The Bay's art scene is flourishing.
And, surprisingly, the Covid-19 travel restrictions have played a leading role in its ascendance.
The closure of the border to stop the spread of the virus closed the curtains on the world stage for many aspiring Bay artists but the move also breathed new life into the art scene.
Performers moved back to the Bay of Plenty instead of heading overseas and are now directing shows, performing in nationwide tours and starting their own theatre companies.
Exhibition calendars are full and many artists are choosing to call Tauranga home.
The Incubator Creative Hub director Simone Anderson said more galleries were opening, a new Bachelor of Creative Industries had been established and many artists and artisans were basing themselves in the Bay.
"We have never been busier.
"In a million years I would never have believed that we would be this busy with inquiries, ideas, new programmes ... "
Their art workshops were thriving with new tutors approaching the creative hub weekly and the exhibition programme was full for 18 months on both galleries, she said.
The hub's Okorore Ngā Toi Māori space was "flourishing" and the Jam Factory went from being fully booked with mostly international acts to all Kiwi musicians, she said.
"We have a record programme for the whole month of Matariki this year and our plans for the second Tauranga Fringe are bubbling away."
Tauranga-born Darrel Nitschke returned to her home city after studying for a Bachelor of Arts at the Victoria University of Wellington.
Nitschke is directing Tauranga Musical Theatre's latest production of 'West Side Story' on stage April 23 to May 8.
Nitschke said Covid-19 had "done wonders" for the accessibility of the arts.
"From streaming musicals and orchestral concerts to playwrights giving writing classes over live video, the generosity of artists over this past year has been so beautiful and in my view, just what the world needed."
Calista Nelmes travelled the world as a performer before Covid-19 swept the globe.
After high school, Nelmes studied at Sydney's National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) and performed in various productions, including the Weimar Kabarett, and the original workshop cast of a new Australian musical 'Starstruck' from RGM productions.
"After graduating, I was fortunate enough to secure two contracts with Royal Caribbean as a lead vocalist."
Nelmes returned to her home base of Tauranga when the Covid-19 pandemic began.
She is now a cast member for the national tour of 'Jersey Boys' playing at Auckland's Civic Theatre until May 9 and Wellington's Opera House from May 21 to June 6.
Almost every cast member had lost their jobs when the pandemic hit and those who were overseas had all returned home.
"Every night the cast feels overwhelmed with gratefulness that we get to perform every night during these times."
Covid-19 halted Collision Theatre Company director Sammie Campbell's plans to study in Australia.
Campbell decided to remain in the Bay of Plenty instead.
"Having lived in Auckland my whole life, the idea of being a part of and giving back to a small-town, close-knit community was what I was after.
"Tauranga is a perfect place to set up Collision as the theatre and arts scene is taking off, with locals wanting to go out and experience what Tauranga's has to offer."
Apex Academy of Performing Arts owner and founder, Harry Oram, studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City and had always hoped to return to Tauranga.
"I'm a fifth-generation Kiwi and always hoped I'd be able to live here fulltime at some stage in my life."
Oram's parents are based in Tauranga and he said he had always thought he would move to Auckland or Wellington to continue his career.
"But when I started meeting the local talent - and seeing the opportunities the Bay of Plenty offered - I wanted to be able to contribute to the scene.
"I was struck by how much talent there was in Tauranga. I was inspired by how dedicated they were."
He formed the Apex Academy of Performing Arts to help create local career paths in the arts.
"I wanted to be part of that solution - providing a standard of education that was nationally respectable if not Internationally.
"I felt that an academy would benefit local talent - but also benefit local businesses if I could bring students from around the country and eventually internationally."
Tauranga Art Gallery director Stephen Cleland said as a "newbie" in Tauranga's art scene he had been struck by the high-calibre of artists in the Bay of Plenty.
Artists included Kelcy Taratoa, Jess Johnson, Laurie Steer, Darcell Apelu and Tawhai Rickard, who will have his first solo exhibition at the gallery next month.