Celebrating Local Creative Spaces: The Little Gallery

It’s a bizarre moment in time that we’re living in right now. We’re in the middle of an unprecedented global event, the effects of which will be felt for years to come. At Creative Coromandel we truly believe that the Arts is a means of survival. Artistic expression can nourish us, comfort us, stimulate new and innovative thinking and be a powerful catalyst for positive change. We have artists to thank for these gifts of artistic expression, but we also need to give kudos to the spaces that allow us to experience these taonga, like our local art galleries. 


This week we chatted to Faye Saunders, the new owner of The Little Gallery located in Tairua and Whangamata. Faye tells us about her journey so far, what makes The Little Gallery special and what we can expect from the latest group exhibition, The One Thing, opening Friday 22 October 2021.


CC. You're the new owner of The Little Gallery - tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to purchase The Little Gallery


FS. I have always been a lover of art in its many forms and whenever I used to travel I would always hunt out the art galleries and usually try and purchase a piece to bring home with me to remember my holiday. 


To be honest I had never really thought I would ever be able to own an art gallery however when we were thinking about moving to Whangamata and saw that The Little Gallery was for sale, it really appealed. I saw a lot of potential and was looking forward to the challenge of adding value and improving what was already a well-established and proud little gallery.


I love the energy in galleries and appreciate the talent and creativity of our artists on the Coromandel. One thing I have always believed is that as long as there are humans on this planet they will continue to need great spaces to meet that also make them feel good – art galleries are the perfect antidote!  Especially when they are next to a café! During these challenging times this is especially true and I am so grateful they are still able to be open.


CC. What do you think makes The Little Gallery special?


FS. That’s easy – it is the people – the artists and the volunteers.  The Little Gallery is extra special because several of the local artists volunteer in the gallery. This is one of the main reasons I purchased the galleries – I love the fact that the artists are involved and it has been wonderful getting to know them all.  The artists are very much supporting the galleries and without them we would not have a business. 


It is also great for clients to come into the galleries and be able to meet the artists themselves, although I have to say our artists are so humble and modest that they sometimes don’t share the fact they are the artist!  


I am very much a people person and love the fact that both galleries are a destination for people.  We have a very eclectic mix of art in the galleries and both Tairua and Whangamata have their own ‘flavour’.  I think it is particularly special that they are both quite different as it gives people two different spaces to peruse and enjoy. And of course they are both located in two of the best beach locations in New Zealand and arguably the world!


CC. In your view, how do you think lockdowns and Alert Levels have affected the local creative community?


FS. One positive outcome of lockdowns has been that it has given our artists more time to create. It has also given the environment time to rest and rejuvenate. We have been lucky that the Coromandel area didn’t go into lockdown this time round so all the art groups are still happening.


Now that we have entered the ‘Delta’ phase this has created a new set of challenges. Artists have not been immune from the side effects of Covid in that they too are experiencing the effects of the economy and shortage of supplies like frames and materials which have been harder to acquire. 


With Auckland in lockdown for so long this has of course affected foot traffic into The Little Gallery. This has meant we have had to focus on improving our online and social media presence and a lot of effort has been put into this – there is still a way to go though.  A lot of people that have been in lockdown have still been spending online and we have sent paintings all over New Zealand which has been great and some overseas as well.


Of course, business has been slower but we are making the most of the galleries being open and we have great quality artwork for sale and sought after artists which is great for collectors.


CC. Do you have a favourite artwork in the galleries right now? What is it and why is it a current fave? 


FS. I don’t like to pick favourites but one little piece that I took a liking to is ‘Balancing Act’ by Verena Tagman.  I think it particularly relates to what we are all going through at the moment and I can certainly relate to it.  I love the composition and the texture of the mixed media.   


CC. Tell us about The One Thing - what can people expect from this exhibition?


FS. People can expect variety, thought provoking, stimulating and fun originals created by 20 local acclaimed Coromandel and NZ Artists.  Inspired by lockdown and having time to think, this exhibition challenges artists to come up with an artwork in response to the statement; The One Thing … 


We have had many different interpretations, and all will be revealed when the exhibition goes live on the website on Thursday night ready for opening on Friday morning in both galleries from 10am.


CC. What do you hope for the future of The Little Gallery?


FS. I really hope both galleries continue to be sustainable so we can continue to showcase local artists' work and provide great spaces that are a destination that people want to come and visit and purchase art! 


CC. Any final thoughts? 


FS. I would really like to thank all the local people who have introduced themselves to me over the past months and thanked me for purchasing The Little Gallery.  The gallery is a special place for many locals, so I feel very privileged to be the current owner. Also a special thank you to all the artists who continue to support the gallery. They have been a huge help and there is no doubt that without them the galleries would not be able to continue.  What is the most important thing … He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata


The One Thing Exhibition opens at The Little Gallery, Tairua & Whangamata on Friday 22 October 2021, at 10am. 


Exhibition run dates: 22 October 2021 - 26 November 2021

Exhibition also available online on The Little Gallery website


The Little Gallery Tairua: 228 Main Road, Tairua 3508

The Little Gallery Whangamata: Shop 3, 427 Port Rd, Whangamata 3620


*Image Credit* From L-R Andrea Johnson (Manaia cafe), Faye Saunders, Sarah Holden (former The Little Gallery owner)


Article published 21 October 2021

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