A thriving arts village is on the cards for Tauranga with a new gallery, music hub for gigs, and an artist in residence programme open to international artists including writers.

Planned to be up and running in 2018, the interactive art space was an expansion of creative hub, The Incubator, in Tauranga's Historic Village.

As part of the expansion, Tauranga City Council had committed three additional buildings in The Historic Village, and the plan was also supported by Creative Bay of Plenty and the Tauranga City Art Gallery.

Firstly, Otumoetai Primary School's historic 118-year-old classroom would be relocated within the village and converted into "The Jam Factory" which Simone Anderson, founding director of The Incubator, said would be a space for intimate gigs, in response to a growing demand for grassroots venues for emerging and more well-known musicians.

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"It will be the rock and roll sister to The Incubator with concerts, jam sessions and workshops. It is great that it is in one of Tauranga's oldest classroom as it will continue those learning connections through music."

The second building was the renovation of a Californian villa in the village to host an Artist in Residence programme, where visiting artists and writers would engage with the public.

"We will open this to international artists and writers, and the idea is that they give back to the community while they are here by engaging in workshops or talks at schools."

The third building would be transformed into a community gallery which will replace Creative Bay of Plenty's existing community gallery in Willow St.

Creative Bay of Plenty had pledged to fund the rental expense of The Incubator's Community Gallery for 12 months to allow for a smooth transition and supported new space for the sector.

"We fully considered how best to close our gallery with the least disruption possible and concluded that this option presented a win-win-win for the sector, The Incubator and Creative Bay of Plenty," said Creative Bay of Plenty chairwoman Michelle Whitmore.

The new areas would add to the existing creative hub in the Historic Village which included The Incubator itself, where art and culture related groups meet, artists rent creative spaces, and small exhibitions take place; and The Artery, a space for education classes, corporate workshops and team building.

Ms Anderson said the expansion has a triple tick of approval in the city's latest drive to confirm and implement an Arts & Culture Strategy.

The draft strategy, released on June 1, cites The Incubator as "fast turning into a vibrant creative hub with an emerging gallery and art education facility".

"It's a facility that has the potential to become a key plank in the growth of a vibrant arts and culture scene that the strategy promotes."

Founded three-and-a-half years ago, The Incubator had held over 135 diverse events, more than 36 exhibitions, 50 fringe music events and 570 workshops, all with the help of 990 volunteers and 40,000 volunteer hours.

Director of the Tauranga Art Gallery, Karl Chatham, said it was the grassroots arts and culture offering that The Incubator provided that was so valuable.

"The development of a creative hub in the Historic Village will open up positive opportunities for the arts in Tauranga. Tauranga Art Gallery is keen to collaborate with the incubator to engage with the Community at a grassroots level," Mr Chatham said.

"This initiative will open up a number of pathways for us to work on joint projects and expand the reach and diversity of arts engagement."

To date The Incubator had been funded by community grants, revenue from artists renting spaces at the Incubator, event ticket sales, and the public education classes and workshops held at The Artery.

The Incubator in the Historic Village is a gathering place for the community.
The Incubator in the Historic Village is a gathering place for the community.

However, the long-planned expansion required greater funding and The Incubator was confident the vision would be shared by funders in the coming months.

"Our plans also breathe life into The Historic Village, and will be a tourist attraction in the future."

She said the plans were based on successful models of similar creative hubs in Auckland such as the Corbans Arts Centre in Henderson and Depot Arts Space in Devonport, as well as the Arts Village in Rotorua.


THE INCUBATOR
-Opened 2013 to give 6 studio space to emerging artists, a gallery, communal gathering and work spaces, and a programme of creative events, music performance, street festivals, community arts engagement projects
-Opened The Artery in 2016 for affordable creative learning. Added 2 additional studios
-Has two fulltime staff, one part time staff, and 25 volunteers