alight with a feast of pleasures. The Incubator project in the Historic Village is an recent example of this city's excellent grassroots arts.

All artistic endeavours should be given fair treatment when it comes to funding and it makes sense to me to have one umbrella agency - Creative Tauranga should be that umbrella agency for arts funding too, including taking under their umbrella the expensive Tauranga Art Gallery.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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