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An Interview with Artweek organiser - Deborah White

Question: How did you come up with the idea?

Deborah: I’ve been involved in the visual arts community since the 1980s. After studying art history at Auckland University and I completed an MFA at RMIT University Melbourne majoring in public art. The idea for Artweek was based on similar events overseas- in cities like Berlin, New York, Sydney, London etc.

The intention was to create an event that was more inclusive than an Art Fair and offered opportunities for artists who did not have gallery representation but also encouraged visitor numbers to the venues through guided walks and tours. We also wanted to break down some of the mystique around the art world and offer talks about collecting, copyright issues- lots of artists talks.

Question: How have you seen Artweek grow?

Deborah: The Festival has become an important part of the visual arts calendar in Auckland, with many artists and galleries planning programmes around the Festival dates.

Question: What are you looking forward to this year?

Deborah: 2020 has been so challenging for many businesses, galleries, and artists- we have made a real focus this year of increasing tours to galleries and offering more popups to artists to get their work seen.

Question: Do the different precincts have different responses?

Deborah: When Auckland became a supercity, we had a real challenge to cover the greater Auckland area. Artweek offers a wonderful opportunity to discover venues and artists outside of your usual patch. We have some fantastic facilities in South, West, North and East Auckland, I hope people will plan their Artweek to include these. Each precinct has a different approach to the week, making it unique to their artists and galleries.

Question: You have a Gallery – are the Galleries involved?

Deborah: Mostly the galleries are involved, surveys show that all venues have increased numbers during the week and sales are generally good. The art world is difficult to navigate at the best of times and in New Zealand, has this strangely negative response to collective initiatives, some gallery directors see the event as being too inclusive.

Question: Has Covid-19 had any impact?

Deborah: Everyone copes - or not- to a situation like Covid-19 differently, sometimes the tension is sitting just below the surface- involvement with our creative community, in any way, whether as a visitor or a participant helps us all to express and understand these stresses and communicate our feelings. Hopefully, people will take the opportunity to visit some exhibitions and events, with a friend or not and have a real conversation on what it is all about.

Question: What next for you Deborah?

Deborah: My total focus is keeping Whitespace ticking along for all our fabulous artists and presenting the best Artweek ever in October, with everyone out and enjoying the event.

Deborah White owns Whitespace - an art gallery in Grey Lynn.

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