New Wintec Ramp Gallery Manager’s creative lockdown

Wintec Ramp Gallery Manager Hollie Tawhiao shows off her creative side on Zoom

Ramp Gallery Manager, Holly Tawhiao (and sons),  shows off her creative side on Zoom.

 

When Hamilton art curator, Hollie Tawhiao (Ngāti Tiipa) applied for her dream job at Wintec, she never expected to take on the role during a Covid-19 lockdown — an impossible time for the arts industry and artists themselves, who rely heavily on being able to showcase and form meaningful conversations around their work.

In August this year, Wintec Team Manager for Contemporary Art, Wendy Richdale, called to tell her the good news — Tawhiao would be taking on the Manager position at Ramp Gallery, Wintec School of Media Arts’ initiated contemporary art gallery. Tawhiao recalls feeling a sense of “semi dis-belief” as she knew she had been up against some “very experienced curators”.

The application process had been drawn out over four months and though Tawhiao was fortunate enough to be able to attend her interview in person, her first few weeks as Ramp Gallery Manager have been impacted by Covid-19.

“That same week I was told I got the role, we went into Level 4 lockdown,” says Tawhiao, who adds it was challenging completing her first week virtually.

“I was still trying to wrap my head around the introductory courses we have to do and learning the systems, while also being in Zoom meetings I wouldn’t usually have to be in, due to Covid.”

Adding to the stress, Ramp Gallery had just closed an exhibition and was in the process of changing over to its next exhibition when all non-essential workers were asked to stay home and isolate. For Tawhiao, this has meant preparing and organising her first exhibition as gallery manager, over Zoom.

Tawhiao says her new Wintec School of Media Arts co-workers have made collaborating virtually easy and have supported her every step of the way.

“When I was in real estate, you’d meet a lot of people who were rude and obnoxious. Wintec is the opposite of that, and it’s been very easy to get to know people and build relationships even though we are predominantly on Zoom.”

Tawhiao isn’t the only one to benefit from being a part of the supportive organisation — In July, Wintec became the first Waikato-based organisation to be awarded gold standard WorkWell Accreditation for workplace wellbeing.

When it comes to Zoom etiquette, Tawhiao isn’t afraid to get real.

“I’ve quickly given up blurring backgrounds on zoom,” says Tawhiao, showing off a messy bedroom we can relate to. She also keeps an eye out for a toddler who might run into frame at any second. “There is something about being on Zoom that is so interpersonal anyway, so why bother?”

Lockdown wasn’t the only adjustment for Tawhiao, who recently moved back to Hamilton, having left the city to pursue an arts degree in her 20’s.

“At the time I was studying, there weren’t many options for Waikato-based artists wanting to pursue a fine arts degree,” says Tawhiao, who completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and graduated from the University of Auckland in 2012 , then moved to Perth, Australia, to work as a freelance artist.

Following her return to New Zealand in 2014, Tawhiao shifted gears in her career for a while — working as a licensed real estate agent up until 2018, when she decided to complete a post-graduate diploma in Museum Studies from Massey University, designed to prepare curators for issues that contemporary museums, galleries and indigenous cultural centres face.

Tawhiao, had been looking for a gallery space that focused on inclusivity and connectivity with the artists and its audience, and found Ramp Gallery ticked all of those boxes.

“This really is my dream role,” says Tawhiao.

Tawhiao is also completing her Master of Arts at Wintec, supervised by multi-media performance artist and Cultural Activator at Creative Waikato, Leafa Wilson.

The first thing Tawhiao will be doing once Waikato moves to a level with more freedom?

“Probably getting out and sawing some wood for my own sculptures,” laughs Tawhiao, who says being a “notorious tinkerer” has kept her busy in lockdown, alongside spending time with her whānau.

Ramp Gallery’s latest exhibition, Te Aho Mutunga Kore — The eternal thread, will also be open to the public as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime,  download the exhibition catalogue.

For more information, go to Ramp Gallery, or email hollie.tawhiao@wintec.ac.nz.

Related stories:

Wayfinding project puts Te Tiriti and te reo Māori first

Creating change with Ataria Sharman at Ramp Festival

Wintec to host change-making creatives at Ramp Festival

 

This story was written by Wintec Communication student, Maddy Morris.