Since Paula Stephenson began as operations manager for Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery in mid-August, she has asked local residents what they wanted for the space.
The common response, she said, no matter a person’s age or political leanings, was that Central Stories was built by the community as a repository for its arts, history and culture.
‘‘I think that’s a good place to start. Let’s make it a hub for the community for art, history and culture.’’
The venue has been a hive of activity in the lead›up to last weekend’s Blossom Festival and beyond, hosting a retrospective exhibit on the festival, a Central Otago Art Society exhibition, working artists and crafts people demonstrating their varied skills, alongside images from the Winterstellar show and the museum exhibits.
Alexandra District Museum Inc chairman Malcolm Macpherson said the venue needed to take a different path in order to be financially viable.
‘‘This blossom festival also shows us that Central Stories can perform as a multipurpose centre, and we are more inclined now to use ‘cultural centre’ as a bigger idea than just a museum and art gallery.
‘‘People connect best to places like Central Stories when they understand that they’re about them and for them — and the jam›packed spaces, with so much fun and variety, so much to see and do of this blossom festival, is a step in that direction.’’
There would be an almost new board after the annual meeting in late October or November, Mr Macpherson said.
‘‘It’s my hope that with new ideas and new energy, Central Stories can become the cultural centre it always aspired to be.’’
He credited Ms Stephenson as the ‘‘champion’’ behind the changes.
‘‘She has done a marvellous job of wrangling it all together.’’
Ms Stephenson said the gallery was booked until the end of December with exhibitions including Queenstown artist Jane Coombes (October 3-November 3), WoolOn from October 3, a show by creative artist Jordan Taylor (November 10-26) and the Kahui Ako school exhibition (November 11-December 11).
‘‘We are looking in January, February and March at encouraging Central Otago artists to come and visit and exhibit their work,’’ Ms Stephenson said.
Funding had also been obtained for renovations to the museum, and she looked forward to better telling the stories behind the items on display.
‘‘We are not going to take the old stuff out — we are going to add value and freshen it up. The bones are great — it’s just a matter of making it a lot more inviting.’’
She also wanted to invite volunteers to join the team, as numbers needed building up again.
She encouraged young people to get involved, explaining that the work could be count towards later professional opportunities, and said it was a good way to build confidence and learn skills.
‘‘We need the older people too, because they are our history,’’ she said.