Rhonda Bunyan is stepping down as gallery director.
Over the past decade, Rhonda Bunyan’s passion for art has been intrinsically linked with the Percy Thomson Art Gallery in Stratford.
From her beginnings as a gallery volunteer to being a gallery director, through exhibiting her own work in the gallery space and encouraging many other artists, both emerging and experienced, to make Likewise, Rhonda’s love for art never wavered.
After six years as a gallery manager, Rhonda is retiring at the end of January, but says she is not giving up her passion for the gallery or the art.
“I put all my heart and soul into this job, but I know now is a good time to go. Better quit a job while you still love it.”
She and her husband move to their property in Okato, where Rhonda plans to devote more time to her own artistic pursuits.
“Laurence and I have a property there. I have moved a portable classroom as a studio and will use the time to explore my own creativity in photography.”
Rhonda moved to Stratford from Whanganui 25 years ago and started volunteering at Percy Thomson Art Gallery 10 years ago, becoming gallery director six years ago.
“I felt the gallery was a real asset to Stratford and knew I would love to help here.”
In her years at the gallery, she has hosted around 180 exhibitions, each bringing something unique, she says.
“We can organize about 18 exhibitions a year using the gallery as one big space or dividing it in half.”
It’s always a special feeling to see people’s reactions when they first walk into the gallery, Rhonda says.
“First-time visitors to the gallery are amazed that in Stratford we have such a modern art space with state-of-the-art climate control and security features. “
These cutting-edge features have enabled the gallery to host leading exhibitions, she says.
“We were able to host Rodin’s Eve, Gordon Walters and traveling exhibitions in New Zealand such as the Toss Woollaston exhibition.
One of the highlights of Rhonda’s stay at the gallery is that the Stratford Art Society holds two exhibitions each year.
“The Stratford Art Society helped create the vision and was part of the planning process for the Percy Thomson Art Gallery. It allows members to showcase their work in a local modern gallery and keeps the Stratford Arts Society vibrant and strong.
Supporting young artists has been a major goal for Rhonda during her time at the gallery.
“I strongly believe in supporting our young emerging artists from Taranaki, which we do through the annual Emergence Awards. We also do this by inviting schools to take a look at the exhibits, which inspires our youth. I find talking to children so rewarding. They are very honest with their opinions on art. “
Rhonda says she also worked to create more connections between individual artists as well as showcase the work of specific groups and cultures.
While working at the gallery, Rhonda’s goal has been to make more connections.
“I saw bonds form throughout my stay here and it made me so happy. Another of my goals was to showcase more artwork by talented Maori artists. I think it is important to celebrate their work and an artist from Pātea has been helpful in doing this. “
Rhonda says she is grateful for the support she received while she was a gallery director.
“I would like to thank my assistant, Amy Taunt, the work she has done is amazing and I am grateful to have her by my side. I would also like to thank the Percy Thomson Art Gallery Trust and the Stratford District Council for their support . “
Rhonda says that when it comes to her own art, she has had the constant support of her husband.
“He allowed me to be the creative fool that I am and always told me if I wanted to do something, do it.”
As Rhonda steps down as director in January 2022, her influence and vision will continue to steer the gallery into the future, with a special exhibition curated by Rhonda slated for 2023.
“I wanted to organize one more thing for Stratford. I am delighted to announce a Rita Angus exhibition for 2023. I love Stratford. I have learned so much in this role, which has allowed me to grow as a gallery manager . I will miss Stratford and the gallery. “
Rhonda will also miss the gallery and Stratford, said Bruce Ellis, president of Percy Thomson Trust.
“Rhonda was great and a real treasure. Not only did she keep the gallery running, but she also developed a great relationship with the artists of Taranaki.
“She has also developed good relationships with galleries such as Te Papa so that we can organize exciting and stimulating exhibitions.
“She organized herself through the Covid-19 situation and left the gallery in good shape. She had great ideas such as Percy’s Place as a selling point for artists. I often say that as a trust , our most important job is to find the right director and that’s exactly what we did with Rhonda. She will be sorely missed. “