24 Latest Christchurch news at www.star.kiwi Our People Thursday April 12 2018 Blair Jackson New gallery director driven by Blair Jackson is the new director of the Christchurch Art Gallery after Jenny Harper stepped down after 11 years. He talks to Julia Evans about the new job The Star What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you after taking over as the director of the art gallery? At the moment, there’s not really such a thing as a normal day. But my role in the gallery is really about setting the direction and strategic focus for this institution. It’s all about working with a team because it’s not just the director that makes this place what it is, it’s a team of staff. The director’s role is to lead that team and set out a plan for the future of the gallery, which includes developing shows, public programmes and the collection. Was working in art galleries, and becoming a director, a goal for you? Like a lot of steps in life, things happen and you take that path and they lead you some else that you may not have considered. So certainly when I went to art school, I never considered that I might end up being a gallery director. But I’ve spent a lot of time working in galleries now, probably worked in different galleries for the last 25 to 30 years so it’s the right role for me at the moment. At a certain point, when I realised I was better at working in a gallery than making it myself, my focused changed. You went to art school? What was your medium? I went through the Canterbury University Fine Arts programme, through the painting department. Did you want to be the next big name in painting when you left university? I never had any thoughts about being somebody famous in terms of being an artist. I don’t think anybody leaves art school with that intention or even having had that thought. I certainly don’t know anyone who left art school thinking that way. In fact, you step outside of art school and its just the beginning all over again. Have you always been into art? Of course, it’s one of those things that has always driven me. Art and music, film. Just the arts in general. It’s the world where I’ve spent my whole life. But it’s hard to remember when it started. I think it came because you get good at drawing in the classroom and other kids notice you’re good so they get you to draw things for them, until you realise you’re quite good at drawing yourself. It just grew from there. What are your other hobbies? I enjoy music a lot. I’m an avid music listener and I enjoy live music and bands. I collect music on vinyl. It’s a really eclectic catalogue. My record collection ranges from interesting stuff from the 60s through to contemporary stuff and a lot of New Zealand music. I started university in the 1980s so there was certainly a Flying Nun factor in my life, I also spent 10 years in Dunedin. But I also like sound and more experimental music. What was the last live band and last film you saw? Any good recommendations. The last live band was The National at Villa Maria in Auckland. It was really great, they were excellent. But the last film, I can’t actually remember. I haven’t really had a chance to go to the movies lately, it’s mostly been Netflix at home when I ARTISTIC: Art gallery director Blair Jackson has had a busy time preparing for his new role. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER get a chance. The last television series we watched on Netflix was Requiem, it was quite good actually. A little bit of a supernatural thriller. To be honest, in the last few months with applying for a new job films and television have taken a bit of a back seat. Can you tell me a little bit about your family? I’m married. I have a wife, Kim, who is a community support worker here in Christchurch. We have two children who have both left home now, they’re both living in Wellington. One daughter who is in her fourth and final year of her fine arts degree at Massey University and our son, who has just started his first year at Victoria doing a music degree. There’s a lot of creative flair, them more so. What have been some highlights of your career in the art world and in galleries? There are a lot. We change our exhibitions every 16-or-so weeks. One of the best experiences was when we reopened the gallery after being closed for five years since the earthquake back in December 2015. Just the response that people had to the shows and the range of new art works, a lot of which people hadn’t seen before that we’d been collected during that period of closure. Just that warmth and response that the community had and we received. Just the happiness for everyone when the gallery reopened was pretty amazing. I’ve also enjoyed how the community came together to help us acquire some amazing works of art including a work by renowned artist Ron Mueck.
The Star Latest Christchurch news at www.star.kiwi Thursday April 12 2018 25 a love of art In terms of art in Christchurch, how important has it been to the city following the earthquakes? I think about it as hard to imagine the city without the art and without the creative response that grew from the earthquakes. In fact, its completely unimaginable to think about the city if that hadn’t happened, it would be pretty bleak and desolate, so I think that makes it hugely important. It was hugely important to me and my family staying in the city after. The art and the gallery made us want to stay and I hope it had a similar effect on other people. Are there any artists and exhibitions you’ve got your eye on now that you’re director? We’ve got a plan in place about the exhibitions and how they’ll change and how we’ll move them for the next two years. We are always planning two to five years out. We’re always looking at the work that the art’s community is making. Our focus is local, national and international and it grows out like that. The gallery fulfils a number of roles and we operate on a number of levels. We have a collection that has a strong local focus. But we’re showing local art, national art and sometimes international art. It’s important to bring national and international work into exhibition in the city. The building offers multiple gallery spaces. So you can have something that’s quite challenging next to something quite familiar. We want people to have a range of art experiences when they step into the building. Do you have any particular personal goals you’ve set yourself with the new job? The goal for me is to carry on the good work that this gallery has done. There’s been a range of amazing moments in this gallery’s history. My main goal is to build our audiences back up again to where they were before COLLECTION: Former art gallery director Jenny Harper and new director Blair Jackson during the Ron Mueck fundraising campaign. the earthquake and build a real sense of community for this space. And I hear the art gallery has an important birthday coming up, what celebrations are planned? In May the gallery in this building turns 15. We threw a 10th birthday party in the middle of town while we were closed. We thought we’d mark this occasion with an event called 15, which we’re starting to market now. It’ll be open to the public on May 4, coinciding with an opening by local artist, Tony de Lautour. An exhibition of his work and a publication that’s being published about Tony’s work. There will be a whole range of activities in the gallery from about 7pm at night, including bands and DJs and art making, food trucks, a cash bar. It’ll be a great party to celebrate the occasion. We’ve done a couple of events like it over the last few years. We try to do one a year. They’re really exciting and fun and the whole evening is about people having an art experience and meeting their friends over a range of activities. The last one we did, we had about 3000 people. HAZARD: Coastal-Burwood Ward city councillor David East wants WorkSafe New Zealand to put pressure on the Hawke St car park owners to fix the dangerous potholes. PHOTO: GILBERT WEALLEANS WorkSafe told of car park potholes • By Sophie Cornish WORKSAFE NEW Zealand has been approached in a bid to finally repair the potholes in New Brighton’s Hawke St car park. Coastal-Burwood Ward city councillor David East wants WorkSafe to pressure the car park’s private owners into repairing the potholes which are a “trip and vehicle” hazard. WorkSafe chief inspector assessments southern Darren Handforth said it may be able to take action under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, “as a person conducting a business or undertaking.” Mr Handforth said WorkSafe is aware of the concerns raised by Cr East about the car park. “WorkSafe has completed an assessment visit to the site and is engaging with the owner to advise them that it is their responsibility to manage their risks appropriately.” Different parts of the car park are owned by various people and the Coastal-Burwood Community Board recently wrote to them about its concerns around health and safety. Cr East said the biggest issue in the past has been getting in touch with the landlords and owners and getting them to agree to anything. “The board appreciates that multi-ownership of the parking space may present a difficulty in co-ordinating repair/resurfacing but felt obliged to pass these concerns onto you,” said the letter. One reply has been received so far from an owner who is willing to discuss the issue. However, all the owners would have to agree to undertake work. Cr East said there had been a “number of incidences” in the car park of people injuring themselves which had gone unreported. “I’ve always thought that it has been quite amazing that we haven’t had any serious accidents or senior citizens perhaps tripping in those potholes and doing themselves some damage.” He is confident the new approach will bring results. “I think the WorkSafe involvement may prove to be the lever that we are looking for.”