Local art enthusiasts gathered in Kaitaia on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the new Te Ahu Artspace, located in the walkway between the Te Ahu atrium and the cinema, the first exhibitors being Robin Shepherd and Raewyn Crozier.
Te Ahu Trust Board chairman Mike Mitcalfe gave praise to the two artists, and those who helped bring the space to fruition, noting Shepherd's "huge commitment" to and work on behalf of the community, and especially Te Ahu.
"Robin is one of the original shadow trustees of Te Ahu and has always championed this venue to become a cultural hub and celebration of the arts. The creativity of the people here in the North is something to be celebrated," he said.
He also mentioned the contribution Te Hiku Community Board made in providing display boards, and had a "special mention" for fellow trustee Mary Jane Ardley's work and commitment to the arts.
The exhibition is Crozier's first, although she has been "creating for ever" at her home at Victoria Valley.
Her work explores the past via studies of New Zealanders at work and play, much of her research focusing on photographs depicting times gone by.
She displays considerable skill with acrylics, and in recent years has taken to painting on old saw blades, which have become highly prized and sought-after.
She said Shepherd had offered constant encouragement, and had very much been her mentor, while the new artspace was wonderful.
"Hopefully many other artists will take the opportunity to display their works here," she said.
Shepherd, who farms at Pamapuria, has painted most of his adult life but in recent years has made more time to pursue his passion.
His broad-brush approach to New Zealand land and seascapes captures the essence without the detail, while his stylised and symbolised treatment of three scenes is a different style again.
Much of his work is drawn from his travels through Northland; he often makes very quick sketches on-site, takes photos and then develops the paintings back in the studio.
His preferred medium is oils.
All the pieces on display are for sale, while the two artists donated Shepherd's Te Hapua Foreshore to Te Ahu in appreciation of the opportunity to display their works.
Ardley was delighted to see the exhibition open.
"With 600-800 people coming through this way each day it is a great space for local artists to display their works," she said, adding that the exhibition was "a bit of a dummy run", with the "nuts and bolts" of how it would operate, including in terms of commissions, still being worked on.
Anybody interested in using Artspace is invited to contact her, Te Hiku Community Board or Nina Gobie at FNDC.