28 Jun 2016

Hundertwasser fundraising gathers pace

11:15 am on 28 June 2016

The trust raising funds for a Hundertwasser arts centre in Whangarei says local people have given $30,000 towards the project in just over a fortnight.

Andrew Garratt and the Hundertwasser  model . volunteers in background.

Andrew Garratt and the Hundertwasser model. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Prosper Northland has dubbed June 'Hundertwasser month' in the city, and has stepped up publicity about the project to attract local support.

The trust now has nearly $11 million of the $16m it needs to build the gallery proposed by the late Austrian artist in 1993.

Project manager Andrew Garratt said a lot of the money had come from major funders including the government.

But the Trust's small army of volunteers is now making an all-out effort to encourage local people to give as well, and not imagine the project is in the bag.

"We've got a lot of supporters out there, but now's the time to make it happen," Mr Garratt said.

"We've got just over a year to get all the money in place, and we can't do it without the local support and we absolutely do need it."

Mr Garratt said the government's grant of $4m had given the project a huge boost, and a Lotteries Heritage grant this month of $500,000 had also helped.

Jenny Hill volunteer and Andrew' s wife.

Volunteer Jenny Hill Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

But the donation that jump-started local donations this month was one for an undisclosed amount from Sir Michael Hill, who began building his retail jewellery empire in Whangarei in 1979.

"That's been the vote of confidence that's prompted other business people to give," Mr Garratt said. "They've told us that they saw Sir Michael had donated, and we have had some sizeable contributions because of that."

Local artists have also contributed this month, donating paintings for an auction at which half the proceeeds went to the Hundertwasser project.

The Trust's chief fund-raiser, Helen Whittaker, said that had put another $4500 in the coffers, and there were more prospective funders to try - including the Ministry of Arts.

"Maggie Barry has just opened a new cultural and heritage fund which focuses on the regions, rather than the main centres, so we have an application into that, and one into Foundation North (formerly the ASB Trust) as well."

Working for the Hundertwasser project as a skilled volunteer has meant a big change for the trained lawyer, who's given up her practice for the meantime.

But she's been able to reclaim her inner artist and use talents she abandoned for law many years ago.

The colourful chair sitting outside Hundertwasser HQ is one of Ms Whittaker's creations, which sell for about $400.

And the prototype is proving a nice little earner for the Trust: children make a beeline for it; their parents take photos and end up making donations to the cause.

The Trust is now just $19,000 short of its goal of having $11m in the kitty by the end of June.

Chief fundraiser for the Hundertwasser project Helen Whittaker with her ppioular chair creation and project director Andrew Garratt.

Chief fundraiser for the Hundertwasser project Helen Whittaker and project director Andrew Garratt. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

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