Jeff Armstrong is the new president of the North Otago Art Society. Tyson Young tracks him down for a yarn.
Q: Where do you hail from, Jeff?
Oamaru is my home town. My wife Lynn and myself are both natives to Oamaru. We left after we married in the early 1970s to go to Auckland, where we stayed for 45 years, and I practised as an architect up there. After retiring in 2013, we came back here to look after our ill mothers. At about the same time, we also built our house out at Kakanui, which was my final architectural project.
Q: Have you always enjoyed art?
Definitely. Art was the genesis of the architectural career. My parents steered me into architectural drafting initially, and then I went and did the degree at Auckland. Drawing has always been foundational to both my career and my art. It’s almost like I’ve come full circle now – starting off with an artistic bent, moving into architecture, and now back to what I really love most.
Q: How did you come to join the art society?
When we arrived in Oamaru, I saw that there was an art society, so I decided to sign up. A couple of years ago, I was invited to join the committee, and at the last AGM, I was elected president.
Q: What’s one of the goals you have as president?
I’m wanting to promote art for that amateur hobbyist level of artist. I’m also wanting to help get them some exposure and give them some confidence in their art.
Q: How many members of the society are there?
We’ve been gaining quite a few members, so we must be getting close to 80 members now.
Q: If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d catch up with two people, actually. The first person I’d catch up with who is alive and well would be my wife. She is the one I enjoy sitting down and spending time with. The second person is the long-dead Greek philosopher Socrates. The poor guy was forced to drink hemlock because he was believed to have been corrupting the youth. I don’t think he was, and I’d just like to give him some tips as to how he could’ve avoided that fate, so that his mind would’ve continued to benefit future generations.
Q: If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do and why?
I would endorse and follow up on Jacinda Ardern’s call for a kinder and more compassionate government. It’s not all about economics – it’s about governing with a heart. That’s been missing for a while.