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Room Four art space seeks online funds

St Asaph art space Room Four is crowdfunding to stay open in the face of dwindling post-earthquake funds.

Co-founders Rosalee Jenkin and Daegan Wells, both 24, have raised almost half of the $2,000 target they hoped to meet by August 9.

“It’s a really good start,” Jenkin said.

The funds are intended to cover rent on the multi-purpose gallery space for two months.

Jenkin said Room Four’s role as part-gallery, part open studio and part creative events space filled a need post-earthquakes, as many gallery spaces had closed down.

Since opening in April 2012, the space has received $12,515 from the Christchurch City Council and an additional $5,000 in upstart cash from Creative New Zealand’s Emergency Earthquake Response Grant, but those funds have been exhausted.

While there is ongoing support from Creative New Zealand for larger-scale Christchurch arts organisations, “for something our size it’s a bit harder”, Jenkin said.

Creative New Zealand communications manager Sarah Pomeroy said the funder had provided over $2.7 million in earthquake recovery grants and continued to consider applications on a monthly basis.

The council granted Room Four’s last application on the grounds that it become self-sufficient, which Jenkin said has made spaces “more ruthless” and more likely to choose to work with large organisations over individual emerging artists.

She cited the example of UK-based artist Rachel Zanders who came to Christchurch on a Creative New Zealand grant in May only to find the space for her residency had been leased to a company for storage. Room Four let her use its space instead. 

To coincide with its PledgeMe campaign, Room Four is hosting a one-night-only exhibition of donated pieces from local artists this Friday [July 25], many of them young graduates of the Fine Arts programme at the University of Canterbury.

“Normally for a show it would be curated works that fit within a particular genre, but this time we wanted artists to donate work, so it didn’t matter what it was or what it looked like,” Wells said.

The result is an eclectic mix of drawings, photography, collages, sculptures and prints. For either $75 or $100, you can own one of the pieces, which will be unveiled for the first time at Friday’s exhibition.

Other pledges on the crowdfunding campaign range from $5 to $150. Gifts include handwritten thank you letters, limited edition post cards, a three-course dinner cooked by Jenkin and Wells at Room Four, or your very own portrait made by Jenkin. 

Jenkin and Wells hope to keep the space open at least until the end of the year and have several events already planned, including an exhibition by sculptor Thomas Reveley, set to open on Friday August 1, and Zinefest in October.

The fine arts pair have been renting Room Four from the owners of next door’s Darkroom for the last two and a half years after falling in love with the space after biking there one afternoon in February 2012. Their future with Room Four is uncertain. “We have been open for two years, and both of us feel like we want to move on and hand it over to some other people,” Jenkin said.

The need for the space will remain, though, Jenkin said, citing an ongoing “lack of spaces for emerging artists” three years on from the earthquakes.

“I don’t want to leave it to become a storage space again.”

Room Four’s PledgeMe campaign closes August 9. Their one-night exhibition at Room Four starts this Friday [July 25] at 7PM at 336 St Asaph Street. 

_Hannah Herchenbach for The Press