Cath Watson has been the director of A Gallery since the start of 2020, and is a new trustee of the Rick Rudd Foundation. She and her husband Campbell came to Whanganui from Wellington in 2005 and Watson has been embedded in the local arts community ever since as a trustee and treasurer for the Whanganui Community Arts Centre, a friend of the Sarjeant Gallery, a Creative Communities assessor and an administrator for the Whanganui Creative Communities Scheme. Watson let the Chronicle peruse the gallery at 85 Glasgow St before she answered Mike Tweed's 10 quickfire questions.
What is your favourite thing to do in Whanganui?
I think one of my favourite things is coming back to Whanganui when you've been away on a road trip somewhere. You come down through the Parapara and suddenly you're home. Everything here is so beautiful, and we don't realise how lucky we are. I also love to spend time with my hubby, Campbell.
If there was one artist you could curate an exhibition for, who would it be? And why?
Grayson Perry. He is absolutely fascinating and his art is amazing. He's also a really interesting guy and has an alter ego called Claire, who he creates bodies of work around. He is the sort of person you'd like to have as a friend, I think.
What started you in a career in the arts?
I've always been interested in art, and that has to be the starting point I suppose. For us, my husband was in employment in Wellington that was very intense, so we decided to take a sabbatical for a couple of years and come up here for art school. We applied to do a glass course in 2006 and never looked back, and never left town.
How do you think Whanganui has changed over the years?
At this point, I think she's like a woman, she's hit her 40s and hit her stride. It'll all be onwards and upwards from here. The town is certainly busier, and you'd hope that we'll hit that critical mass point where, not only do we have new people coming into town, but the new people then result in more industry and things happening here as well.
Who are some of your favourite local artists and why?
There are so many artists here whose work I enjoy, and I enjoy the people. I don't think I could actually say just one, or just one group. I associate with a lot of people, and you have relationships on different levels with different people. You enjoy the interactions with them. People do such a diverse and interesting range of works, so how can you pick just one?
Would you rather dance to every song you heard or sing along to every song you heard?
I'd have to say I'm a "dancer", and I'm not particularly good. When my husband Campbell wants a laugh, he says "sing to me, Cath". I oblige him on occasion. Back at primary school there was the end-of-year show with singing and dancing, and I think my dancing ability was such that I was sat on the front of stage with a bongo drum.
How do you think Whanganui will look in 50 years?
Hopefully it'll just be a little bit more than it is now, but not too much. You'd hope it doesn't lose the things that make it part of what you really enjoy - the friendliness, the compactness and the generosity. You don't want to lose that in the rat race. In saying that, we can't block ourselves off from evolving. You can't stand still, you've got to keep progressing. It would be nice if we could push more back into that central shopping area. Sprawl isn't good, especially when it takes out good horticultural or farming land. We need to keep it tight and keep it around the river.
What is an art form you've never attempted, but are amazed by?
Tapestry, and there's no good reason why I haven't tried it. It's got an amazing history, and there have been some amazing practitioners.
Three people from history to dinner, who would they be and why?
Grayson Perry, Marianne Faithfull and Winston Churchill. That would be really interesting. Churchill was a very complex person, who was involved in some very unfortunate things that happened in World War I, but then was that great orator in a time of crisis in World War II, who held a country together almost. He was also a painter so, in effect, there would be three artists at the table.
Do you think pursuing a career in the arts has become more accepted and encouraged in recent years?
That's a really interesting one, because I think we're more accepting now of a wider range of art, and of things that wouldn't be accepted as art in the past. For a long period of time, and even now for some people, art is paintings on walls. That is also a way of controlling people or putting them in their place if you only look at art like that. We are lucky that we are now at a point in time where people can express themselves in a variety of mediums and in a variety of ways.