Hibiscus Coast arts group strong 56 years on

Hibiscus Coast Artists Inc has been going since the late 1960s.

For more than half a century, a group of artists on the Coast has been meeting faithfully every week, creating in various mediums, sharing suggestions and skills, and having fun.

On a recent rainy Monday, the group was smaller than usual as some members were away doing training for voluntary general election work. But the 16 or so gathered at the Stanmore Bay Community Hall in Waiora Road were brimming with the ideas and enthusiasm that have kept Hibiscus Coast Artists Inc a vibrant enterprise since the late 1960s.

Sketches, watercolours and acrylic painting were being worked on, ahead of an exhibition to be held at the Ōrewa Community Hall over the Labour Day weekend. It will be an opportunity to display their works, which will also be available for sale.

“I paint for joy,” says Leo van de Wijdeven, a member for 25 years who drives down from Warkworth every Monday. “I paint what I like to have on my own wall.”

Leo, who also teaches a sketching group, has a 50ha farm to run which keeps him very busy, but says that on Mondays, somehow that doesn’t seem to matter.

“It keeps the mind active,” he says of the group. “And we’re all old friends here.”

Pauline Morley has been a member for at least 23 years. She lives nearby and says that as she has no intention to leave the area, she plans to keep coming until “they carry me out”.

Club president Shana Southcombe says the artists meet every Monday except for Christmas. Covid threw a curved ball, but the group is thriving, with around 50 or so members. Newcomers are always welcome.

Shana says there’s a strong social aspect to the sessions. Group trips are arranged, and once a month, members submit works to be assessed by an outside judge, which helps to hone their skills.

In 1967, a handful of enthusiasts started meeting at a farm cottage somewhere near the current location of the fire station on Hibiscus Coast Highway.

“It was through the generosity of a Mr Lawrence, a local farmer, who allowed this to happen on his farm, connecting electricity and ensuring the ‘long drop’ was in working order,” says club secretary Ken Crawford.

“The founding members gathered to help repair and tidy up so they could use this space. It became known as Wood Path Cottage.  No key required on entry, it was simply give the front door a good kick!”

In 1971 the group moved to the Holy Trinity Church in Wainui Road, and when it ran out of space again, it decamped in 1986 to where it meets today.

“We are fortunate with our panoramic views from the windows,” Ken says. “The  atmosphere is warm, welcoming and inspiring for everyone.”

The exhibition is on October 20-22, 10am-4pm. Info: contact Ken: kenc2014@outlook.com or 021 158 6347.

Raimond and Angela Lasar of Warkworth are regulars, joined on this occasion by their daughter Gloria, on school holiday.