Te Manawa Chief Executive Andy Lowe is bidding farewell to the Museum he has led for nearly ten years, having steered it through the most transformational phase in its history.
Since joining the organisation in 2012, Lowe has led Te Manawa to become more inclusive, a place where people of all backgrounds could participate.
The 2016 ‘Inspired By’ exhibition saw artists from Creative Journeys create their own responses to works from the Te Manawa collection, which were then displayed alongside them. It was recognised by Arts Access Aotearoa, who presented Te Manawa with their inaugural award for Diversity and Inclusion in Museums.
For NOA Open Art Studio, and other work driving inclusivity across the museum sector, Andy and Te Manawa have received international acclaim. Te Manawa became the first Museum in New Zealand, and one of only two in the southern hemisphere, to be accepted into the prestigious OF/BY/FOR/ALL mentoring programme run out of Santa Cruz, California by Nina Simon.
Among other highlights, he cites Te Manawa hosting the director of the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico, not least “because it sparked a community takeover by Fridaphiles from across Aotearoa, who had fiestas all over the city, and down George Street, with our Mexican and other Latin American communities. It was so much fun!”
He recalls another night in 2012 shortly after his arrival. “The Secret Food Society held a magical dinner in the dockway on the theme of flight. There were soufflés, someone flew on the dockway gantry wearing a tutu! It was molecular gastronomy meets performance art. Today you’ll see more and more people using back of house and hidden museum spaces in new and surprising ways.
“There are so many people to acknowledge and thank. I’ll miss some people from this list, but I must mihi to Mina McKenzie, Luit Beiringa, Rangitāne, MMC (Manawatū Multicultural Council), Red Cross, Environmental Network Manawatū, NOA, REACT, UCOL, Massey, IPU, TWOA (Te Wānanga o Aotearoa), Idea Services, MASH, Enabling Good Lives, Mana Whaikaha, MaLGRA, Rongomau, Science Centre Inc, Mission For Men, Rangatahi Literacy classes, The Museum Society, The Art Society, Highbury Weavers, the Robotics guys, Woodworkers Guild, Embroiderers Guild, the Lacemakers…there are so many rōpu who are Te Manawa.”
During Andy’s tenure Te Manawa won an international design communication award for its Topp Twins exhibition, became the first New Zealand Museum to be accredited as working towards being dementia friendly, and worked with the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor for its ‘Sunlight – Ihi Kōmaru’ exhibition.
Te Manawa has also expanded its outreach programmes and diversified its event offerings to ensure that programmes are flexible, adaptable, and mobile – something that has been particularly valuable during Covid-19 disruptions.
“It’s been one hell of a ride,” he says. “Te Manawa whare are for everyone. A place where anything can happen. Dreams take shape here.”
Andy and his whānau head to Wellington at the end of this month. “My boys Niwa and Tahu were 3 and 4 when we came here. Now they are young men. Aroha and I would particularly like to thank Wiremu, Trieste and Nuwyne Te Awe Awe, John Fowke Chair, and the Te Manawa Trust Board, our incredible staff, Marcella Humphrey, Bridge and Jim from REACT, Anna Bailey from String Bean Puppets, and City Councillors Rachel Bowen, Lorna Johnson, Brent Barrett, and Aleisha Rutherford. All our friends who have welcomed us and worked alongside us championing change and diversity.”
Te Manawa Chair John Fowke said, “while we are sorry to see Andy depart, he leaves behind far more than a regional museum. Te Manawa celebrates art, science and heritage in ways that are truly relevant to modern society. He has created a unique legacy; our task now is to honour that legacy while moving into the future under new leadership. We thank Andy and wish him well for his future adventures.”
Lowe will begin a new job driving Te Aho Tini 2030 – Wellington’s new arts, culture and creativity strategy.