In March 2018 Te Papa expanded its creative offering to the public of New Zealand with the opening of Toi Art – a new gallery space spanning two levels of the museum, and a pivotal addition acknowledging the importance of creativity within our culture.
Leading the charge is head of art, Charlotte Davy. A woman with expertise in creative direction, facilitation and arts strategy, her role as head of art sees her constantly scanning the horizons of creative expression and developing ways to integrate new ideas alongside the bigger issues Te Papa aims to tackle as an institution.
Te Papa attracts all sorts through our doors, they’ll come to Te Papa and find themselves in a gallery…It’s my job to help create a pathway into arts for the multiplicity of people who visit, one that will establish future connectivity… “ – Charlotte Davy
It’s no easy task engaging a nation with its own art collection, but it is important for future generations to make the connections with our journey of expression as a South Pacific nation.
Art plays many roles in society, it gives us the opportunity to experience ourselves, and it is something we can present to the rest of the world. Its ability to affect social outcomes, especially in times of social recovery, such as now, is undoubtedly one of the most satisfying elements of working in the field.
Davy was born in Geraldine and grew up in South Canterbury. She left for the ‘big smoke’ of Wellington to study art history at Victoria University. She came from a socially-minded family, her father a minster, her mother a nurse. From a young age she was exposed to the power of art by the likes of Tony Fomison, Colin McCahon and Rita Angus to name a few, and remembers how the works made her feel. It was these formative experiences that fed her curiosity to learn more, to understand artists and explore the depth behind their work.
A lifelong advocate for creativity and what it stands for, Davy is attuned to the power immersive art can have on a person, and the conversations it ignites. She is constantly figuring out ways in which to maximise a person’s experience of art when they visit the museum.
For example, Nike Savvas’ artwork Finale: Bouquet, an installation reminiscent of an energetic ticker tape parade frozen in time, “left people feeling emotionally moved”.
Savvas’ herself remarked in an interview with curator of contemporary art Nina Tonga: “I hope the experience of Finale: Bouquet is empowering, that it engages the viewer’s sensory and interpretative faculties by encouraging participation on a physical, optical, perceptual, and experiential level.”
Other such engaging works include artist Tiffany Singh’s Total Internal Reflection and Indra’s Bow. The artist believes engaging with the arts can improve physical and mental health. The installation invites you to choose a colour based on how you feel, which then illuminates the space, creating an evolving communal light sculpture.
Singh’s work Indra’s bow, says Davy, “Gives people such joy. As well as holding space visually, the work smells and changes, it’s holistic. People come back and re-view the work in the same visit. The kind of connection that can be made with immersive works has real impact… Returning to an artwork can be very powerful, it gives people a sense of ownership to their art collection.”
It is important to remember Te Papa’s art collection belongs to us all. Something which, during these unsettled times of great illumination, is a reassuring investment we have made, together as a country.