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Jim Geddes - Arts & Culture

Gore’s Jim Geddes prefers the spotlight to be on anything rather than himself.

Specifically, a spotlight on anything arts and culture based is where he would like to see the shine – a sector that is both a passion and a career for the Gore District Council’s Arts and Heritage Curator.

While the title sounds impressive, the accolades and achievements of his are much more so – again, something he doesn’t often promote. For Jim, it is about the work, showcasing the intricate and extraordinary arts and culture of the Gore District, and wider Southland region, and giving people the chance to learn more about the history of the area.

A passion for arts & culture

Coming from a family who were passionate volunteers with the local historical society, a love of all things art and culture was naturally formed growing up, continually piquing his interest until Jim himself started working in local galleries and museums.

“I volunteered at the Southland Museum, that was my first real step into it – and it just went from there. In 1983 I moved back to Gore and started volunteering at the local historical society here and become involved in different projects. And from there it just grew,” he says.

Jim was on the founding team of the Eastern Southland Gallery, and through his very successful involvement on that project, many more have come his way since then.

Everyday is the highlight of his career, he says.

“Everyday! I get to work with so many interesting people and working across so many exciting developments for Gore as well – it is just a pleasure each and every day. We have enormous potential here within our local sector … for me it’s more than about job satisfaction, it’s a lifestyle.”

No favourites

Choosing his favourite project of his career so far is just too difficult, he says.

“I have been fortunate enough to be involved with a number of great projects – from setting up the gallery in 1984 and then its major redevelopment in 2002, which was a huge project where we had to fundraise the $1.4 million needed to get it off the ground.

“The Hokonui Moonshine Museum was amazing to work on as well – that was in 1998.”

The Hokonui Moonshine Museum is a great way of telling the story of illicit spirit making in Southland from the late 1800s. It was inspired by the locals wanting to tell the history of the spirit trade, with many illegal stills set within the Hokonui Hills.

“There are just so many stories that can be told about Hokonui Moonshine and those involved within it, the McRae family are just part of that story.

“The Museum has given us the chance to tell those stories and in an unusual twist, we have an off licence so people can buy their own bottle of Hokonui Moonshine, made with the same ingredients as it would have been back then!”

Looking forward

Currently, Jim is part of the team working on revamping the Gore’s arts precinct and the soon to be started Maruawai Centre, which will be a tribute to the mahinga kai (food basket) that the area is renowned for, both historically and today.

Community collaboration is the key to the success of all the projects – past and current, he says.

“Everything we do, is all teamwork and everything is linked together – we put our own spin on it and create these great experiences for our District, for both locals and those who travel from afar.”

That success has heralded a number of awards for both Jim as an individual and the projects he has worked on. The most recent, the Deane Endowment Trust Community Award for contribution to the arts, joins his Queen’s Service Order, and Creative NZ Outstanding Individual Contribution Award in 2005 as well as a handful of others.

But he doesn’t like to boast. In fact, for Jim, its more about the projects than the recognition.

Four awards have been gained by the projects he has worked on, including a Creative Places Award for the Gore Arts and Heritage Precinct, and a Creative Places Premier Award for the John Money Wing at the Eastern Southland Gallery.

While the awards are “nice when they pop up”, the inspiration behind the work is simple, he says.

“The artists we work with, the writers, everyone who is involved in our projects and everyone we work with on a regular basis – they are all amazing people who are just as excited as we are about the potential of the projects and the end result. They are highly supportive, as is the local community, and we are very fortunate.”

Huge potential

The potential for more is exciting.

“Gore has the most extraordinary heritage – Māori heritage, pakeha heritage. There are so many stories of incredibly resilient and amazing people, people who made the most of this part of the world. We get inspired to tell those stories, especially those that are not as well known,” he says.

And today, Gore still has those great resilient characters within the community.

“Look at what we have here, it is amazing – we have people who still put in an amazing amount of hard work, who are resilient, and are still doing great things like those 100 years before them.”

The future is strong for Gore.

“In my eyes, the future of Gore is wonderful. We will continue to grow and maintain that strong work ethic, and continue to tell our stories, and build the cultural capacity of our district. We will continue to do extraordinary things here, it is exciting!”.

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