Mercury Bay Art Escape - A Brief History
In 2006, the ideas and initiative of local artists Betty Collings and Dave Fowell established the highly successful Mercury Bay Cultural Weekend, featuring 20 Open Art Studios. This showcasing of Mercury Bay’s outstanding artistic and cultural diversity for both local residents and the greater New Zealand art community rapidly evolved into a regular and wider event.
Renamed the Mercury Bay Art Escape in 2008, Art Escape featured a single weekend Open Studio Tour. The website was launched and with regular upgrades quickly became a much viewed, year round exhibition space for Mercury Bay artists.
A major milestone in 2011 was the formation of The Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust (MBAET) to formally recognise the increasing status and professionalism of the event. In 2012 the Trustees’ decision to recognise the growth of the Art Tour and artists’ expectations saw the Open Studio Tour confirmed as an annual event and in 2013 the first professional curator and administrator was appointed.
The Trust gained its first Community and Local Government Grant before the 2011 Studio Tour, enabling it to expand and cover two weekends with more artists and events than ever before. The number of visitors continues to increase with each Tour, with 2015 being the most successful ever with a record number of participating artists, studio visits, sales and an increase in visitors from outside the Coromandel region.
August 2013 saw the inaugural Coromandel Art and Craft Fair organised by MBAET for Coromandel wide artists and craftspeople and held in Whitianga with great public support. This has become an annual event. In November 2013 the first annual MBAET Student Scholarships were announced in conjunction with Mercury Bay Area School.
The Opening Night of the Tour at Hot Water Beach is a sell out event which has seen Sir James Wallace, Dick Frizzell, Jeff Thomson, Dr. Carole Shepheard and others as guest speaker.
The “Long Lunch”, a premium biennial event organised by Jane and Tom Parson, has become a major fundraising event for the Trust, with guests being given the opportunity to be part of an auction and buy selected artworks.
In January 2015 Michael Smither, one of New Zealand’s most famous contemporary artists, Otama resident and foundation member of the Mercury Bay Art Escape, was appointed the Art Escape’s first ‘Patron Artist’. This is in recognition both of his standing as a New Zealand artist, but more importantly, the contribution he makes to all of the arts in our region because of his stature and support for the Art Escape and it’s member artists.
Artists Professional Development workshops were introduced in 2015 with an overwhelming response from members and local artists.
We get tremendous generosity and support from our community leaders, sponsors and volunteers and expect the Mercury Bay Art Escape to continue to grow and be an outstanding experience for all our visitors and artists alike.