• Fraser Williamson
  • Meg Andrews performing as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth
  • Caryn Spencer
  • Margot McRae

Art in their hearts

This month, we’re celebrating the arts on the Shore in our Channel Q & A. For this issue, we spoke to people who shine a spotlight on their own creative endeavours on this side of bridge. These locals share why they love what they do and why they feel the arts hold so much importance in our community.

Fraser’s inspiration from his surroundings

Visual artist, Fraser Williamson, has been creating paintings and illustrations for over 35 years. He grew up on the Shore in the 1960s and says it was a different and diverse place, even recounting gangs and the Navy battling on a main road. He spent much of his time at Cheltenham beach, swimming, snorkelling and canoeing. Fraser regularly exhibits his paintings at his local gallery, Flagstaff Gallery, and draws inspiration from his surroundings and time spent in Tonga, New Zealand and Spain. Fraser talks to Channel Mag about the meaning behind his work and seeing his art through the lens of others.

What’s your role in the arts?
I’m a visual artist and illustrator. I painted and drew since I was conscious. I feel like I always did it. I still troll the inner landscape for content that can express what I feel about the world we live in.

What do you love about being involved in this field?
My place in the arts is as a person who tries to inhabit that space between dream and waking reality. I hunt for images that contain the emotional and spiritual meaning I’m sensing. Often someone has bought a piece of my work and when asked how they see it, their idea of the work is so personal and so dense with meaning I cannot impose what I had in mind when I painted it on them.

What are the benefits of the arts to our local community?
Art provides recognition of deep connection and meaning. Producing images for me is providing a mirror in which the new owner of the work can see themselves and their world afresh… packed with belonging and meaning.

What new film, book or artwork are you coveting at the moment and why?
John Phillip Newell has written a book called 'Sacred Earth Sacred Soul’. He is looking, as he has with his other books, at the spirituality of the Celts and holding the Earth and all people as sacred. Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit palaeontologist, at an early point in his life heard a voice saying, ‘Do not be afraid it is I’, coming from matter. I long to embody this reality… oneness with all that is. This is what I am reading/contemplating as a stranger in a strange land.

Cary’s dual career in sculpture and social work

Cary Spencer is a local artist and social worker who’s exhibiting at Sculpture OnShore this November. She has lived on the North Shore for most of her life and has always been creative minded, she says. As a child, she was often found whittling wood, shells or anything that she could get her hands on. The drive to sculpt didn’t stop there. Cary travelled to Greece and Hawaii to study art and sculpture. Cary describes herself as having a dual career, one in the arts and the other in social services, working on the front line with those suffering from family harm. So she says it is particularly meaningful to her that proceeds from each exhibition at Sculpture OnShore will be donated to Women's Refuge New Zealand. She answers questions from Channel about her creative life and other local artists she admires.

What’s your role in the arts?
Sculptor, artisan, creative dabbler.

What do you love about being involved in this field?
Being inspired by other amazing artists is pretty cool. There is a great sense of community and a creative energy that is shared, whether you are participating in an exhibition or an art class or otherwise. Creating art that people enjoy looking at, and perhaps marvel at is a pretty good way to be involved too.

Any local Shore artists or artwork that you really admire and why?
I really admire local artist Bill Hayes; his bronze artworks are often quite funky and thought provoking. Recently, I have really enjoyed the chandelier installation at the Botany Town centre by artist Wendy Hannah. I recommend taking a look; it's pretty impressive.

What are the benefits of the arts to our local community?
The benefits are wide ranging, from fostering a sense of community and identity, to enhancing critical thinking, imagination and open mindedness (especially important for our children and youth). Viewing art is an enjoyable activity for many people and art events/exhibitions etc bring economic benefits to the local areas they are in.  

What new film, book or artwork are you currently coveting and why?
The Swimmers is a pretty inspirational film about pursuing your dreams in the midst of adversity. It’s worth a watch if you need a bit of inspiration to keep going when times are hard.

Visit nzsculptureonshore.co.nz for more information, the exhibition runs from November 4-19, 2023.

Meg wears many artistic hats!

