Working in an art gallery, I have been lucky enough to have art readily available to enjoy as part of my everyday work life. Unfortunately, with the Gallery doors closed and the collection safety stored away, it's not the case for us at the moment. So it was time to view someone else's collection, and see how it enriches their working environment.
Although we can of course view our collection online, which is a fantastic resource, we've all been missing seeing our collection so beautifully displayed on the gallery walls. This is especially true for our Visitor Hosts and Volunteer Guides, who are used to walking through the exhibition spaces and engaging with the artworks as part of their daily work. Naturally, we all have our favorite works – the ones which make us think more than others, the ones which uplift us and inspire us.
Of course, it's not just art galleries that hold collections of art. There are private collections as well as institutional collections at universities, colleges and businesses. However, it's unique for a state school to have a significant collection.
But this week a group of our guides and visitor hosts were privileged to have a tour of the Burnside High School art collection with Richard Gardiner, the school's recently retired Head of Art Department, who has been instrumental in the continuing growth of the collection. Richard took over the role from Canterbury artist Trevor Moffitt, who persuaded the school to start the collection in the seventies.
It's a very fine collection featuring work by over fifty significant artists, including close friends of Moffitt like Leo Bensemann, Philip Clairmont, Philip Trusttum and Ralph Hotere, contemporary artists such as Neil Dawson, Andrew Drummond, Michael Parekowhai, Jude Rae, Shane Cotton, Hannah and Aaron Beehre and ex Burnside students Bill Hammond and Geoff Dixon.
Richard told us that the main purpose of their collection is 'to enhance and enrich the school environment and to provide the school community with an ongoing access to contemporary New Zealand art'. He added that the art collection has become a valued part of working and studying at the school, and certain works are strategically hung to confront both teachers and students going about their daily business.
As we toured various works throughout the school, it was evident that Richard misses seeing the works in the Burnside High School collection on the daily basis. And this would be the case for many other teachers and students I'm sure. The printed catalogue he put together a few years ago is a nice reminder for him and an excellent document for staff and students.
Thank you Richard for taking us on such an uplifting tour of many great pieces. It was wonderful to see a well-loved collection that is so valued and respected. We hope to share our collection with you (and the rest of Christchurch and its visitors) again soon.