The new chairman of one of Central Otago’s high-profile arts groups says he is enjoying the freedom of creativity after following “a very specific format” in a previous era.
Roger Browne is the new chairman of the Central Otago District Arts Trust (Codat) and he said he was looking forward to helping the arts become integrated into many aspects of Central Otago, which continued to attract a high proportion of artists and inspire many.
“The Central Otago arts scene is very healthy. We pull well above our weight. Is it because of the relaxed lifestyle? Is it because of the outstanding scenery? Is it because the artists already resident here have made it such a memorable place? I suspect that it is a mixture of all these.”
Mr Browne said a primary objective of Codat – which encompassed visual, written and performing arts – was to make Central Otago an “arts destination” that visitors sought out because of its art.
He wanted to see the arts integrated into “other aspects of Central Otago life” and praised things such as Codat’s “Arts on the Rail Trail”, in which artists hold mini-exhibitions at venues along the trail.
He was also looking forward to having musical performances in conjunction with wine tastings.
“Some wine-tasting rooms have lovely acoustics.”
At present, a major initiative of Codat’s is on display.
The Arts Gold Awards 2017 exhibition is at the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery until November 19 and Mr Browne said the awards reinforced the reputation of Central Otago as an arts destination by attracting viewers from other parts of New Zealand.
Mr Browne is also the president of the Creative Writers Circle, an Alexandra-based group that encourages other writers.
“Helping them on their journey to confidence and competence is very rewarding for me,” Mr Browne said.
Personally, Mr Browne was enjoying experimenting with his own creative writing.
His previous career – he retired 10 years ago as a senior lecturer in electronic engineering at Massey University – involved very technical writing, he said.
“My main specialty was image processing, and in particular the application of image processing to defect detection in horticultural products. I received funding from the kiwifruit industry to pursue this objective. I also worked on the design of very large-scale integrated circuits (silicon chips). Writing in my professional life involved writing scientific papers, and these follow a very specific format. There was very little opportunity for literary expression or artistic flair.”
Being now able to write “what I want, when I want” was a “real pleasure”, he said.
“I have stories running around in my head all of the time. Sometimes when I go walking I carry a notebook and pen with me to jot down ideas. Although I occasionally write very short fiction (called ‘flash fiction’), I much prefer to take between 2000 and 6000 words to develop a plot plus the characters involved in that plot. I have also written a novel, but that is a much larger undertaking.”
Another interest of Mr Browne’s is classical music.
“I love classical music. As a cellist I enjoy playing with the Central Otago Regional Orchestra and with other groups. Playing music is a great way to keep the brain active.”
He also helps organise U3A (University for the Third Age) in Central Otago – “that also keeps the brain active” – and is involved in various native plant restoration projects.
“When there is any time left over, I love walking in the hills.”