Region's arts set for a boost

By Tania McCauley

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New community arts adviser Pitsch Leiser of the Hastings Community Arts Centre.
New community arts adviser Pitsch Leiser of the Hastings Community Arts Centre.

Twenty-five years ago Pitsch Leiser bid goodbye to his OE and settled in New Zealand.

Since then he has had a varied career in the arts and other fields here and over the ditch, and for the past few weeks, he has been settling in as Creative Hastings' community arts adviser at the organisation's HQ, the Hastings Community Arts Centre on Russell Street.

Leiser and his family love their new lifestyle here and are humbled by the warm welcome they have received, he says.

He grew up in Zurich, Switzerland, with both parents artists and a brother who also became an artist. He was always more of a supporter and organiser, he says, and those skills began to get a workout as soon as he touched down in Auckland in 1988.

He became involved in organising multi-disciplinary arts events in Auckland, and in the early 90s took over the lease of what became the Galaxy Theatre with two partners, one originally from Hastings, producing events including music, dance and theatre, street performance, and the inaugural Maori film festival.

He had the first of two jobs with the Auckland City Council organising events, including starting the award-winning concert series Music in Parks, which still runs today, Diwali Festival of Lights, the Lantern Festival and Pasifika Festival among others.

Leiser also spent three years as Capital E's director in Wellington, was a regional adviser with the Office of Ethnic Affairs, and produced the PechaKuchaNights there.

He has also worked in radio in Canberra, lectured in events management at AUT, and even assisted Bhutanese refugees for an NGO in Cairns.

While Leiser's key focus is building a sustainable organisation by forging stronger partnerships with business and funding agencies, he also plans to work closely with arts organisations and cultural institutions as well as the region's wider arts community.

Creative Hastings produces the Hawke's Bay Art Guide in alternate years with Creative Napier, and it is Hastings' turn this year.

He hopes to launch an online version alongside the printed guide by the end of November that can easily be accessed from any mobile device. This will assist locals and visitors alike to plan their art trail experience from wherever they are, besides promoting the region's diverse creative sector.

Hawke's Bay has many emerging and established artists and for Hastings to have maintained a facility like the centre for so long speaks volumes about how much people care for the arts here.

There's a new exhibition of local talent about every two weeks.

Creative Hastings organises the Blossom Festival, Live after Five and Summer in the Parks concert series, opportunities for local musicians and artists to showcase their work.

Equally important, he says, is building on that legacy and the role they have in supporting the arts."My vision is to be even more connected to the Hastings community, to really reflect and celebrate what we have here.

"We have strong Maori, Pasifika and ethnic communities, and we have to make ourselves more relevant to youth and younger people, for the benefit of our own community and visitors as well."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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