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October 24th, 1987

Holy Cross Church, Miramar, Wellington 


Kate and John’s wedding day. The invisible string theory must be true, both growing up in Miramar, unbeknownst to them just a stone's throw away from each other. Eventually, they would meet, both attend Victoria University and fall in love, marrying in the suburb they both call home and know so well. Why is this important? Beginnings are always important. Getting to tell your own story is important. 


This is the story of a small family-run business emerging on the National Arts Scene in Aotearoa. 


For born and bred Wellingtonian Kate, I don't think fast-forwarding too far into the future she would be much surprised by her current job. Art is second nature to her. As an established artist and community arts tutor in her own right, it would hopefully not be offensive but fitting, to call her the Art Matriarch of the family. As from her is where the majority of the Morrison's love of art has derived and been nurtured. Something that grew quickly in Lumsden born but Wellington bred, John. Who might be a little more surprised by the career he has ended up in. For he has spent most of his working life in heavy transport management (very important when it comes to operating art shows across Aotearoa.)  But also, from a family of art appreciators and artists, John himself is a creative. He thinks outside the box, but what he does best is bring people together. Playing to their strengths, with a shared passion for art, is what makes Kate and John such a good team. 


Settled into marriage with two children and another on the way, it was time for a new adventure. To the south, to raise their young family. There, strong connections were formed in the arts community. And a love of art was passed on to their children. In the Morrison household you weren't scolded too much if your maths grades weren’t up to scratch, but art was of course, compulsory. They returned to Wellington briefly with a complete family of six. Only to go south again, this time to Christchurch where for now, they reside.


And it was there, in post-quake Christchurch, in their garage-turned office where Kate and her eldest daughter first discussed starting an art show of their own. To think now that this past month The Christchurch Art Show celebrated it’s eleventh show. Not only as Canterbury's most anticipated art event, but the largest art event in all of Aotearoa for 2024. 


At the inaugural Christchurch Art Show in 2014, a combination of artists from all over Aotearoa with different mediums exhibited alongside art students and galleries. The show was (and still is) a happy and positive event for Christchurch. At the time galleries in the inner city had to close because of earthquake damage and subsequently a lot of artists NZ-wide lost access to exhibit in these galleries. So, the first show arrived at the perfect time- it is good for the soul, a fun event for people to get together, to make an art purchase, and to take the time out to enjoy the art. Art is a powerful medium for many reasons, Kate and John like to think that art is simply ‘good’ for people. You cannot help but feel wowed at the scope and the scale of the exhibition and have huge admiration for the artists involved. Year after year it gets more incredible to behold, and to think it was dreamt-up out of that dusty, old garage filled with art supplies! Family and friends are key to how Kate and John run their shows. They generously take the time to leave their occupations and come to work. If you tapped a staff member on the shoulder you are likely to find them to be some kind of relation… Even the musician is the son-in-law of one of Kate’s many sisters.


After the success of Christchurch, three years later, Kate and John open their second show in Dunedin. A project powered by their affection for the deep south. A past involvement in community arts creates a spin off that generates a community education focus. Community arts classes are run in conjunction with The Dunedin Art Show where Otago artists come and tutor arts classes at the show. Operating an art show in Dunedin gives Kate and John the experience in managing an art show in another city and Dunedin sows the seeds for other art shows. This will take them all over Aotearoa, and briefly to Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020 for the Affordable Art Fair. 


A more difficult task was the arrival of covid-19 in Aotearoa. As the thought of an Auckland Art Show looms, which is not a new idea, ever since the Christchurch show opened artists have asked for the show to be brought north. As art shows where artists curate their own artworks and engage directly with the public were a rare thing in Auckland at that time. Everything, everywhere shuts down for the duration of covid-19 appearing. Two years drag out as Auckland experiences multiple covid shutdowns. It is not until 2022 that The Auckland Art Show opens to the public. A successful first opening happens, then Auckland blows a gale, everyone soldiers on despite the weather and enjoys the show. Never a pair to let the small things get them down, Kate and John are happy to finally be sharing their passion for art with the Auckland public. The only question now, where to next? 


Now with three successful shows, in 2023, Kate and John announce the plan to take their shows national, adding locations close to their hearts in Wellington and Queenstown. Officially forming Art Shows Across Aotearoa- this has been ten years in the making! These shows are not new shows, but an evolution of that first Christchurch Art Show in 2014. 


Kate and John have no days off. I’m sure they'd tell you this was because they don’t really think of their jobs as work, but as a way of life. Not to say that it hasn’t been hard work, it’s been blood, sweat and sometimes tears. Through the years there have been personal losses and conflicts. Ups and downs. Plenty of woes. But the good always outweighs the negatives. There’s no fancy marketing team behind the scenes here, five national shows to run, and just one small team. Where possible, everything is done by family and collaboration with the artists. And that's the thrill of it, working alongside those with a common passion. Watching artists in their element at a show and seeing faces light up when making a special connection with a work. That falling in love moment. Art is happiness. It makes people happy. And for those that feel that art is not something they know a lot about, that perhaps have been put-off at some point- that is what these shows are for. Everyone should feel comfortable walking into one of Kate and John’s art shows. Whether that is to browse, buy, connect with artists or be inspired.  


So, it is particularly special, to come full circle tomorrow evening with the opening of The Wellington Art Show. Back to the beginning, where Kate, John and team will set-out to do what they always have done. Bring people together with art, repeating when asked what it is that they do, with a phrase they believe sums it all up neatly. Louder for those in the back - 

We do it to show that, “Art is For Everyone”.

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