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Surreal . . . Waitaki Arts Festival director Frances McElhinney says people should enjoy the arts while they can.

Celebrating local talent is at the crux of the Waitaki Arts Festival, director Frances McElhinney says.

New Zealand artists tended to be humble, but the festival, which starts today and runs until October 24, was a great opportunity for the public to celebrate their work, Mrs McElhinney said.

From past to current artists, the festival was an ode to the Waitaki district’s artists.

Looking to past artists, the multi-media show Poetry and Music in the North Otago Landscape would celebrate Janet Frame, Douglas Lilburn, and Colin McCahon.

“Three incredible artists found inspiration here.”

It did not stop with them.

This year’s Meet the Maker, now held as part of the festival, would celebrate current artists who were just as inspired by the people and world around them.

From October 23 to 24, artists from around the district were welcoming the public into their studios to see how they worked.

As for the looming question of Covid-19, Mrs McElhinney was happy the festival could go ahead under Level 2.

“It’s a bit surreal in this world,” she said.

“We are going ahead when many have not been able to.”

Unfortunately the Beer and Wine on Harbour festival had been postponed, and Miss Jean Batten, Voices Love Opera, and Guy Montgomery by Name, Guy Montgomery by Nature had all been cancelled.

But Mrs McElhinney was happy the festival had not been fully disrupted, and said it did not hurt to have “kept it very local and low key”.

Mrs McElhinney encouraged people to make the most of the festival.

“It’s a safe space to see something you wouldn’t normally see.”

The Waitaki Arts Festival programme is available on the Oamaru Opera House website.