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Artists' pop-up brings colour to Thames Street

Waitaki App

Ashley Smyth

17 June 2024, 2:17 AM

Artists' pop-up brings colour to Thames StreetCreative them (from left) Beth Strickland, Colette O'Kane and Annie Hampstead in their new pop-up shop on Thames Street. Photo: Ashley Smyth

Three Waitaki artists have pooled their talents and popped-up in an empty Thames Street shop, as part of the Waitaki District Counci’s Revitalising Our Places Ōamaru (Ropo). 

Beth Strickland, Colette O’Kane and Annie Hampstead have come together at 167 Thames Street (formerly Jacqui’s Hair Salon) to display more than 30 of their artworks.

Colette describes her work as “whimsical”, while Annie’s is more contemporary realism, and Beth’s abstract.

The works are acrylic, watercolours, oil and cool wax, and mixed media.

“Our work is suitable for a home space or a business,” Beth says. “So some of this would look really good in reception areas of local businesses.” 

The largest painting, an acrylic on canvas depiction of New Zealand by Colette, took her eight weeks, working from 9am to 3am, seven days a week.

“Because I was going to Sydney and I was trying to finish it before I left,” she says.

The trio opened in the space at the weekend, after having spent about two weeks preparing it. 

Annie and Colette say they tend to paint what “comes to mind” or what they “feel like doing”, whereas Beth’s work this time has a theme of structure over chaos. 

“So basically . . . in society we don't like to be told what to do,” she says. 

“But unless you have some kind of rules or guidelines or values that people stick to, societies just don't function.”

Colette says sometimes her work might be a political comment.

“But mostly it's about bringing just shared happiness. It's such a joyful place when you're painting. I'm sure it's good for your blood pressure.”

Colette spent close to 20 years teaching, mostly English, in Aboriginal communities in Australia, and is also a writer. A copy of her prose poetry book Adultery - an artful affair, is also for sale in the shop.

Annie started painting about 45 years ago, also in Australia.

“I did a lot of study with a lot of different artists over there.

“I started with watercolour . . . I thought, ‘watercolour is a difficult medium to use, so why not learn that one first, and then you can really progress further into other mediums’.”

Her art took off when she came to New Zealand, she says.

“I came over here, and it really blossomed for me.” 

She moved to Ōamaru 24 years ago.

Creative US. is open 10am-4pm, except Tuesdays and Sundays, but can also open on request, by phoning 0274859909.

“We really want to encourage people who don't know much about art to come and see what they find,” Beth says.

She is also running art workshops on a Thursday evening or Friday afternoon, starting this week.

“They're fun, and they're relaxed, and it's non-judgmental. It's a place where people can just come and experiment and have fun.”

No experience is required, or artists wanting to try a new medium can also take part. After the two hours, people will have a completed artwork to take home and frame.

Bookings and further information can be found on Beth’s website.

Opening night at Creative US. on Friday. Photo: supplied

Beth is also co-ordinator of Ropo and says the aim of the programme is to “encourage innovative ideas” which are not directly in competition with existing businesses, and also to fill empty buildings in Ōamaru’s central business district.

“So we're commercially staging the properties for the owners so people can see the potential.”

There are three pop-ups as part of the June round - the first month Ropo has run. 

Along with Creative US., Waste-Free Waitaki has popped up in the former Health 2000 premises at 170 Thames Street, and Martin Horspool has a collection of his photography in 145 - opposite the Boer War memorial.

There has just been a new round of applications for the programme, so Beth is hoping more spaces will be filled for July.

“So now that the property owners can see what we can do, we're hoping they will see the benefits for people who haven't got a space. Because there's a couple around town that would be spectacular.” 

Creative US. will be open for two months initially, “because we negotiated with the property owner”. 

“So in general the stores are available for 30 days as a pop-up, but it depends on the relationship with the owner as to how long people can stay,” Beth says.  

“The whole idea is to bring people into town that's engaging with them to stay longer and then people will spill out into other businesses and cafes and things, you know . . . Bring some vibrancy into the town.”

The feedback so far has been encouraging.

“Already people are commenting as they walk down, that the street looks cleaner, it looks brighter. They feel safer in some areas walking at night.”