When three like minds get together to produce a key destination for contemporary New Zealand art in a Wairarapa setting, the outcome is the Reform Gallery ? an art gallery of which Carterton can be proud.
An almost chance encounter at a Wellington caf? recently brought together Gerad Taylor, an illustrator for over twenty years, and Barry Ellis a designer and painter. Over a cup of very good L'affaire coffee the conversation turned to considering new job opportunities, perhaps opening an art gallery ? and Barry was definitely interested!
The outcome of this discussion led Carterton-based Gerad to buy the historic Reformed Congregation of New Zealand church (hence the name, Reform Gallery), on Carterton's High Street South, opposite one of Wairarapa's busiest supermarket, NewWorld. Gerad's wife Anne was also enthusiastic about this new venture ? a retail gallery that would include a varied and inspiring art gallery was in her opinion an excellent way to connect with the community through exhibition 'projects' in which Carterton people could be directly involved. Anne has worked as a writer and has been active in arts administration.
Says Gerad: "Last year this historic building came on the market at a time that coincided with me looking for new opportunities, having been working at home for several years as an illustrator.
"My interest in art grew from the years when I was a student studying graphic art at what was then called the School of Design, but later became known as Wellington Polytechnic. I was eventually to become a tutor there for two years before moving to Australia where I became a freelance illustrator for around 10 years. I came back to New Zealand, married, and resumed my career as a graphic artist."
Anne Taylor has previously enjoyed a wide ranging career both here and overseas, writing and editing for various publications. Three years ago she worked as a publicist at the City Gallery, Wellington.
"With this new venture I'm responsible for the managing and administration side of the gallery," she says.
Barry Ellis says his career has almost exclusively followed the arts, he had his own design practice in Wellington.
"I started out as an apprentice sign-writer at New Zealand Railway studios in Wellington. I worked for a considerable time there eventually taking up the position of head designer. From there I went on to the Industrial Design Council, promoting design education in both schools and universities, talking to students about design. I later became a design consultant and was also involved in some part-time Wellington Polytechnic tutoring. At the Polytechnic I met Gerad.
"Midway during my career I moved to Christchurch and worked for Dennis Chapman. He was what I would call an electronic entrepreneur, one who was responsible for miniaturising back up power systems for telecommunications. My job was to get young people excited about the electronics industry and working within the Careers Expos that they ran then I travelled all over the country. Dennis and I must have produced over a quarter of a million posters promoting the industry! They were great days.
"Now I've made the move from Wellington and am resident artist at the gallery (there's a small flat at the rear of the gallery), painting full time and loving every minute of it."
The team have a vision. They say they will be running a retail gallery with approximately five themed exhibitions a year. Local artists and Wairarapa themes will feature, alongside work from outside the region. There will be a range of prices which will make artwork accessible to a cross section of the community. There will be one exhibition "project" each year in which the people of Carterton will be directly involved, for example, a children's Christmas art show. Already on sale are art greeting cards, crafts and jewellery.
Gerad says the working artist's studio adjacent to the gallery is designed to give visitors access to the resident artist, Barry Ellis, so that they can become familiar with the process of "art making".
"We've started running evening life drawing classes and these will be an ongoing feature of the gallery," Gerad adds. "There's also potential to run other arts related classes and workshops."