Friends of the Museum

Friends of the Museum are a group of people interested in arts, history and culture who support the museum, like to know what is going on (and coming up) and to whom we give some exclusive benefits – such as discounts on product, special events, and invitations to openings. They’re people who are passionate about the museum, invested in the community, and care about what happens here at MTG.

This week we had a special event for our friends and invited them in to participate in a range of curatorial-led presentations.

Some enjoyed a tour through Napier Cemetery with Gail Pope, learning the history of both the cemetery and some of the people laid to rest there. I well remember, early in my time at MTG Hawke’s Bay, going on one of these tours and I found it fascinating. I’d also been asked by a friend from Auckland if, when I was in Napier, I could try to find the gravesite of someone connected to their family – Bright Cooper. Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered his story was part of the tour! This tour is offered periodically over the summer months, so there’s an opportunity for everyone to have the experience.

Others elected to do a public art walk with Jess Mio. This walk takes in a surprising amount of public art within a relatively small footprint around the museum. These works, primarily in the form of sculptures and murals, speak to shared identity, history and contemporary issues for our city, nation and the world. There are some hidden gems in the city that not everyone knows about and Jess’ in-depth knowledge about the meaning and significance of these works certainly made me see many of them in a different light.

The third group focused on pounamu – exploring the ancient Maori pukorero (oral tradition) of Te Whatu o Poutini (the Eye of Poutini), which articulates the journey of Poutini Taniwha, Waitaiki and Tamaahua from Tuhua (Mayor Island) in the Bay of Plenty, to the Arahura River. An oral geological map, this pukorero also expresses the intimate spiritual relationship Maori have with the Arahura River, pounamu stone and each other. The feedback on this was so great that I’ve asked Michelle to repeat this talk for the team here so all staff can share this experience.

Each group came back energised and excited about the activity they participated in, speaking very highly about the event and how much they enjoyed their experiences with the curators. In fact the occasion was such a success I’m sure we’ll need to re-offer these activities again (and others) sometime in the future.

Meanwhile the team here are busy installing ‘Te Taenga Mai O Salome’ in one of the upstairs galleries. This exhibition by well-known artist Yuki Kihara will be our last display to open this year and will be available for the public to enjoy from Friday 8 December.

Cemetery Tour

  • Stitch at MTG Hawke’s Bay, 2-3 December. Public stitching project available all day
  • Embroidery workshops with Jo Dixey, 2-3 December, 10:30am – 4pm, $50 per workshop. To book call MTG 835 7781 or email
  • He Manu Tioriori, exhibition exploring Ngati Kahungunu’s love affair with music reopens this weekend. Featuring jazz orchestras, church and brass bands through to ragtime Jazz, RocknRoll, Country and Western to contemporary and Kapa Haka.
  • Drop in Zone, enjoy craft activities and a reading space complementing the exhibitions. Open every weekend.

Laura Vodonavich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today 2nd December 2017


Stitch at MTG Hawke’s Bay

Next weekend MTG Hawke’s Bay is going embroidery crazy! Set up in the museum foyer for the weekend will be a community stitching activity, designed by Jo Dixey. Jo was one of only ten students chosen worldwide to train at the Royal School of Needlework, Hampton Court, London in the early 1990s, and went on to attain her City and Guilds qualifications. Not long after, she moved to New Zealand and set up an embroidery practice: teaching, taking on commissions and designing pieces for exhibition. Adding to her long list of accomplishments Jo has recently published her first book ‘Stitch People, a 20-project guide to modern embroidery techniques’. The book will be available for purchase through the museum shop.

Jo’s superb design for the community stitching project portrays six iconic Napier Art Deco buildings including the 1936 Hawke’s Bay Museum & Art Gallery entrance and the National Tobacco Company building, Ahuriri. This activity is designed to allow anyone from experienced stitches to beginners and those who have never tried, to add some stitches to the overall work. This is a child friendly project with easy stitches and colourful wool. Members of the Hawke’s Bay Embroidery Guild will be on hand to guide and support. Once completed, the panel will be gifted to the city through the Mayor’s office.

This project came about through a philanthropic bequest from Marian Holt, long-time champion of the Museum and keen embroiderer. Marian, a Hawke’s Bay local, attended Napier Girls High School and then trained as a nurse and midwife at the Hastings Hospital. Her nursing qualification took her all over the world. At the end of her career, Marian returned to Hawke’s Bay to retire at Puketitiri. The Marian Holt Trust, keen to honour Marian’s legacy and acknowledge her contribution to the Museum and Hawke’s Bay, approached Jo Dixey to develop a public embroidery programme. For two days, Jo researched and drew designs from a selection of embroidery work held in the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection.

