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Catherine Mitchell Arts Centre

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Jump to navigation Jump to search Keeping Catherine’s dream alive Wanda Cowley traces Catherine Mitchell’s 56-year legacy.

In late 1952 Catherine Mitchell, a retired school teacher, had her estate in Onetangi transferred to "the inhabitants of the Western Waiheke Road Board", which she understood to mean the island community.

She was to live on her property for her lifetime, and the board had an act passed exempting her from the payment of rates. For the rest of her life Catherine poured all her assets and energy into establishing a centre to promote the arts.

The Catherine Mitchell Cultural and Recreational Society was formed and a committee elected to manage its affairs. Over the next 17 years groups were established to encourage involvement in drama, visual arts, writing, weaving and pottery. Open days were held to present members' work; an annual national writing competition was held and original plays were presented.

The judges were always professional writers and playwrights. There were artists in residence and experienced artists in all fields invited to take classes and workshops.

When Catherine died in 1968, the road board required rates in full from the society. At this time the society had no funds and the retired people involved felt they could not meet this demand. It was decided that a cottage which had been donated to the society would be moved to the Ostend Reserve. The road board would pay the removal costs.

The board then leased the Onetangi property to Auckland Boystown at a peppercorn rental while the committee engaged in intensive fundraising towards a home where the groups would have room to continue their activities. A lease was signed in 1970 for 21 years with the right of renewal for 10 years at $2 per annum.

In 1974 the newly named Catherine Mitchell Cultural Society (having dropped the word ‘recreational’) wrote to the Waiheke County Council regarding an interest in relocating a building no longer used by the Waiheke Area School. This was activated in 1975 when the building was moved to the reserve. The council billed the society $650 for transporting and re-siting it, and placed conditions to bring the building up to acceptable standards for fire, health, painting, landscaping and parking, also at the society's cost. There was a nominal annual rent of $2.

This was attended to and for the next 18 years the various groups painted, potted, wove and wrote at their allotted time in the refurbished building. During this period the emphasis changed to a more informal pattern with members of groups working together while encouraging and helping newcomers to participate in their activities.

Over the years the building deteriorated and in 1984 the society was advised to seek a new lease on the Anzac Reserve while a suitable building was found. This took some time. In May 1992 the society's current home was in place. The local body, now Auckland City Council, paid $1500 for the removal of the building, leaving the society to use its funds to bring it up to standard. The council also paid $5000 to help with the payment for a bio-cycle waste water system.

The following year a corporate membership agreement was arranged between the now named Catherine Mitchell Art Centre and the Waiheke Bridge Club to build an addition to the building to form a second studio. A lease for Anzac Reserve was then signed for 20 years, from 1 April 1993 to 31 March 2013.

Over its 56 years the society has been kept in operation by dedicated members who have worked hard to keep Catherine's dream a reality.

Wanda Cowley