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When Covid-19 forced New Zealand into Alert Level 4 lockdown, the newly formed Three Lakes Cultural Trust sprang into action to help support the arts and cultural communities in the Queenstown Lakes.From a nucleus of an idea, to do something to financially help artists and performers, the concept grew, culminating over the weekend in the inaugural RenewArt 2020 showcase in Queenstown.
Trustee Carroll Joynes said the initial concept came from trust chairman Bill Moran, who recognised the impact of the virus on the arts communities, which lost their audiences and the ability to perform in public.
The trust subsequently raised almost $100,000 from community trusts and philanthropic grants, which was used to pay the artists to create work for RenewArt, held at the Queenstown Events Centre on Friday and Saturday.
In all, 156 people have directly benefited from RenewArt — 91 performers and 20 visual artists, who had six weeks to create something on the theme of "renewal", and 45 event staff.
Art pieces included paintings, jewellery, ceramics, installations and immersive visual art, while performers ranged from aerialists, a salsa group and belly dancer, to comedy, a multimedia band, verbatim theatre, a jazz suite and fire dancers.
"The mission is to strengthen the arts and just raise the momentum in terms of having a robust arts community here that’s supportive of artists; that gives artists opportunities," Mr Joynes said.
It was also important for the trust to create a free event to lift the communities in the Queenstown Lakes, "to just celebrate this community and the amazing people in it".
Trust general manager Jo Brown said the feedback from the weekend in Queenstown had been "extraordinary".
"I think it’s given the community something to reconnect through — everybody’s really excited because they’ve been able to get out and have something to enjoy.
"We’ve transformed the Events Centre ... Somebody likened it to walking in to Te Papa.
"We’re so, so happy with the community support and with all of the grant support we’ve had from the community trusts — we couldn’t be happier as a trust."
RenewArt project manager Ann Wyatt said the vibrancy of the work and energy of the artists had been phenomenal.
"They’ve been given an opportunity, and they’ve been paid to do it, which is awesome in this tough environment — and they’ve still been able to be paid for their work and sell their work."
Additionally, performers, including community groups, had the chance to perform on a stage, "which is amazing for them".
RenewArt will move to Wanaka this weekend, and will be held at the Lake Wanaka Centre on Friday, from 7.30pm, and on Saturday from 4pm.
Tickets are free via Eventbrite.