WORDS Anna Scaife PHOTOS Supplied
I have a very strong connection with the Arts Centre, it’s where I learned to sing. I remember playing at Annie’s wine bar. This has been a very nostalgic time, and I have just loved it,” says musician and singer-songwriter, Bic Runga, back home in Auckland after spending most of April and May cocooned at the Christchurch Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, as the first artist to participate in the revitalised creative residencies programme since the earthquakes.
Following the shootings in Christchurch on March 15, Bic felt compelled to return to her hometown to show her support, “In my heart, I had a powerful feeling of wanting to come home and being part of the Aroha Nui benefit meant I could do that. It was very moving, working with all those artists who’d donated their time. It was an amazing occasion, and I was just incredibly impressed with how the city responded to what happened. Then the creative residency timing happened to coincide, and so I was able to stay on.”
The commitment to the residency meant a prolonged absence from her young family which Bic says helped to motivate her to make the most of the time, as well as being a rare opportunity to dedicate herself fully to her work. “As an artist and mother, I really needed to stake my claim for my time, and the residency gave me that opportunity. When artists become mothers, that kind of support from the arts community goes a long way.”
Following earthquake damage to the residency apartments, the flourishing programme had to be sidelined while the buildings were repaired. The reinvigoration of the artists’ apartments and the residency programme is a warmly welcomed step in the progressive reopening of the Arts Centre’s facilities, and a unique opportunity for artists like Bic. “The residency gifted me piano lessons every day. I really wanted to learn more, and so I spent time with Chris Archer, an amazing music educator. It’s given me the tools to write again; otherwise, I think I might have just kept on writing the same songs,” she says.
In July, Bic will return to Christchurch to host a series of songwriting workshops aimed at supporting the city’s thriving music scene, “There is some amazing talent in Christchurch, and I am very keen to spend time with songwriters and help where I can.”
Bic’s time as artist in residence culminates in a fundraising performance in the Great Hall on July 5, with all proceeds going towards ongoing restoration work at the Arts Centre. She is pleased to be able to support the venue she sees as an essential hub for creative talent in the city, saying, “The arts eco-system just doesn’t sustain itself.”
Participating in the creative residencies programme represented the realisation of long-held aspirations for Bic, “There’s a child in me that always wanted to be an artist in residence at the Arts Centre. When I was about twenty, I ran into Mahingarangi Tocker when she was there as a songwriter in residence. I remember thinking – wow, I really want to do that one day! Fulfilling that dream was a full circle moment for me.”