LEGEND: Ans Westra, patron of King Street Artworks, art collector, and renowned New Zealand social and documentary photographer, who first won critical acclaim as an artist and author for her 1964 photographic essay, Washday at the Pa. Photo/Nathan Crombie

by Nathan Crombie

PRIVATE collectors have snapped up more than a few of the latest King Street Artworks  (KSA) exhibition pieces at the collective’s 2016 public offering, The Dilemma of Titles, and the Masterton-produced art may be today hanging alongside the work of some leading Kiwi artists.
The 19th annual exhibition ran for about a month from July 15 this year at the de-consecrated Wesley Wing church building at Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History in Masterton.
Renowned Wellington-based photographer Ans Westra , who opened the art collective’s exhibition, said she had gratefully acquired several works from KSA artists over the past two decades.
Ms Westra prized the works for their artistic reward and not for the reputation of the artist, her sister Yvonne said at the opening, and art from the Masterton collective hangs alongside pieces from some vaunted New Zealand artists.
More than a hundred people attended the opening and included some of the 60 artists featured in the exhibition, their families and friends, Lyn Patterson and Bob Francis, respectively mayor and past mayor of Masterton, Masterton district councillor Chris Peterson, and a handful of working Wairarapa artists.
An opening address was given as well by KSA Trust Board chairman Dr Rob Maunsell, who also played original music at the opening alongside keyboardist Keith Austin and violinist Stephan Schulz, performing as The Grafia Trio.
Dr Maunsell said his association with KSA went back a decade, and had initially included his personal and professional support before he took the chair about six months ago as successor to longtime chairman Dave Morgan.
Mr Maunsell said there were 180 pieces of art in the exhibition that were selected from 400 candidate works. About a third of the artworks had already sold, he said.
“The prices are so good and the quality of the artwork is fantastic. Prices are always really reasonable and the good ones always get snapped up.”
KSA associates reminded him at the opening, he said, about exhibitions in the early days in vacant shop premises in the town.
“They would get a space for gratis that had been empty for months and now they’re centre stage in the art world of Wairarapa, which is a huge achievement.
“It’s a wonderfully democratic organisation too and that’s key. From the artists, the people who support them, and the management team all work together and everybody’s opinion is sought and valued. There are no decisions made from on high.”
Ms Westra is an ardent supporter of creative spaces in the community, she said.
She is a close friend of Glen McDonald, who was co-ordinator of Wellington’s Vincent’s Art Workshop.
Vincent’s was established in 1985 after the government threw open the doors of institutional day rooms nationwide, and responsibility fell to the community to provide for people struggling to stay well in the mind.
Vincent’s Art Workshop was “radical and visionary” in its day and the award-winning KSA was modeled on the successful capital city outreach.
Both organisations sought to give tuition, materials, and pastoral support for anybody who wished to create art at the facility, with a focus on people with mental ill-health or physical, intellectual or sensory impairment.
The Masterton organisation had flourished and “thousands” of KSA artists over the past two decades have produced and sold their work through the KSA gallery, said co-ordinator Ian Chapman.
Tutors at KSA today include studio manager Linda Tilyard, Harry Watson, Jenny Morgan, Leanne Taylor and Meg Waddington. Lenzie Phillips is administrator.

King Street Artworks welcomes people to use the wide range of facilities and resources available at its Queen Street premises.
Visitors may work on their own projects while tutors, who are artists themselves, will help if needed, and introduce new techniques and ways of working through periodic workshops.
King Street Artworks is open Monday to Friday (10am till 3pm), and Saturdays (10am till 2pm). Friday is Women’s Day, and there is an outreach group that meets at the Featherston Community Centre every Tuesday (10am till 2.30pm)