For embroidery enthusiasts Jo is teaching two workshops, also next weekend, with unique designs she has drawn from the textile collection. One workshop on Saturday for beginners through to advanced and is based on some of our Indian textiles. The second workshop on Sunday is designed for intermediate to advanced, and is taken from a seventeen century silk embroidery. Jo has pulled out a detail of the background scenery to make a brooch.

During Jo’s time researching the collection she was particularly interested in a rare 700AD Egyptian Coptic tapestry. Jo used this as one of her inspirations, along with other textile pieces, in the development of four different kitsets. These range from kitsets for children through to adult embroiderers and can be purchased exclusively through the museum shop.

On behalf of the Museum, we warmly invite you to come in and add some stitches to the community project. If you are interested in learning more about the art of embroidery with an excellent tutor, we highly recommend enrolling in one of Jo’s workshops. Fun and laughter guaranteed!

  • Stitch at MTG Hawke’s Bay, 2-3 December. Public stitching project available all day
  • Embroidery workshops with Jo Dixey, 2-3 December, 10:30am – 4pm, $50 per workshop. To book call MTG 835 7781 or email
  • Deco Kimono: From the Jack C Richards Collection, a range of beautiful silk kimono from the era of Art Deco in Japan on display now

Coptic Textile detail

Gail Pope – Curator, MTG Hawkes Bay

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today 25th November 2017


Last week an Arts for All meeting was held at Hastings City Art Gallery. I along with three other staff from MTG Hawke’s Bay attended this meeting, led by Richard Benge from Arts Access Aotearoa. Richard introduced Arts for All – a programme aimed at encouraging museums, galleries, theatres, festivals, etc to improve their accessibility for disabled audiences. There was a small enthusiastic group of people from various organisations present for the first Arts for All meeting in Hawke’s Bay, all keen on looking at ways to make their organisation more accessible for everyone.

At the same time we’ve recently had an Accessibility Audit done on MTG, to look at how well the building does, and doesn’t, work to enable easy physical access into and around the facility. And this report, along with staff ideas and observations, and the Arts for All meeting has highlighted a number of things we can do to improve.

There are some things we can’t change, such as the displays cases in stairwells, although we can look at how we make images and information about the items displayed there easier to access.

But there are a number of things we can do, some quick and easy, while others will take more time, thought and resource. For example there have been ongoing discussions since I came to MTG regarding font size on labels and, while we are generally much better, we’re not quite there yet.

We’re going to get the doors leading to accessibility toilets modified to make them easier to use. And we’ve nearly completely work on adding captions to the Survivors’ Stories film. This will make the film, which is incredibly popular with our visitors, much more accessible for people with hearing impairment and for those with English as a second (or third) language. It’s such a great film – we want to make sure no-one misses out.

We’re also looking at how we plan exhibitions and activities to allow sufficient time to ensure captions are including in all future videos or film in our galleries.

With the library coming to join us at MTG for a few years, this has opened up the opportunity to look at better access to the Century Theatre foyer. And the Council is currently investigating whether a ramp can be installed on Herschell Street – up to the deck outside the Century Theatre foyer.  At the same time, they’re looking at additional accessibility carparks around the museum building.

And we’ve long been aware of issues regarding wayfinding at MTG – these include helping people find access into the building without climbing stairs, where the accessibility toilets are, where the lifts are, how to access additional help if required e.g. a wheelchair or assistance from staff.

All of these are things we’re actively working on, in the hopes that every action no matter how small, can make things a little bit easier for our users and ensure everyone in the community is able to access their museum.

There’s much more we can and, over time will do, to make your museum as welcoming and inclusive as possible. Future plans will include activities such as signed tours, touch tours and autism friendly programming. As always thoughts and ideas from the community about this, or any other matters, are welcome.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today 18th November 2017

photorapher David Frost

Deco Kimono


Today our newest exhibition is open for the public to enjoy – ‘Deco Kimono’ is a small display of six kimono from the Art Deco period. These fresh and bright kimono with strong bold designs would not be out of place today and are a reminder of just how exciting Art Deco design was and still is.

These beautiful robes have all the patterns and motifs you would expect from the Art Deco era. These include geometric shapes, bold colours, and expressive curving lines (characteristic of the late, 1930s period). Traditional kimono motifs, such as stylised birds and waves, were enlarged and set in bold colours during this period, rendering them new and daring.

Hung simply with arms outstretched the clean silhouette of each kimono is highlighted and allows you to see the entire design of both garment and fabric.

