Arts revival in Christchurch

 

The gradual recovery of the arts in Christchurch has never been more evident than in this past month and much of it, I’m proud to say as a board member now, was funded in part by Creative New Zealand.

In July I attended no fewer than six arts milestones each of them showing just how far the city has come in the last three to four years:

– the launch of a new Rubble Artists Editions project, matching up-and-coming artists with temporary publicly visible exhibition space

– a sold out season of Blood Brothers at the Court Theatre with superb production values for a granary venue!

– a brilliant performance of Mahler’s huge Resurrection Symphony with 120 players (half of them from the Melbourne Youth orchestra) and 100 in the choir. This showed just how far the CSO has come since its disintegrated state in the year after the February quake when it couldn’t play for months and months. It was performed in an Air Force aircraft museum surrounded by planes. Imagine what it could do with a decent performance venue.

– the opening of NZ Opera’s La Boheme in what at most times is a basketball stadium. Thanks to substantial support from CNZ the production values, the performance and the atmosphere was first class. This is the first big proscenium arch NZ Opera show in town since the end of 2010 and it was worth the wait.

All these three events were within ten days of each other and the buzz in the city was palpable On July 18 I went to the sold-out opening night of upcoming playwright (Roger Hall’s daughter) Pip Hall’s play Ache at the Court’s new studio space in its daytime rehearsal room. The audience was mostly under 40. There were no parks in the enormous car park at the converted granary because of a sold- out season in the main stage. Afterwards there was even less parking when a packed house of kids were coming in for the twice weekly improv show Scared Scriptless.

It is so heartening to see such a big public response to the arts in their temporary venues – a granary, an Air Force museum and makeshift gallery spaces Finally I attended two glittering occasions, one of them at the top of the gondola looking over our slowly recovering city – to raise funds for both the CSO and the Court. Both need a solid foundation behind their proposed rebuild in the central city. But neither can afford to own their own building -apparently a recipe for disaster for an arts organisation facing high opex. So the argy-bargy continues with the council and the government as to where and how they can be accommodated. I met with CNZ man on the arts precinct ground Chris Herbert to learn more about these hold ups and frustrations affecting the arts community and remain just as frustrated as he is with the lack of progress. It’s such a shame when the arts organisations themselves are demonstrating such energy, commitment and excellence.

 

 

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