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2016 Arts Fellows given warm reception at the Hocken

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 1:50pm

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Here they are . . . the Arts Fellows for 2016 (from left) Mozart Fellow Chris Gendall, Caroline Plummer Community Dance Fellow val smith, Hodgkins Fellow Miranda Parkes, Children’s Writer in Residence Barbara Else and Burns Fellow Victor Rodger at the Hocken Library last night. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

This place is charming, eclectic, even seductive, according to the Arts Fellows for 2016, who are clearly enjoying their University and Dunedin experience so far.

The five University of Otago Fellows were officially welcomed by Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne at a function at the Hocken Library last night. For some Fellows that was also the first time they had met.

Mozart Fellow Chris Gendall, of Wellington, says the city is “quite charming” and he is enjoying having the extra time and space at the Department of Music to compose his modernist classical pieces.

The Christchurch-based abstract painter and Frances Hodgkins Fellow Miranda Parkes says she has always loved Dunedin and is appreciating the opportunity to reinvent herself somewhere new, which is beneficial to her art; as were all four of her fellowships in recent years.

“They always take you to a new place and that in turn changes your work. I’m not usually a mover otherwise,” she says.

The College of Education/Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence is Barbara Else, of Lower Hutt.

“I’m loving living at the Robert Lord Cottage in the student quarter. It is a sympathetically renovated old workers cottage, with double-glazed windows and a good quiet room. I feel energised and very lucky to be there,” she says.

“I’ve already done a lot more (writing) than I expected.”

The cottage, in Titan Street, was bequeathed by the late New Zealand playwright Robert Lord (also previously a Robert Burns Fellow at the University) and is provided by the Robert Lord Trust.

The 2016 Robert Burns Fellow Victor Rodger, of Auckland, and the Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance val smith, of Auckland, were also welcomed at the event.

Hocken Librarian Sharon Dell told guests the University takes a real and genuine interest in the trajectory of the Fellows’ careers, and she mentioned in particular the fruitful collaborations between the Fellows in recent years.

Professor Hayne reminded people of Burns alumnus Charles Brasch’s words that “part of the University’s business is to act as a nurse to the arts.”

“At Otago we firmly believe that our artists, composters, writers and dancers play a vital role in the University, the Dunedin and the wider New Zealand community, and we rely on them to challenge and reassure us, often about who we are.”

The Fellows receive a stipend for between six months and one year, and space on campus to indulge in their creative projects.

More about the Fellows.

The Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance

val smith is a choreographic artist who graduated in 2014 from the University of Auckland with a Master of Creative Performance and Arts (First Class Honours). The recent years have included being a professional teaching fellow in dance studies at the University of Auckland, a dance lecturer at UNITEC Institute of Technology, and creating more than 40 live art works since graduating from UNITEC’s contemporary dance degree programme in 2000, presenting them at home and in Australia, the United States and Finland.

Burns Fellow

Victor Rodger is a New Zealand-born playwright of Samoan and palagi descent. His first play, Sons, won four Chapman Tripp theatre awards, including Best New Play and Best New Writer, while his award-winning play Black Faggot has performed to sell-out houses in Melbourne, Brisbane, Edinburgh and New Zealand. A long-time writer for Shortland Street, he is currently adapting Black Faggot for the big screen.

Hodgkins Fellow

Miranda Parkes graduated with Distinction in 2005 with a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Canterbury. Since then she received numerous prestigious scholarships, prizes and residencies for her contemporary and abstract painting and installations. She has exhibited in New Zealand and overseas, including in London, Shanghai and Sydney.

Mozart Fellow

Chris Gendall studied composition at Victoria University of Wellington before completing a doctoral degree at Cornell University. He has taken part on several festivals and conferences, including the Wellesley Composers’ Conference, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Britten-Pears Contemporary Composition programme. He was the Creative New Zealand/Jack C. Richards Composer-in-Residence at the New Zealand School of Music for 2010–11. His work Wax Lyrical was the winner of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award in 2008.

Children’s Writer in Residence

Barbara Else is the author of six novels for children and six for adults, starting with her best-selling adult novel The Warrior Queen. Books in her children’s series Tales of Fontania have won several awards, including the Esther Glen Medal and prestigious IBBY and White Raven Awards. She has also written short stories and plays for children, and has edited several much-loved children’s anthologies. She is co-director of a Wellington literary agency and manuscript assessment service and was Chief Judge for the 2014 NZ Post Children’s and Young Adult Book Awards. In 1999 she was the Victoria University of Wellington Writer in Residence and has been awarded an MNZM for Services to Literature.