The growth of Tauranga's vibrant arts and culture scene is the catalyst behind a newly created council role to help the sector embrace future opportunities.
James Wilson, formerly of Baycourt, has been appointed arts and culture manager and he plans to showcase the city's talent on a national level.
He is not alone, as the Tauranga Arts Festival and Tauranga Art Gallery have also welcomed new directors who are passionate about supporting and exhibiting local talent.
Tauranga City community services general manager Gareth Wallis said Covid-19 reinforced the importance of arts.
"With Tauranga's growing and diversifying population, we have seen our arts and culture sector flourish.
"We felt it was time for the council to respond to the growth of our arts and culture sector, by supporting capacity and capability development for our many brilliant artists and performers."
It was these thoughts that led to the decision of hiring Wilson.
No stranger to the sphere, Wilson has an impressive portfolio and trained as a theatre director in London, before working for a variety of arts organisations including Tate Modern and The Orange Tree Theatre.
Wilson said the role was needed to elevate arts and culture in the council's structure and without it, the sector was not given enough attention.
"I don't think as a council we have been able to secure the coverage or the recognition nationally for what our artists and practitioners have been doing."
It's this thought that has motivated Wilson to focus on connecting the local sector into funding available through central government, in turn raising the profile of Bay of Plenty storytellers.
Wilson said he hated hearing Tauranga art was the city's best-kept secret but understood the arts and culture scene was bubbling under the service. He hopes once he is done, it is fizzing over.
A bustling arts community coming out in force at the city's first Fringe Festival at the Historic Village was the moment Wilson understood the sheer hunger for arts across Tauranga.
Wilson said more than 4000 people showed up for the "edgy and innovative" one-day event.
"But I think we've got a job to do as a council to help connect our community and audiences with that work because perhaps it hasn't been given the profile that it should've."
As Wilson leaves his role as the manager of Baycourt, the Tauranga theatre and arts venue will also welcome new leadership, with Reena Snook taking the helm.
"Baycourt plays a hugely important role in the beating heart of both the city and the region's arts sector," Snook said.
Rigour and high-calibre offerings are what Stephen Cleland plans to focus on in the programming in his role as Tauranga Art Gallery director, while also meeting the challenge of curating at a time when international artists are locked out by closed borders.
"I'm also really looking to other possibilities to expanding our footprint in the city and really trying to seek out new partnerships, seeking out new opportunities, so that we can deliver more for the community."
He understands, as Wallis said, that Covid-19 has made an impact on the arts - although unlike in other severely affected sectors, Cleland believes it has created an appetite.
Arts and culture were bricks and mortar of a city alongside the infrastructure but Tauranga had not celebrated local artists, culture or history enough, Cleland said.
"Art is a vital part of culture that shapes our worldviews, allows us to tell our stories, allows us to embrace and pause to think about new technologies into our world.
"It performs a whole range of things, and I haven't even touched upon the ways in which it fundamentally enables us to think differently, and with more meaning about life."
However, working in the gallery was a beacon for the direction Cleland hoped the city would move in - not just because of the beauty of the space, but because of the culture and thought-provoking material it would often hold.
"There is a lot of fresh energy and fresh energy for how the arts can play a bigger role in central Tauranga, and I think that is something to get excited about.
"Once we realign our values in that way a lot of good things can happen."
Gabrielle Vincent will be making frequent trips down from Auckland so she can focus on her new role as the Tauranga Art's Festival artistic director, which takes place from October 21 to 31.
It was the significant population growth that excited Vincent in the first instance and she now looks forward to crafting a show that delivers to all of Tauranga's residents.
"Within the festival, I am particularly interested in creating projects where the community is at the centre. I am a lover of all artforms, and I hold many connections with artists across Aotearoa.
"With the current border restrictions, bringing in international artists may not be possible, however, the creativity happening within this country at the moment is really energising for me, and I want to celebrate what our artists have to offer."
There is much to be applauded when it came to arts in Tauranga, but an arts festival was more important than now than ever, she said.
"It brings entertainment, hope, laughter, challenging conversations and new ways of thinking. Festivals energise a place and enrich the lives of its inhabitants."