Imogen Stockwell never pictured herself in the curatorial world.
Studying museum heritage at Victoria University, Ms Stockwell had her sights set on community engagement, working directly with the community and connecting them with art.
But things changed for her when she was shoulder-tapped for a position as an assistant curator at Rotorua Museum.
“I thought I wanted to firmly stay in the community engagement roles … around events and public programmes.
“I really liked seeing people come into our spaces and have that spark of recognition … relating to something on a deeper level, rather than just a cursory look around the room.”
What she came to enjoy about curatorship was taking an “idea from seed” through all of the phases of development until it “hit the floor” and the public could engage with it.
She realised the “engagement” aspect of public programmes was still there in curation, but at many different levels.
“I get to play with it in the production phase, creation phase, development phases … and still get to engage with the community.”
As the Forrester Gallery’s new curator, she was responsible for the big picture of exhibitions – the proposal, concept, research, writing, budget, space, labels, choice of works, production, and the “look and feel of the show”.
She particularly enjoyed having an artist approach her about an idea, and supporting them through the process of creating an exhibition.
“Seeing the joy and pride, and being part of the journey is really fun.”
But Ms Stockwell was not in it for the glitz and glamour of an art opening – she much preferred the quiet, small openings that were reserved for a small group of an artist’s friends and family.
“Those are sometimes the nicest ones, because they are who they are for.”
She also enjoyed getting her “hands dirty”, helping with the practical installation of a show.
At the Forrester Gallery, she was looking forward to having a balance across the collections, exhibitions, and other types of activities.
She wanted to make sure the gallery’s exhibitions and collections represented the community in a balanced way, “giving space to community and the many different aspects that make it up”.
Learning about Waitaki’s art history and contemporary art was also on the Dunedinite’s agenda.
“[It’s a] kind of voyage of discovery that you have every time you move somewhere.”
But she was particularly excited to immerse herself in the local artistic community.
“Quite a few artists have already popped in to see me.
“So many of the practising artists in Oamaru are involved in the gallery and feel quite comfortable … it’s a nice feeling.”
Ms Stockwell started in the role earlier this month and said there was likely to be a “meet the curator event” on the horizon.