Right next door to her bookshop, Paige's Book Gallery, Lesley Stead has opened the first gallery of its kind in New Zealand, Lockett Gallery, an exhibition space for book illustrators.
Last Wednesday was the grand opening. Inaugural exhibitor is author and illustrator Sandra Morris, a recent Whanganui acquisition, and her work currently adorns the walls.
With Terry Sarten playing guitar outside, and Carla Donson serving champagne and strawberries inside, it was a scene of merriment and anticipation. It was also the opportunity to see book illustrations outside their normal environment.
Kaumatua Gavin Brooks led with a karakia.
All present joined in the waiata.
Whanganui District Councillor Helen Craig formally opened the Lockett Gallery.
"This is a very special event: A new gallery, unique to New Zealand. Another first in Whanganui ... Lesley, thank you. Not only have we got probably the cutest, nicest and best little bookshop in New Zealand, your beautiful series of children's reading books [Beautiful Whanganui], and now, this unique illustrators' gallery. So well done.
"Council really does appreciate the arts. I've actually got a Fine Arts degree, and that's probably what got me on Council anyway ... and I'm thrilled that Mark Ward is here. Mark is CEO at Whanganui and Partners, the Council's economic development arm.
"How fantastic that New Zealand's [illustrators' gallery] is in Whanganui. Whanganui is continually building its reputation as an artistic home and illustration, of course, is an art."
Helen says the gallery is a substantial addition to the city's arts and gallery scene.
"Illustration makes us fall in love with books."
Lockett is an old Whanganui family and is Lesley's maiden name.
"It is Sandra I have to thank for sowing the seed," says Lesley. "She was the one who said New Zealand doesn't have an illustrators' gallery, and I thought, 'Well, that won't do!' This space was available right next to the shop and I said to Sandra, we're going to do it. And we have done it. I'm hoping it will bring people from far and wide."
Sandra thanked everyone for their support and Lesley for starting the venture.
"It was fantastic coming to Whanganui from Auckland, to be accepted here as an illustrator and to show my work on walls is just great. I owe a lot to Lesley who had this vision," says Sandra. She also thanked Lesley's family for all their help.