A new umbrella organisation, Woodville Art + History, has a big vision for the town and the Tararua District, and part of their ambitious plan is to acquire the former Woodville library and iSite.
"If we could have that old building which also links into the Lindauer Studio, it would be the perfect base for our exhibitions, with a permanent gallery for our district, signalling that Woodville is the art gateway of Tararua," Bruce Hutton told the Dannevirke News before last month's Tararua Lindauer exhibition.
Hutton said Woodville Art + History wanted to take ownership of the former site to strengthen work being done to build tourism and to provide a base for the arts centred on Lindauer's name and reputation.
"We believe in a win-win situation, which would increase our visitor numbers," Hutton said.
"This year's Lindauer art exhibition was very successful and attracted 51 artists. We've a good track record and we aren't a fly-by-night organisation.
"We have the ability to attract finance for the work required to bring the building up to the required standards at no cost to council."
Hutton and his group have presented a proposal to the Tararua District Council for community use of the former Woodville Library and iSite building on Vogel St. In 2016, the council decided its current iSite, Woodville Library and Lindauer Studio was a major earthquake risk requiring an estimated $850,000 to enlarge and totally refurbish and opted instead to refurbish the old engineering services building for its new library and iSite new premises, which opened in 2017.
This left the Lindauer Studio stranded and visitors having to make an appointment to view the studio.
"Currently the Lindauer Studio is opened sporadically by volunteers on requests from groups, but we lost 250 visitors a year when the old library and iSite closed and staff moved to new premises across the road," Hutton said.
"That loss of visitors has resulted in a $1200 a year loss in donations."
The Lindauer Studio was built onto the old library and iSite building in 2001.
"The association with painter Gottfried Lindauer has proved a significant tourism selling point for our town and a springboard to launch interest in the arts district-wide," a reported presented to the district council has said.
Woodville Art + History want to lease the former library and iSite building for a two-year period, rent-free while it refurbishes the premises and sets up its operations. The group would be responsible for electricity, water rates and contents insurance. At the end of the two years the group hopes to either extend the lease agreement or have the council offer it the option of purchasing the building outright.
"This is a great opportunity for Woodville and the Tararua District," Hutton told district councillors.
The group has about 40 members and 100 subscribers to an email list, which is the basis of support. The group connects with 86 artists in the district and has a working association with Hutt Art, which has asked 31 local artists to take part in its Artists from the Bush exhibition in June.
In answer to councillor Shirley Hull's question about manning the building, Hutton said it was planned to have a paid staff member four hours a day and increasing the volunteer base to cover other hours.
Councillor Andy Thompson asked about Woodville Art + History's plans to eventually purchase the building outright.
"We have a person who is able to put in money to get us started and we would have to get a funding grant," Hutton said.
Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis thanked Hutton for his passion.
The district council is discussing the proposal. The public is excluded.