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Mercury Bay Art Escape 2019: An art experience extraordinaire.

March 2019

2019 marked a significant change in the creative direction for the Mercury Bay Art Escape.  A much expanded format, including the Tuia 250 street art festival and the Chasing Mercury Art Workshops, resulted in greater public engagement and a richer more fulfilling experience for visitors and locals alike.

MBAE Chairperson and Kuaotunu photographer, Ian Preece, commented “We are thrilled with the results of the collective efforts of the trust, artists and the community.  Feedback from the public has been overwelmingly positive and we have seen an increase in Open Studio visits not only at weekends but across the week as a direct result.”

The two weekends of the Open Studios remain the anchoring event of the Art Escape and artists were generous with their time and energy sharing their art, skills and experiences.


In addition to the Open Studios weekends, events included the Tuia 250 street art in Whitianga, the Chasing Mercury Art Workshops, and Chris Charteris’s interactive sculpture attracted a wide range of visitors and participants.   More importantly it engaged a wide range of the community, especially our younger members – the future generation of artists and art lovers. The other effect was the increase in the number of midweek studio appointments experienced by the artists.

Mercury Bay Trustee, Jane Parson, who organised the Tuia 250 murals commented  “The response from onlookers, whether they be residents or visitors, during the week, was overwhelmingly positive and created an excited and thankful vibe for the artists who have so generously donated their time and skill to bring this Mercury Bay Art Escape project to Whitianga.”


The guest speaker at 2019’s Gala Opening at Hot Waves Cafe was the renowned Thames-based artist, Fatu Feu’u. Fatu kept the audience in thrall with his project to reduce youth suicides, and there was delight at his surprise auction of a donated work of his art. The showcase exhibition at Hot Waves Cafe features new work from all 46 participants member artists and this exhibition will continue until the end of Easter. Visit and vote in “People’s Choice Award” the winner of which will be announced in The Informer in May.

The Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust wishes to thank their community sponsors who see the real value of the event as expressed by our New World Whitianga sponsor Sara Stanley “  have organised a fabulous event. The murals look beautiful, we would love to be involved in the continued development of this annual event.”

If you missed the Open Studios event in March or want to visit artists again, all Mercury Bay Art Escape artists and art groups can be visited throughout the year by appointment.  The 2019 “Guide” to the artist studios is available all year either online or at galleries, cafes and “I” sites in Mercury Bay. For all information see

A Major Whitianga Street Art Festival with Mercury Bay Art Escape is to happen in March

December 2018

Mercury Bay Art Escape is delighted to report that they have received a grant from the Tuia 250 Lotteries Fund for the Tuia 250 Whitianga Street Art Festival to be held in March 2019. This grant will enable a nationally significant street art festival to happen on the walls of Whitianga as one of the events to mark Tuia 250 First Encounters commemorations in 2019. Tuia – Encounters 250 has a particular resonance in Te Whanganui a Hei (Mercury Bay) as this was an arrival place for the great navigator, Kupe and was one of four landing sites for Cook’s ship The Endeavour centuries later in 1769.


Organiser Jane Parson has been planning this event for many months and is over the moon with delight.  “News of the grant is fantastic as it secures this festival as being part of the town upgrade and the Tuia 250 commemorations.  The outcome will be permanent, vibrant artworks throughout the town for a long time to come” said Jane.

The festival will take place during the week between the annual Art Escape Open Studio events held on the first two weekends in March.  The project has been met with huge enthusiasm with twelve building owners welcoming the planned artworks on their walls. 


The project will include Mercury Bay Art Escape artists including their patron Artist Michael Smither and well known street artists from the Coromandel, Auckland and Hamilton. Full time street artists Charles and Janine Williams will be working on a major wall in the Taylors Mistake Walkway off Blacksmith Lane.  Opposite this will be a large community wall featuring art from local schools.

Timing for this festival in March will be, in effect, a warm up for subsequent Tuia 250 events during 2019.  The exposure to paint materials, scaffolding and general health and safety issues relating to the proximity and numbers of spectators will be easier to monitor at this earlier time rather than when the Tuia events take place in September and October.

Jane said that all these large works will reflect the themes of “First Encounters” or of “Navigation” to tie in with the new-look Whitianga townscape and with the stories to be presented by the Tuia 250 events.  “These works will be a constant reminder of the history of Te Whanganui a Hei (Mercury Bay) with the early relationship with local iwi, and of the seafarers who came to view the Transit of Mercury”. 

This Street Art Festival has already attracted a lot of support. Resene Paints, is the major sponsor, providing the paint through their Fagans Flooring Xtra Colourshop in Whitianga. The most generous support however, is coming from the artists who have waived their usual commission fee and donated their artistic services. For this generous community donation many local businesses have pledged to add to the pamper packages of goods and services which will make the artists visit to Whitianga an enjoyable one and show our appreciation of their generosity.

