Maude Heath is the latest arrival at the main highway retail hub. Comfortable in her gallery, she is framed by an explosion of colours.
There are large paintings by Waikanae artist Vincent Duncan. On a large easel stands his latest; kites in primary colours on an energetic shades-of-blue Ōtaki sky, with the paint still not quite dry.
It was a parting gift from the Waikanae artist, says Maude, to mark the relocation of her Artel Gallery from Mahara Square in Waikanae to Ōtaki. The perfect gift to mark her flight to greener pastures. Ōtaki holds the regionally popular kite festival every summer.
The relocation was helped by Kāpiti Coast District Council to solve a Waikanae problem. The public library had to be closed for health and safety reasons and we had problems with finding a place to house a reasonably sized pop-up library.
Maude was struggling with the problems of low foot traffic caused by the impact of the new expressway, the sudden closure of the Waikanae public library, and the noisy construction works to upgrade Mahara Place. People don’t realise publicly funded assets such as libraries and swimming pools are also investments in economic activity.
The foot traffic lends itself to smart entrepreneurs to add other services. The loss of the Waikanae library and its foot traffic has affected local businesses. Hence, the additional pressure on council to get a reasonable library service, using the old (now being refurbished) Artel Gallery.
“The move has been bloody good really. More people come through, the place is larger and better for displays, and the neighbouring retail business owners are great,” says Maude, who nevertheless misses “the gang” of fellow Mahara Place retail owners and workers.
“The new expressway? No I have no concerns. Ōtaki is a destination and people will come,” she says.
Artel is next to another two art-related establishments. Hori Gallery is an avant-garde experience producing some really subversive Māori cultural interpretations. It features some of the new works of Tuhoe activist Tama Iti.
South of Artel is the Norsewear clothing outlet with a twist. There’s a small space featuring the chunky timber works of master carver Jeff Bryan. The raw synergy between the outdoorsy clothing range and the carvings is cleverly blended.
A few more such art outlets and the main highway could develop a creative hub.
It was good to read Sharon Stephenson’s article in North & South. The piece “How Otaki is Coming into its Own” was republished in Stuff. She is a new arrival to Ōtaki from inner-city Wellington. The interview gives an interesting kaleidoscope of old and emerging Ōtaki.
In regard to the emerging Ōtaki, I note with interest the interview of the Carsons and Ōtaki Today. Sharon’s article is another frame in the unfolding journey of an Ōtaki in rapid change caught in slow motion.
K Gurunathan is the Mayor of Kāpiti Coast and is an Ōtaki resident.