Art Deco was a global movement with different cultures around the world influencing the style and feel of the period. Having recently watched a few episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (highly recommended to me by locals) it’s clear to see the influence of Japan’s minimalist style and clean lines in many of the garments worn in the series.

Late in Japan’s Meiji period (1868-1912), innovations in silk fabric production and dyeing techniques led to the first mass-produced and inexpensive silk kimono. This meant that these ‘new’ kimono were easily affordable and became incredibly popular – worn everywhere from cafes to dance halls.

There’s always more to learn about any subject and this exhibition, like all the others, has also taught me something new. I’d no idea that one production method was to print designs straight onto thread before it was woven into cloth. This technique was an evolution of existing practice and created a blurred effect in the finished image.

The robes on display come from the collection of Professor Jack C Richards, who has previously lent us items from his extensive collection of Lalique vases. Jack also has a large collection of Korean, Japanese and Chinese robes and among these are a small number of kimono from the Taisho period (1912-1926), six of which were selected for display.

Museums and galleries are incredibly lucky to have people such as Jack, who so kindly share their collections and passions – freely making their items available for broad audiences to enjoy.

As part of our ongoing commitment to participate in the Art Deco heritage of the region, we try to ensure there is always something deco related on display over the summer Art Deco Festival period. These robes, along with the Art Deco tea-sets in our front window (with more upstairs), and some examples of Art Deco decorative arts by the Earthquake gallery, mean there is a touch of Deco on every floor in the museum this summer.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Freedom & Structure

photorapher David Frost

Photographer: David Frost

The coming month is a time of exhibition changeovers at MTG, ahead of the summer season. Our Linkway gallery is being painted in preparation for ‘Deco Kimono’; meanwhile the major exhibition upstairs, ‘Freedom and Structure: Cubism and New Zealand Art 1930-1960’, is in its final weeks. If you’d like to catch this display of stunning modernist paintings here, before it moves on to Waikato Museum, make sure to come in by Sunday 12 November.

Freedom and Structure has been very popular with school and tertiary groups, many of which tied a visit in with their own projects. I’ve enjoyed discussing the beginnings of abstraction in Western art with them – it was an exciting time of rapid change as artists experimented with painting what the eye couldn’t normally see. Buildings and other solid forms became transparent, objects could be viewed from multiple perspectives at once, while others were simplified down to their essential elements of line and shape.

In many societies around the world, including iwi Maori here in Aotearoa, art had long depicted things beyond what the eye might see; while to artists in the European tradition, this was a revolutionary development. They were no longer bound to centuries-old conventions of mimicking the visible world, such as by creating the illusion of depth within a flat canvas.

The six Pakeha artists represented in the exhibition all produced compelling works in the Cubist style: enjoying both the freedom it gave them from such conventions, and the structure it provided when exploring different ways of painting.

This particular balance of freedom and structure remains stimulating for many – as a group of artists and I found in a drawing workshop held in the gallery space. After an introductory tour around the exhibition, we gathered around a still-life arrangement that was set up by Michael Hawksworth, artist and lecturer at EIT. Michael encouraged us to resist any compulsion to create a ‘faithful’ image of the objects, but to move around them and incorporate several perspectives within our drawings, using our minds more than our eyes to create a cohesive picture.

We had a great time channelling our inner cubists among cubist paintings, and I’m looking forward to more creative sessions in our galleries.

Of course, freedom in image-making leads to more ambiguity – such as the 1957 painting by Louise Henderson. As noted in a text message to Hawke’s Bay Today (Wednesday October 25), it can seem like we’ve hung the work the wrong way up, due to the artist’s signature being printed upside down along the top edge of the canvas. Yet within the artwork, Henderson has painted simplified forms of buildings, with clearly recognisable rooflines and chimneys rising into the sky.

The curator of the exhibition, Julia Waite of Auckland Art Gallery, described how Henderson had left the work unsigned at the time of painting, and only added it shortly before she passed away. While it can’t be verified that she signed it upside down unintentionally, we all agreed that the work should be hung according to the orientation of the image, not of the signature.

  • F.A.W.C! Electrolux Masterclasses, Saturday 4 November, Century Theatre. Tickets available from Eventfinda.
  • Freedom and Structure, exhibition of New Zealand cubist art. Last day Sunday 12 November
  • Kids Drop-in-Zone, craft activities, colouring and a story corner available every weekend and during school holidays.

Jessica Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay


photorapher David Frost

Photographer: David Frost

Since going free, it’s been lovely to see lots of grandparents with their mokopuna in the museum over the school holidays. Many are enjoying reading books together or completing some of the craftwork in the Kids Drop-in-zone. Seeing grandparents helping young ones find all the items in the activity trail has been a common feature around the museum this week – with a fair amount of fun, laughter and sharing going on along the way.

