Art guide is a quality production

Roselyn Cloake with The Art of Canterbury guide in the Aigantighe Art Museum's sculpture garden which both feature in the comprehensive guide to art in the region.

By Ellie Constantine - Herald Correspondent | Timaru Herald Newspaper 01/09/08

Roselyn Cloake cantart2FOR ART’S SAKE: Roselyn Cloake with The Art of Canterbury guide in the Aigantighe Art Museum’s sculpture garden which both feature in the comprehensive guide to art in the region. 

An art work in its own right, The Art of Canterbury guide has surprised many with the quality and quantity of art in the region. 

\In December 2007, a comprehensive guide to art and artists in Canterbury was distributed by Arts Canterbury, a group of volunteers devoted to the production and promotion of art in the region. Planning for the guide began in 2001, after the idea was suggested by the Christchurch Community Arts Council, before it was steered into fruition by Arts Canterbury, chairperson David Sell said. Arts Canterbury board member and local artist, Roselyn Cloake, said the board was influenced by art guides being produced in other regions, specifically Nelson which has a guide in its sixth edition. 

The guide is the only book which encompasses the entire region, she said, as smaller centres in the region produced guides in the form of brochures. However, she believed the guide enhanced what others in the region were doing, rather then detracted from them.

Funding for the venture came from a range of places, including the Department of Labour, but ongoing funding came from the Christchurch City Council and the Canterbury Community Trust, Mr Sell said. There was also a lot of local Timaru support for the project. “We recognise the community support, especially the Aigantighe Art Museum and the council who were supportive in helping to promote the arts in the area,’’ Miss Cloake said. It was rather a steep learning curve for those involved as the first issue was created without the benefit of previous experience. This meant they had to calculate how many copies of the guide they could realistically sell and how to market them, Mr Sell said.

They adopted a non-selective entry policy which, though initially risky, turned out to be a good one as it brought many different artists to their attention, he said.“It has certainly been a valuable experience for those of us involved in its production, to learn how many good and interesting artists there are in the Canterbury community.’’ Listings in the guide ranged in price from $100 to $500, depending on the size of the advertisement and if it was for a single artist or gallery.

Distribution of the 4000 copies was largely in the Canterbury region, but there had been some interest from other parts of New Zealand, including from chain bookstore Whitcoulls, who have requested copies for their national network, Mr Sell said. Around 25 per cent of those books printed had sold so far, he said. “We believe it has been a very successful venture artistically, especially considering that it has been done by a group of art enthusiasts rather than business people.’’ The board had received a lot of positive feedback about the guide ``including surprise at the quality and quantity of art in Canterbury’’, Mr Sell said. “Everyone I have spoken to has been very supportive, they have mentioned how great the look and usability of the guide is,’’ Miss Cloake said. Timaru Visitor Information Centre manager, Liz Mather, hoped sales and interest in the book would take off over the summer months, especially around the time of the Timaru Festival of Roses when many visitors came to the region who were interested in the arts scene. “It looks really good because it is really bright.’’ The presentation and quality of the guide was not only praised by the users but also those artists who featured in it as it is a positive marketing tool for them, Miss Cloake said. Miss Cloake’s art featured on the guide’s cover which she described as a huge privilege.

She first became involved in Arts Canterbury over six years ago as her father was also a member. She said she was the youngest involved by about 30 years and she loves how it enables her to contribute to art in the region. “The art community is where I wanted to invest my time and what I have done has created a huge benefit to them.’’ Miss Cloake believed the guide gave her credibility as an artist. As she has no studio, the guide works as a way to direct people to her website where they can then make appointments to see her. The board planned to publish an updated guide every two years. The next issue should be available around October, 2009, depending on how sales of the current issue went, Mr Sell said. There are no plans to change the format of the book as it has been consistently praised, however cover design and layout details may be modified, he said. “There will be people who will feel like they missed out on the first edition, so interest in it will be high,’’ Miss Cloake said.