Just as the Whanganui arts community is lamenting the imminent closure of Space Gallery, owner and curator Sarah Williams has made a stunning announcement ...

Space will be back offering something bigger, better and different in 2019.

Liz Wylie talked to Williams about her plans for the new gallery and the phenomenal success of the old one.

Opening a gallery at 64 Taupo Quay in 2012 was a big leap of faith for the young fine arts graduate and now she is ready to make an even bigger one.

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Space Gallery has hosted more than 200 exhibitions in six years, running 30 to 40 solo and group exhibitions each year.

Now Williams has secured a lease for the building next door, 66 Taupo Quay, and has plans to run three galleries - two viewing galleries available for established artists with solo or group shows to exhibit for two weeks, and a third pop-up gallery available for emerging artists with a weekly exhibition schedule.

Williams graduated from UCOL Whanganui with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2011 and was also awarded a year-long placement on the national Artists Alliance Mentoring Programme.

Arts graduate Sarah Williams with business graduate Jess Van Der lee at Jubilee stadium in March 2012. Photo/Stuart Munro
Arts graduate Sarah Williams with business graduate Jess Van Der lee at Jubilee stadium in March 2012. Photo/Stuart Munro

Arts philanthropist Anne Pattillo was impressed with Williams' graduate portfolio and sponsored her for the programme.

Lyn Dallison became her mentor and has continued to support her through the years.

"Sarah is tenacious," says Dallison.

"She may have only been in her mid-20s but she was always incredibly hard working and I am not surprised that she has made such a success of Space Gallery."

At the completion of her studies, Williams started work as a courier for The Flower Room in Victoria Ave.

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In a fortuitous moment, she drove past the building at 64 Taupo Quay and saw that it was empty.

"I always liked the building, and I was really thinking about finding space to work and that's how the name came about as well."

Aaron Gash initially shared the space with Williams and helped her establish the gallery.

Whanganui artists showed enthusiasm for the gallery and there were new exhibitions every week during the first year.

"The demand has been truly overwhelming," Williams told the Chronicle in late 2012.

"I feel as though the gallery was on the tip of everyone's tongue.

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"It just so happens it was us to establish, but it could have been anyone - the desire was already there, we were just the catalysts.''

In 2013, Williams became a mother and took six weeks off after the birth of her daughter Addisyn.

"Addisyn has spent a lot of time at Space with me and I've adapted my hours to fit with her needs as she has grown.

"She has seen a lot of art and met many artists during her first years."

Sarah Williams' daughter Addisyn Lamont has been part of the Space story since birth. Photo/Supplied
Sarah Williams' daughter Addisyn Lamont has been part of the Space story since birth. Photo/Supplied

In 2013 Space expanded to include studios when the upstairs rooms became available for lease.

Gash became a studio artist and others moved in to occupy the area which has also become a music venue, entertainment space and night market venue.

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"The studio artists will be staying on and we will keep that going as the upstairs space is on a separate lease," Williams says now.

Williams epitomises the old adage about asking a busy person to help if you want something done and she has strong philanthropic tendencies.

She has paid it forward by offering internships and emerging artist sponsorships to Devyn Staines, Emma Kim and Becka Lee Briggs.

Finding time to produce her own art would seem like an impossibility but she makes time to create work for group exhibitions and aims to hold one solo exhibition each year.

Two of those have involved gallery swaps with Rayner brothers Mark and Paul who exhibited at Space while Williams held a show at their former Guyton St Gallery.

"I run a gallery and have a young child, so it can be really hard to fit in time for my own art. It's good to have that deadline, so I know I have to finish."

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Gallery swaps with Rayner Brothers Mark (left) and Paul have been a highlight for Sarah Williams. Photo/Stuart Munro
Gallery swaps with Rayner Brothers Mark (left) and Paul have been a highlight for Sarah Williams. Photo/Stuart Munro

Then there is her ongoing partnership with Whanganui Women's Network manager Carla Donson in organising the Winter Wonderfest and La Fiesta programmes each year.

"Sarah's enthusiasm and support has been unfailing and has made a real difference in supporting and enriching the lives of local women through the work that we do," says Donson.

Sarah Williams has teamed up with Carla Donson of the Whanganui Women's Network to support the La Fiesta and Winter Wonderfest festivals with events at Space. Photo/Bevan Conley
Sarah Williams has teamed up with Carla Donson of the Whanganui Women's Network to support the La Fiesta and Winter Wonderfest festivals with events at Space. Photo/Bevan Conley

She estimates that around $10,000 has been raised during the past four years.

Space Gallery partnered with Neddal Ayyad to plan and host the first 24-hour Arts Jam in October which raised around $3000 for the Women's Network.

"We are excited to be partnering with Sarah at Space again for our very special tenth birthday celebration of La Fiesta," says Donson.

"We will launch the 2019 festival at the new Space on February 16."

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Neddal Ayyad suggested the 24-hour Art Jam held at Space Gallery in October. Photo/Lewis Gardner
Neddal Ayyad suggested the 24-hour Art Jam held at Space Gallery in October. Photo/Lewis Gardner

The Space night markets Williams launched in 2015 have been a roaring success for vendors and shoppers alike and the 2018 Christmas Market is scheduled for Saturday, December 15.

Williams has a new business partner for the next chapter of her Space story.

"My dad, John Williams, has agreed to come on board.

"He's an architect and he has some great ideas. I think we will really complement each other."

Leigh Anderton-Hall held her 100 cups exhibition at Space Gallery in 2015. Photo/Bevan Conley
Leigh Anderton-Hall held her 100 cups exhibition at Space Gallery in 2015. Photo/Bevan Conley

The new premises was designed by architect Theodore B Jacobsen and the original owner was John Brennan who opened a hotel there in 1896.

A fire destroyed the front upper storey in 1949 but thanks to Brennan's foresight in installing fire escapes, no lives were lost.

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From 1954 until 1963 the building served as Whanganui's Central Police Station and it has served as a clothing factory, carpet store and most recently a martial arts centre.

"The walls are mostly black and grey so we will be in there painting and lightening it up before our opening in February," says Williams.

The new Space business model will enable greater opportunities for nationwide promotion, she says.

"I plan to continue developing the Space Studio and Gallery website and social media platforms which have performed increasingly well."

Space will continue to provide great experiences for the local audience and visitors as well as showcasing a wealth of Whanganui talent to a wider audience.

"It is my hope that the community will continue to support Space in its newest and most exciting phase yet.

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"I look forward to delivering so much more with our community in the next year."

In the meantime, Emma Cunningham's Bejewelled - The Enchanted Garden - A collection of jewels for the body and wall, opens at Space at 5.50pm on Saturday, November 17.