There’s an unconditional love and bond in these inter-generational relationships with a beautiful blend of wisdom and experience coupled with awe and wonder. Something that highlights the very special and unique relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is a small activity in our Tenei Tonu gallery. There’s a korowai in this gallery where people can leave messages to loved ones and we’ve noticed this week just how many of them start with Dear Grandma, Nana, Poppa, Granddad and so on.

The changing nature of our world with less hands-on crafts, skills and tactile activities, to one based on digital technology has also changed the relationship between these two parties. Where once grandparents would lead the way, showing children how to make and fix things, now grandchildren are racing ahead in the digital world.

Museums play a role in supporting real exchange between these two age groups – one where kaumatua can take the lead and explain objects, different times and share personal or family stories. Museums let the cups in grandma’s china cabinet take on a new life as items that are precious enough to be shown in a museum. I’ve no doubt, based on snippets of conversations I’ve overheard, that the Thermette is a special item in the Time For Tea display that fosters an opportunity to lead and explain how it works or share some great memories of when and where they were used. Museum displays can allow each party to take their turn at leading, with grandchildren showing their grandparents how to use and navigate digital technology in gallery spaces.

And these experiences and moments are something that museum’s help foster. A place where grandparents’ storytelling brings to life the things they are seeing in front of them, which doesn’t often happen in the same way in any other environment such as school or home.

Things that are foreign concepts to the younger generation, such as formal tea parties, may well be a nostalgic real-life memory for their elders. And with the global move away from plastics, perhaps a simple school lunchbox will be the same thing for younger generations when they become the grandparents.

This is a design challenge in museums – thinking about how our galleries and displays can work across generations. These two groups can have very different expectations about what museums should be and offer. Generalising terribly, older groups often expect museums to be reverent spaces for quiet contemplation and learning, with a general understanding of behaviour around objects and collections e.g. no touching. While younger people expect noise, life and colour, to touch and play with everything. Our challenge is trying to knit these expectations together and create an experience that works across the generations.

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Exhibition grabs visitors in warm embrace

As I walked through the museum this week I thought, as I often have, how much I enjoy the Tuturu exhibition. Set in a small space, it embraces you with colour and richness. Artworks in a variety of forms – paintings, tukutuku panels and sculptures – are set against beautiful jewel-toned panels. With an exhibition design inspired by tikanga, artworks alternate with tukutuku panels as you walk through the space.

This exhibition was created in collaboration with Iwi Toi Kahungunu (an artists’ collective). The group approached us in the lead up to Te Matatini about showcasing Ngati Kahungunu art to our visitors. This was a new way of working for the museum, in terms of giving over the exhibition development and design to an external party. In doing so, the museum benefited from the innovative ideas of Sandy Adsett, founder of Iwi Toi Kahungunu, who used colour, layout and structure to evoke the warm feel of a wharenui within the gallery space.

Containing such a variety of form, style and materials it still creates a cohesive experience anchored in the overarching design concept. The success of this has been widely recognised, particularly the use of many different colours, with the exhibition being named a finalist in the Resene Total Colour Awards. We look forward to working with Iwi Toi Kahungunu and other external groups in the future and believe this will absolutely enrich the culture and meaning of the museum for our community.

Tuturu closes on Sunday 20 August so there’s still time to come and experience it. I’m really going to miss this exhibition and the feeling of being embraced as you go into the gallery.

As always, when one thing goes something new comes along, so it really is a case of forever saying goodbye to one exhibition and then welcoming in the new. Following Tuturu is an exhibition of new artworks added to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection. Two series of artwork, by Jono Rotman and Brett Graham, will go on display in this space starting on Saturday 2 September. This will be followed by a small selection of Japanese Art Deco kimono, opening early November.

Coming up this week is the opportunity to have a cultural experience during your lunchbreak. Students of Project Prima Volta are giving a series of 30-minute recitals in our front foyer Tuesday 15 August to Friday 18 August. Project Prima Volta offers 30 Hawke’s Bay teenagers coaching and mentoring in classical singing including opera. If you haven’t listened to this type of music before, or if you’re not sure it’s for you, this is a quick and easy way to give it a try.

Listening to music in a museum setting changes the whole dynamic – creating a beautiful blend of audio and visual delights. These are some seriously talented people and we’re so pleased they are coming to sing here. There will be a koha box (proceeds to Project Prima Volta) so please bring along a contribution and come and enjoy the experience.

Finalist in Resene Total Colour Awards, Tuturu closes 20 August

Finalist in Resene Total Colour Awards, Tuturu closes 20 August