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Tuesday 19 July 2016 8:42am

At the Meet the Fellows event ... (from left) Barbara Else - University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence, panel chairman Nicholas McBryde - Director of Arts Festival Dunedin, Miranda Parkes - Frances Hodgkins Fellow, Chris Gendall - Mozart Fellow, and Victor Rodger - Robert Burns Fellow. Photos: Graham Warman.

The mysteries and quirks of the creative process were explored at the Meet the Fellows event featuring the 2016 University of Otago Arts Fellows.

Taking part in last Sunday's discussion were Barbara Else (Creative New Zealand/University of Otago College of Education Children's Writer in Residence), Chris Gendall (Mozart Fellow), Miranda Parkes (Frances Hodgkins Fellow), and Victor Rodger (Robert Burns Fellow). The Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance, val smith, was unable to attend.

Appreciative audience

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery hosted the Fellows in a panel discussion chaired by Nicholas McBryde, Director of Arts Festival Dunedin. An appreciative audience of a record 70, according to the gallery's Visitor Programmes Coordinator Lynda Cullen, also had the opportunity to ask questions of the Fellows.

Mr McBryde introduced the event as a “show and tell, but without the show”. His questions for the Fellows initiated discussion about their journeys to and within their Otago Fellowships, and prompted a closer look at the creative processes shared across artistic disciplines.

Space to think

The Fellows all agreed on the great value of simply having “space to think” – something that the six and 12-month Otago Fellowships amply provide. Robert Burns Fellow Victor Rodger confessed that he had “never met a deadline he couldn't miss”, so having the pressure off for twelve months was fantastic. Victor is not resting on his laurels though – the play he is currently working on is “tumbling out” of him.

Children's writer Barbara Else echoed this, saying that she was enjoying the lack of responsibility to anything but the novel she is currently working on. Miranda Parkes added that it was tempting to fill up the Fellowship year with many projects and pressures, and she was grateful to have received advice from former Frances Hodgkins Fellows to “just relax”.

How did I do this?

When asked about their creative processes, however, the Fellows offered some very different answers. Victor Rodger replied that he had no idea what happens in between the spark of an idea and a finished work – but he sometimes manages to get it right.

Chris Gendall suggested the creative mystery of “how did I do this?” is what gives voice and character to great artistic works. Barbara Else confided that when she begins a story she never really knows how the end will work out – or if there will be an end. She said that for her, it is a case of the right ideas having a chance to come together and spark against each other.

The Meet the Fellows certainly allowed the ideas to spark back and forth among four artists from very different disciplines – the chairman, speakers and audience all found the discussions stimulating and enjoyable. With an insight into the creative process, we now look forward to seeing what each of our 2016 Arts Fellows will produce next.


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