As well as the twelve major artworks, Mercury Bay Art Escape has been assisting TCDC on the commissioning of three major sculptures to be installed on Taylors Mistake and the reserve near the wharf as part of the town upgrade.

Jane spoke on behalf of Art Escape in saying “a huge thank you to Creative Waikato for their professional support for organising this event, TCDC and the Mercury 250 Trust, the building owners and to all the sponsors and supporters – and to the wonderful artists who are going to take part”. 



Jane Parson

07 866 3067

021 228 6644

Scholarship 2019 winner

November 2018

Year 12 Student Hannah Coleman-Smith was announced as the recipient of the annual Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust Scholarship at the Mercury Bay Area School Senior Prize giving ceremony on 2nd November 2018.


Hannah really enjoys art because it's a great personal outlet for her, and she loves being able to create something that makes people feel emotion. She likes making art around Polynesian Tikanga (tradition/protocol) and the beautiful Ahuatanga (features) Wairua (spirit) and Mauri (life force) of Polynesian people, because it's an amazing thing that isn't as widely celebrated as she thinks it should be. She is also interested in becoming a tattoo artist in the future. She thinks it's a beautiful thing to be able to put art on someone that will be with them forever.


The Scholarship programme, an initiative of the MBAE is in its 6th year and gives support and encouragement to young emerging artists, allowing them to progress to the next level of professional artistic development. A major component of their prize package is the opportunity to observe and learn different techniques and skills from a selection of talented Mercury Bay Artists.

The scholarship is awarded to the top year 12 student who is keen to pursue a creative career or who shows serious promise within the Arts and would benefit from external guidance.


The programme lasts for 6 months during the recipients year13 at school and includes private tuition and mentorship from Art Escape top members and the opportunity to attend workshops and also to assist with curating the setting up the Art Escape exhibitions.

Annual opportunity for local artists closing soon

July 2018

Professional Japanese designer and artist, Noriko Oki, moved to Whitianga four years ago.  In Japan, where it is common for most Japanese families to have a unique “Kamon” designed for them, Noriko specialised in designing these traditional Japanese coats-of-arms. Noriko travels back to Japan to teach Kamon design workshops and she is an active member of both the Japan Kamon Society and Kyoto Kamon Society.

Since moving here Noriko has learnt bone carving techniques and she is now including her unique Kamon designs by sculpting these into her work. The move to this part of the Coromandel has influenced Noriko and she now often includes the NZ native flora and fauna in her current Kamon designs. These designs have also been inscribed on traditionally made Japanese jandals.

Noriko displayed her art and Kamon designs in the Mercury Art Escape Open Studios event earlier this year. Although English is her second language art can speak beyond the language barrier she enjoyed the experience of meeting more people and sharing her artworks. After participating in the events, she says she is “more motivated to study English as well as art activities.”


“With new art groups and artists like Noriko Oki joining each year it means our artists’ trail is always evolving and changing which means we can offer new art experiences to our audiences,” says Kathryn Tsui Mercury Bay Art Escape Administrator & Curator.


The Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust is currently seeking new artists and local art groups interested in participating in the Art Escape 2019. This annual opportunity for new applicants has been open since May and will close 31 July 2018. New applicants can conveniently go online to fill out their submission form

Artists or Art Groups based in or connected to the Mercury Bay geographical area of the Art Escape can apply now to become members of and participate in the Mercury Bay Art Escape.  To reflect the growth of the event; Pauanui, Hikuai, Tairua, Hot Water Beach, Hahei, Cooks Beach, Flaxmill Bay, Ferry Landing, Whenuakite, Coroglen, Whitianga, Wharekaho, Kuaotunu, Otama, Opito Bay, Matarangi and Whangapoua.

Something for all ages at the Coromandel Peninsula Art & Craft Fair 2018

July 2018

Artists and craftspeople throughout the district are preparing for the annual Mercury Bay Art Escape “Coromandel Peninsula Art & Craft Fair”.   The fair is for one day only and will take place in the Whitianga Town Hall, Monk Street, on Saturday 14th July from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

Stuart Christie, chair of Art Escape said this event is an ideal opportunity to bring artists of all disciplines together to show the wide variety of talent out there in our communities.   “This Art & Craft Fair has become a feature for this district.  As a Trust we see the Fair as an ideal way to highlight both emerging and established artists and to promote all visual arts within the Mercury Bay area and across the peninsula.”

A number of the artists will be creating their work on-site, demonstrating their techniques and available to have a chat about what is involved in creating, for example, painting, pottery, mosaics and weaving.

