21 December 2018

Families who have children at the Rotorua Children’s Art House received an unwelcome Christmas present when told the Rotorua Lakes Council is closing the facility in the Government Gardens.

Opened in March 2016 using the old Gardener’s Cottage, the art house has had to survive on external fundraising under the trust, rather than receiving funds directly from the council.

While it has been able to survive since opening through the trust fundraising, this has become harder as times become tougher.

Previously partly funded by the council's Community Arts scheme, the Rotorua Children’s Art House Trust had missed out on two rounds of funding, The Mud has been told.

It is understood that members of the public were under the impression that the art house was funded by the council, which was wrong,

The council had used part of the building for some museum-related activity, but this was happening less-and-less, and was likely to cease once the museum is repaired.

The Rotorua Trust has reportedly donated $10 million to the council to repair the earthquake-prone museum.  It has also received $27.4 million from the government for its Rotorua Lakefront and Whakarewarewa Forest tourism redevelopment projects.

However, none of this money was available to help fund the children’s art house to remain open.

Rotorua Children’s Art House director Maria Marshall told The Mud that she was disappointed in the closure and had been contacted by members of the public outraged by the move.

She said she could no longer work as the director and was moving to Perth, Australia, to live with family.  While it started with about eight children in each close and then grew, more recently attendance reduced to about three in each session.

The children’s art house will be closed by February 2019.

The art house tried to keep its charges low but had to charge $7.50 per session for each child, or $75 per term.  It had sought funding support so as to keep sessions cheap for the parents but had received no council funding.

Members of the public have expressed outrage at the closure, including on the art house Facebook page.

“Such a loss. This is such a valuable outlet for our children,” said one commenter.

Art houses aim to facilitate children on their way to becoming artists in their own right, rather than “teaching” them. 

The house is part of the New Zealand Children’s Art Houses Foundation.  The foundation organisers believe children have the art potential and if they are given the space to freely express that, the children will grow their own art practice, as opposed to parents who want the information pushed into their children.

Mayor Steve Chadwick poses with yong artists outside the children's art house.  The web site caption reads: "Rotorua’s Government Gardens will be overflowing with art from the Children’s Art House thanks to the latest round of grants from the [the council’s] Creative Communities Scheme.” (13 June 2016)

Outrage at Children's Art House closure

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