Meg Andrews is an actor, director and the marketing and box office coordinator at The PumpHouse Theatre in Takapuna. Meg grew up in Manawatū, which she says has an incredible theatre scene. Her formative years were shaped by many creative mentors and theatre has always been a huge part of her life and identity. She says her whānau encouraged this wholeheartedly. Straight out of high school, Meg studied at the Performing Arts School in Palmerston North before moving to Auckland in 2011 to study screen acting at South Seas Film and TV School. She says that she’s still a small town girl at heart, bringing those small town community values to every creative project. Meg has worked professionally as an actor and director for the past 10 years and, recently, she co-founded Chocolate & Carnage Theatre with her partner, to create a safe, exciting space for creatives to make art and to amplify the voices of the Māori and LGBTQIA+ communities. She talks to Channel about all things theatre and the importance of arts to our local community.

What’s your role in the arts?
Like many artistic souls, I wear many hats! I am primarily an actor, but also a director, marketer and producer. My day job is at The PumpHouse Theatre as their Marketing and Box Office Coordinator.

What do you love about being involved in this field?
It’s a space for the ‘misfits’ of the world to feel accepted. Theatre is more than entertainment for the community. It is a profoundly life changing art form for both the participants and audience members. Storytelling is the beating heart of a community, and of my life.

Any local Shore artists or artwork that you really admire and why?
My role at The PumpHouse means that I’m lucky enough to meet a plethora of Shore-based artists, and each of them has something I really admire. Here are a few stand outs for me:

  • Angela Antony. An absolute stalwart of the theatre scene, and a very important person in the history of the theatre world on the shore. I will praise her every day of the week!
  • Geoff Allen. He uplifts artists and art and is actively involved in many creative groups.
  • Jenn Onyeiwu. An extremely gifted actor who I have directed. Remember her name, as you’ll definitely be seeing it in lights one day!
  • Rhiannon Hadlow. A game changer who is becoming a force in the performance art world.
  • My partner, playwright Mark Wilson who is writing stories that will be treasured for years to come.
  • And this one will be controversial, but I actually really dig the giant O piece of art in Oruamo Reserve on Glenfield Road. (I love weird things!)

What are the benefits of the arts to our local community?
Now more than ever, we desperately need the arts (and we need them funded.) Life has been extraordinarily tough over the past few years and our community on the Shore would benefit greatly from more art; it enriches cultural life, and fosters creativity, self-expression, and social cohesion. The opportunity to express yourself artistically (whether you’re directly involved in the arts or simply enjoy the arts) is powerful for establishing a vibrant community. The arts, particularly theatre, encourage dialogue and understanding, ultimately making our community a more effervescent and inclusive place to live.
Frequently, I see first-hand how impactful theatre is on an audience, and there really isn’t a perfect way to describe how meaningful that is to our community, and life.

What new film, book or artwork are you coveting at the moment and why?
Maybe this is cliché, but… the Barbie movie! It’s everything I want in a film: nostalgia, inclusivity, playfulness, heart wrenching yet empowering monologues, a dash of absurdity and a lot of women! It really captured my inner child's fascination with imagination and made me reflect on my place in the world.

To find out what’s on at The PumpHouse Theatre, go to pumphouse.co.nz

Margot’s passion for theatre and heritage

Margot McRae has lived in Devonport for 40 years and worked as a journalist, researcher, and writer. She is now the co-chairperson of the Victoria Theatre Trust, a group that works to develop The Victoria Theatre as a cinema, performing arts space and community arts centre. She has campaigned for heritage protection through the Devonport Heritage group and was heavily involved with the re-opening of the historic Victoria Theatre 15 years ago. Margot talks to Channel Mag about her work on the Trust, the annual play reading series that she’s involved with and the importance of art for the local area.

What’s your role in the arts?
Since 2018, I have worked with Sir Roger Hall on an annual play-reading series at The Vic, showcasing three New Zealand plays over the last five years.

What do you love about being involved in this field?
I really enjoy promoting New Zealand plays and giving playwrights a chance to hear their scripts read before a live audience. As a playwright myself, I know how valuable it is to test your work in a theatre.

Any local Shore artists or artwork that you really admire and why?
Sir Roger Hall is an inspiration to all writers as he’s forged a great career in the arts over many years.

What are the benefits of the arts to our local community?
Of all the arts, theatre is the best at reflecting what’s going on in our society. The Vic Play Reading Series brings funny and dramatic theatre to our audience at a very affordable price.

What new film, book or artwork are you coveting at the moment and why?
I can’t wait to see actors bring Greg McGee’s 'The Write Stuff’ to life and ‘Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joanne’ by Carl Nixon is a hilarious take on dealing with moral dilemmas. These plays have never been staged in Auckland.

Visit victheatretrust.org.nz for more information.

Issue 147 November 2023