One of these is Cherry Estcourt of the Whangamata Spinners and Weavers group who is a new addition to the Fair.  Last year at the First Light Weaving convention in Gisborne Cherry attended a workshop on “Saori” a Japanese hand-weaving method.  She was instantly captivated and, as she says “I had to have one”.  Cherry is bringing her new and treasured Saori loom with her to share the method and the Saori philosophy with everyone interested.

This year there will be two special stalls highlighting creativity from the next generation. The Whenuakite Country Kids early childhood centre will be showcasing masterpieces from all sorts of recycled materials.  “This will be great fun.  It is truly amazing what these youngsters create from all sorts of bits and pieces” said centre manager Trish Robbins. 

Whitianga based photographer and artist Sharon Wright says to “bring the kids along and we’ll have some fun putting together art and photography creations”.  Sharon enjoys working with  young creatives as “they present some amazing scenes as their imaginations are boundless”. 

Last year over 700 visitors enjoyed the diverse range of beautifully crafted goods and artworks. All mediums and disciplines are represented providing something of interest for everyone.  All items at the Fair are handmade on the peninsula.

The fair is a gold coin entry event with proceeds going to future Coromandel Peninsula Art and Craft Fairs. Kids enter for free! Make a weekend of it and arrange visits with local artists in their studios as well.   For Mercury Bat Art Escape artists’ details go to

People's Choice 2018

April 2018

The Mercury Bay Art Escape is delighted to announce the winner this year is Whitianga based artist member Pam Mundell with her intricately detailed landscape painting entitled “Catching the Light”.  This great achievement does not stand alone and winning this award is a double success story for Pam.  At the earlier Gala Opening event Pam was moved to tears when participating artists voted for Pam’s work as the winner of the Artists’ Choice Award.


Voting for the art works was tight with second place going to Sally Samins from Hot Water Beach with her bright, abstract mixed media painting “Urban Summers”.  Becs Wood from Hahei gained third place with her delicate and highly detailed self-portrait drawing “Finding the Light”.


Thanks to the generous sponsorship by Gordon Harris of the Art and Graphic Store Pam is the recipient of welcome art supplies.  

Artists Choice Winner

March 2018

Congratulations to Pam Mundell our Whitianga based painter who won the Artists Choice Award in the Mercury Bay Art Escape Member's Showcase Exhibition 2018.

Pam's winning landscape painting, 'Capturing Light' garnered the most votes from fellow Mercury Bay Art Escape artists.  

"I wanted to capture the way the light fell on a single iconic tree, in the dark of the bush," says the artist.


The Artists Choice Award generously donated by Bread & Butter Gallery.

The Mercury Bay Art Escape Member's Showcase Exhibition is on display until Easter Monday 2 April at Hot Waves Cafe, 8:30am to 4pm open 7 days. Entry is free.

Raewyn Helms-Davis in the Adam Portraiture Award

February 2018

Whitianga based pastel artist Raewyn Helms-Davis has a portrait in the upcoming Adams Portraiture Awards in Wellington. This is the third time that Raewyn has had a portrait accepted for this award. The portrait is titled "News" and is of her good friend and neighbour Barbara, from Whitianga.

Raewyn has been a professional portrait artist for nearly twenty years.


Kate Hill Finalist in Waikato Art Award

January 2018

Congratulations to print and mixed media artist member Kate Hill for being a finalist in the Waikato Society of Arts Printmaking and Painting Awards 2018.

"I have lived in New Zealand for over 30 years and find my own bush, gully and beach environments to be a constant source of inspiration. Printmaking is still my first love with its ability to create unique marks impossible to achieve with other techniques."

Guest Judge for the Harcourts Whangamata Art Challege

Jan 2018

Kathryn Tsui Mercury Bay Art Escape's Curator was the guest judge for the 2018 Harcourts Whangamata Art Challenge.


From the judges notes:

'Into the Wild' was the theme for the award and the 40 entrants responded to this theme in a variety of ways. Through their chosen art or craft medium and through their different subject matter they depicted to convey this theme.


In 3rd place is Paula McNeill. For her mixed media work ‘First Arrivals’. A beautifully presented piece that allows the viewer to come up with their own interpretation, through it’s wild and intriguing mark marking.


2nd place goes to Helen Sosich. Helen’s landscape painting is skilfully rendered, with an expressive and detailed depiction of the Rakaia Gorge.


The winner is Margie Lucas. I kept coming back to Margie’s landscape painting. Despite it’s humble size this landscape painting was able to evoke a haunting atmosphere. Fluidly painted in a muted colour palette it beautifully conveys the tonal range and feeling of a moody landscape. The ominous presence of the heavy clouds rolling in reminds us that nature is indeed wild and something that cannot be controlled and these last few days have shown us!


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