Visitor numbers for the Pattillo Whanganui Arts Review this year show the exhibition is growing in popularity and draws more people from out of town every year – and that's the plan, says principal sponsor Anne Pattillo.
Anne Pattillo's long-term passion for art, the Whanganui arts community and the Sarjeant Gallery is unmistakable.
"The connection started years ago, when I fell in love with the Sarjeant Gallery in my 20s," Pattillo said.
"I returned almost every year and in 2006, I offered a scholarship for emerging artists at the Whanganui Quay School of Art. That course changed in 2012, so I shifted my support to the strengthening of the beautiful gallery building [at Pukenamu Queen's Park]. Then in 2019, we launched the Pattillo Project."
Her Wellington consultancy business Pattillo has been the principal sponsor of the Whanganui Arts Review for the past three years and plans to support it in this capacity for another two years. The Pattillo Project is the solo artist showcase exhibition granted to the winner of the Arts Review and is a huge value "add on" for the winning Arts Review artist, this year Andrea Gardner.
As the Arts Review award winners were announced online this year rather than at the traditional Arts Review opening night and awards ceremony, it meant Pattillo missed meeting the artists, which she regrets – and also seeing the public's reaction to the work hanging in the gallery is a highlight for her. Pattillo notes it is certainly possible, though, to gain a sense of each artist through their artworks.
As in each year, many of the Arts Review pieces are for sale and Pattillo is usually one of the buyers; however, her major investment is in the Arts Review, the sponsorship of which she sees as part of working towards the Sarjeant Gallery's reopening in 2023 at Pukenamu Queen's Park.
"I do love being able to say that each year the Arts Review is getting a little bit bigger and a little bit better, not a major transformation because it was good when we arrived, and will be very good when we leave. I like that sense of how we can add value to the artists in this community," she says.
"Whanganui has artists who choose here for a whole range of reasons. It's got an institution which I think is world class in the Sarjeant Gallery, I just think we lucked out. It's a good place to be part of."
The Open Award prize has increased in value over time as Pattillo wanted to give more than a cheque and encourage the winner to stretch up to the next level.
"Increasing the prizemoney was recognising the status of the award in my view, having the Pattillo Project solo show for the winner in this gallery is the language of successful artists."
This year it makes "total sense", Pattillo says, that the three main prizes are further enhanced by the addition of the Making It programme designed by Whanganui & Partners to connect Whanganui creatives to specialist support.
"The modern reality is that while art lives in galleries, it also increasingly lives online too, so this year's Open Award winner, Andrea Gardner, will have a website designed, built and hosted by Two Monkeys. I see that increasing the prizemoney and the building of a package of return for the winner is really part of profiling the whole region and its artists.
In addition, this year Pattillo has also funded development of the Arts Review online hub, which is connected to the Sarjeant Gallery website. The hub tells the story of the Arts Review, the story of the artists and sponsors as well as acting as an online gallery - making possible perusal and purchase from anywhere in the world.