A New Zealand photographic artist working in Berlin and an Otago-based artist have each been awarded five-month residencies with Whanganui's Sarjeant Gallery.

For their residencies, photographer Conor Clarke and ceramicist Kate Fitzharris will be based at the historic Tylee Cottage in the centre of Whanganui.

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The Sarjeant's curator and public programmes manager, Greg Donson said the gallery received close to 40 applicants for the residencies and the calibre of applications was very high.

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Conor Clarke
Conor Clarke
Kate Fitzharris
Kate Fitzharris

The applicants had to either propose a project that responded to the Whanganui River, or to develop a new body of object-based work. Mr Donson said the proposals submitted by Clarke and Fitzharris fitted the brief perfectly.

Clarke, a graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts currently living in Berlin, has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia, German and Turkey. During her residency she will be creating new photographic work inspired by the Whanganui River and its qualities.

Mr Donson said the river had been an inspiration for a number of photographers whose work is part of the gallery collection, including Frank Denton, Anne Noble, Ans Westra and Andrew Ross.

Clarke is due to take up her five-month residency in September.

The second successful resident, Kate Fitzharris says her work is "inspired by my environment, of my experiences of living in this diverse world, exploring people's relationships with other animals."

Fitzharris will be taking up her residency in February and during her time in Whanganui she will be creating a body of work inspired by objects offered to her by members of the community. She says the work will tell stories related to the gifts along with new narratives created by bringing the objects together.

Mr Donson said Whanganui had a strong ceramics history and some wonderful ceramic artists.

He said the residency programme was critical to the gallery's exhibition programme and would be a key component when it relocates back to its original site in Queen's Park.
The Sarjeant Gallery Trust is only $3 million short of the $35 million needed to restore the original historic gallery and construct a new purpose-built building with storage, exhibition and retail space. The target is expected to be reached by the December deadline enabling a start to be made on the construction process next year.