Written by Mary Rean
Drop into Studio One Toi Tū at One Ponsonby Road, says manager Echo Janman. “We are here to encourage people in a range of different creative processes – writing, dance, printmaking, film, ceramics, just about any form of art,” she says. “We have adult programmes, youth programmes, school holiday programmes, after school arts programmes, various workshops that pop up during the term – and we welcome everyone to come along and participate.”
Studio One Toi Tū is in the historic, brick Police Station building that’s been at the top of Ponsonby Road, just down from the corner of Karangahake Road, since 1906. Some of us may remember it in previous incarnations, when it was run by the Auckland Art Gallery as Outreach or later, under the Auckland Council, when it became Artstation. “As the needs of the local community have changed, the council has reviewed the way this centre has been run,” says Echo.
More recently, the space has been renamed Studio One Toi Tū, and reconfigured to create a mixture of small galleries and larger event spaces that are neutral and versatile, so they can be used for anything from movie making to creative writing to printmaking classes, for exhibitions, children’s birthday parties and corporate events.
“Companies can hire space during the day or in the evening, and often these private functions have an art vibe, like a painting class for staff or a team-building activity based around something creative,” she says.
The original, slightly dark, history of the building has been recognised in this latest iteration: the Sidewalk Gallery is in the old carriageway that prisoners were taken along on their way to the cell block behind the building, and the old cells are now hired out as private pottery and sculpture studios, “with portholes in the doors for delivering cups of tea to artists at work”, says Echo, while the padded cell has been preserved for photography shoots.
“We regularly hear stories about people who were locked up here, mostly comments like ‘my dad was here’,” she says.
The shadow of its former life is long gone, and today’s Studio One Toi Tū is very welcoming – a hub for creatives and community activities, where designers, writers, artists, performers and musicians can collaborate, and where budding artists can learn and extend their skills.
Echo and her team listen to the community and offer an inner-city urban vibe with programmes that respond to how creative practices have changed. “We want people to have the opportunity to drop in and see what artists and art makers are doing; we want the centre to be nurturing and encourage people to try things out and take different creative approaches,” says Echo.
“People should be able to participate at any level, whether they are novices and have never picked up a pencil in their lives, or are confident artists with well-honed creative practices. We want to support people to create and make,” she says.
Echo, and Sarah Dawe, Studio One Toi Tū’s programme and outreach coordinator, encourage artists and other members of the community to come up with exhibition proposals. “Artists, designers, writers and other creative people can apply online to use our exhibition spaces for a small charge, and we don’t take a commission on sales. We can also provide help with curating these exhibitions,” says Echo.
Exhibitions generally run for about three weeks, in one of 11 different gallery spaces, with Studio One organising evening openings which members of the community are invited to attend. “We get some really cool, different ideas through this. The exhibitions may feature the work of early career emerging artists or established artists. You can often pick up a good piece of art for a very reasonable price,” she says.
Another initiative is the Creative Studio Residency programme, which invites project proposals from artists and groups, providing support with studio space, assistance and exhibition opportunities. Among past residents are Alma Proença, Selwyn Vercoe, Erin Forsyth, Vanessa York, Taufale Tanoa’i (aka Linda T.), and the current residents are Dance Plant Collective, Cait Johnson, Toni Gill, Jack Tilson and Stjohn Milgrew.
To encourage diversity, the precinct has a programme of workshops run by regular tutors and is always on the lookout for experienced and new tutors with great ideas who would like to run classes. “We support them to start a new class or workshop, and then help them hone their teaching skills,” says Sarah.
“We are a real community-led art centre, working across a huge range of creative processes.”
Most classes are for four to eight weeks and change with the seasons and school terms, but exciting, one-off, pop-up classes, like eco art crayon making, where students learn to mix natural soils and pigments to make pastels, offer different opportunities. Other pop-up classes in the past have included textile making, watercolour painting and printmaking.
After-school and school-holiday programmes are designed to be fun and develop art skills across a variety of media. One popular holiday course run by graphic designer Lucie Blaze encourages kids to create their own designs on skateboards. Other classes support students who are interested in applying for tertiary art courses.
To maintain its connections with the community, Studio One Toi Tū also runs events and workshops to tie in with local activities and festivals. Bookings can be done online.
Electric Night on 11 October coincides with Artweek Auckland, and you can enjoy a free guided tour of galleries along K’Road led by local artists, or if you’re a keen cyclist, you can join one of the free e-bike tours.
Then, to celebrate Suffrage 125, artist Toni Gill is planning a free workshop on 20 October, Painting Inspirational Women. She will guide students through alternative painting techniques to create an empowering piece of artwork of their heroine or a woman they identify with.
Between 24 and 27 November, virtual art gallery Seed is holding a pop-up art sale for 30 local and international artists who will create original artworks with custom-cut plywood semicircles. Works are reasonably priced at $100 each, with a portion of the proceeds going to the KidsCan charity.
If body art is more your style, Tattoo Time, on 1 and 2 December, may be just the thing. Studio One is joining forces with local tattoo studio Two Hands Tattoo, bringing together international tattoo artists for a two-day flash event where artists set themselves up and visitors can walk in, choose a tattoo and have it done on the spot. Food and music will also be part of the weekend’s entertainment.
In keeping with the Christmas spirit, Studio One Toi Tū has plans for a makers’ market on 8 December. Local residents, tutors, students – anyone who has handcrafts they’d like to put up for sale – is invited to hire a stall and sell their creations. The market will be open to the public, and Studio One staff will be on hand to help stallholders curate their wares. Visitors can browse and buy handcrafts from ceramics, photography, embroidery and terrariums to greeting cards.
Other exciting events planned for later in the year include a Latin American festival with workshops, exhibitions, music, poetry, art, food and dancing for the whole family.
Studio One Toi Tū is open Monday to Thursday 9am to 7pm, Friday 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 9am to 4pm. Check the website, Facebook or Instagram for more information about courses, events and studio hire.