Kate Buckley - Artist
Linking art, people and place
Up and down the West Coast, in offices and warehouses, home offices and kitchen tables, small businesses are flourishing. Development West Coast runs a nine-week programme called CO.STARTERS to equip aspiring entrepreneurs so they can turn ideas into action. Many of the businesses do not have a traditional store front, so in this series of Open for Business, the Greymouth Star and Development West Coast sample some of the emerging small enterprises that are helping shape the future.
Back in her homeland of Ireland, Kate studied at the prestigious National College of Art and Design in Dublin. She has exhibited widely and spent time as Artist in Residence at the Siamsa Tíre National Folk Theatre of Ireland, the ArtsLab Theatre at Trinity College Dublin, and at the Stamsund International Theatre Festival in Norway.
She has also received many commissions and has work in the collections of the Irish President, Guinness Ltd, the Wallace Arts Trust in New Zealand, and many of the Irish Regional Council art collections.
What led this accomplished Irish artist to move from the West Coast of Ireland to the West Coast of New Zealand?
“It’s the oldest story in the world really,” Kate says. “A holiday romance with a Kiwi farmer I met in Ireland. After a few years of extended visits one of us had to move, so I put my paintbrush in my back pocket and emigrated to NZ in 2005.”
“We moved to the Coast four years ago. I love living here,” she says. “The weather is familiar; the scenery feeds the soul and the people are great.”
They are now living in a shed/house (shouse) near Hokitika. She has set up a purpose-built studio in the attic space with lots of lights and good working surfaces. “We have a dog called Mick. He’s a big, bright, ugly, hairy, black dog with caramel eyes and a moustache”, Kate says. “He sits cross-legged outside my studio and looks at me like he knows far, far more than I ever will … This is probably true.”
Like many on the Coast, Kate’s business has a variety of parts. “I think that’s one of the real strengths of living in a rural place,” she says. “Many of us have to do many things to make a living, and that makes everyone more able and more connected.”
“There’s an energy around the Coast, call it entrepreneurial or just the Kiwi no.8 wire mentality, but people are determined to make the most of living here,” she explains. “The challenges this environment provides is making them determined and their businesses special. I really like that, it suits my way of seeing the world.”
Since arriving on the Coast, Kate has jumped in head-first becoming involved in a range of projects. “As an artist I have always worked as both a fine artist with exhibitions and gallery-based art, and as a community artist,” she says. “Over the years I’ve developed a way of working that allows me to knit both together.”
A good example of this is a project she worked on in South Westland called ‘Idir - Between Places’. “It was an exploration of life between places - Ireland and New Zealand,” Kate explains. “Idir is the Gaelic word meaning ‘between’.”
For the project five schools in South Westland were linked with five schools in North Western Mayo in Ireland. The students explained and explored each other’s places using art. Kate spent three months living and working in each place, working with the schools as well as on her own artwork. “Much of the work I did with the kids explored the same themes I was exploring,” she says. “We exhibited the work in both countries.”
Soon after she moved to Hokitika, Kate joined the Hokitika Craft Gallery. “It’s been exciting to be part of that group. It provides a great opportunity to show and sell my work locally, and to meet customers,” she says. “Like all the other members, I don’t want to take on the responsibility of running my own gallery or shop, but this model allows me to have that by sharing the work with a group of people.”
In addition to the Craft Gallery, Kate works with WestREAP in Hokitika and Greymouth, where they have a programme called Art4Me. It is a drop-in art class, open to all adults, where people can come and do whatever creative work they like. “We had an Art4Me stand at Art in the Park the other weekend and about three quarters of the people displaying work were new to making art,” Kate says. “I am pretty proud of them, for many it was the first time they’ve shown an artwork publicly, that’s a really big step.”
Kate also works with primary schools and for the last few years has been collaborating with Department of Conservation on Seaweek - an environmental programme with hands-on learning at the sea. “The kids get to go to their local seashore and get their hands dirty and toes muddy as they learn with DoC staff”, she explains. “I’m involved because we’re using the arts as a way of learning. The kids are drawing, making, moving and problem solving. It’s been great to be given the opportunity to develop a programme like that, one that demonstrates how useful the arts can be in promoting other ways of learning.”
Kate took part in the Co.Starters programme in Hokitika run by WestREAP. “I did the Co.Starters course because I wanted to take the time to look at what I do as a business,” she explains. “People talk about the arts as something they love to do, and I hear myself doing that too. But it’s not just a hobby, it’s my work. I wanted to see how my work would sit in the context of a business model like Co.Starters and what I could learn from doing that.”
“I learnt a lot. Each week there was a different topic to focus on and enough ‘homework’ to get us learning and interested, but not overwhelmed,” Kate says. “We learnt so much from each other. Every week each participant updated the group on their ‘highs and lows’. We got to see how everyone approached their challenges and problem-solved. It demystified much of the business and accountancy jargon and processes for me. I really liked Co.Starters, and would recommend it to anyone with a fledgling business.”
“The West Coast is one of those special places in the world. The people who live and visit here know and love that,” she says. “It’s got its challenges; distances, low population base, fewer services than other areas, but these do make people more resilient and more determined to succeed.” This resourcefulness is demonstrated in spades by Kate, who with her immense talent and passion for education and community work has crafted out a niche for herself, doing what she loves.
“We learnt so much from each other. Every week each participant updated the group on their ‘highs and lows’. We got to see how everyone approached their challenges and problem-solved. It demystified much of the business and accountancy jargon and processes for me. I really liked Co.Starters, and would recommend it to anyone with a fledgling business.”