Whanganui's newest business is about to open up in one of its oldest buildings. Derelict for years, the Ridgway Chambers building will finally get a new lease on life, housing an enterprise led by internationally renowned glass artist Katie Brown.

"I'm starting a gallery called Brown and Co," Brown said. "With probably about 10 other artists."

"The gallery will show a mix of glass, glass engraving, furniture, sculpture, print, painting and probably jewellery."

Brown's work has strong historical ties to the old town area. In 2004 she built a hot glass facility called Chronicle Glass' with fellow glass artists Lyndsay Patterson and Karen Ellett.


It also involved a major renovation and provided a boost for the city's emerging arts sector.

"The three of us started off with not a lot of money but we got some investors on board and then worked for two years so it took two years to build with a lot of blood, sweat and tears," Brown said.

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The corner site is the first of three planned restorations in the old town, driven by local dentist, councillor and landlord,Hadleigh Reid, who wants to lend his support to Whanganui's arts and heritage community.

"He has been amazing," Brown said. "He's really supported me on this journey and supported Brown and Co."

The heritage of the district is reflected in the new name for the gallery.

"I wanted to go with the history in an 'old-school' sort of name, in an old-school font to support the building. If it wasn't there I probably wouldn't have called it Brown and Co."

The diverse group of artists exhibiting at Brown and Co include well-known Whanganui artist Vanessa Edwards, and Claire Bell, one of the few glass mural engravers in the world.

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"[Glass mural engraving] is really quite rare," said Bell. "I think there's maybe one or two in the UK, one in Germany, there might be some in the States."


Brown also hopes to inspire the next generation of artists in this very special space.

"I want to start up an arts programme for children. I've got a couple of mentors who are helping me come up with a plan for that," Brown said.

"I'm going to teach painting and drawing, and then the idea is that they learn the medium and it goes through to an exhibition, so they can bring their families and friends along.

"I really want to inspire young children and it's probably my way of giving back to the community. I saw how children would react to seeing somebody do something different.

"You don't have to sit in an office. You can make money off your art.

"I really like that and so I'd like to try and do that at Brown and Co, to inspire. Even if I could just inspire one child to do something a little bit different."

The gallery will feature both local and national artists and will be open in time for Artists Open Studios March 2020.

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