A place in space for art

An old 1912 observatory with an empty telescope dome up in the hills of Wellington is a seemingly unlikely space to find an artist at work. However, the Wellington Museums Trust who look after cultural places in Wellington including The Wellington Museum, Nairn Street Cottage, Cable Car Museum and Space Place, have turned the Thomas King Observatory (part of the Carter Observatory complex) into an artists working space.

Julian Priest, the first resident to occupy the observatory, is currently working on his project ‘The Weight of Information 2.0’, which involves launching a satellite into space and collecting the data of its location. This data will then be presented in a visual format through projecting images onto the walls inside the observatory. He started working at the Thomas King Observatory in 2017 and the project continues in 2018 with further development, public workshops and launch events.

Julian’s project, which is an intersection of science and art, has inspired the Thomas King Observatory Residency to focus on Art-Science projects. The Thomas King Observatory Residency’s aims to support Art-Science projects and artists by providing a stipend, a studio/exhibition space located in a historic observatory, positioned in a prominent public area with great views, within close proximity to a range of interesting and inspirational organisations.

As the observatory sits on the hills of Wellington at the top of the Botanic Gardens, a place known as Pukehinau, alongside Space Place at Carter Observatory and MetService New Zealand. This is a place with so much cultural history, the otherwise unused space that is the Thomas King Observatory, is a fitting space for this emerging area of art.

As the residency focuses on Art-Science, it proves to be a unique opportunity for artists in this space, and has the potential to attract international artists. The observatory is a valuable asset to the Wellington community, and utilising it in this way showcases that Wellington is a celebrated cultural destination.

The residency is currently supported by Museums Wellington, with the provision of the Thomas King as a studio/public space, and by supporting public events through Space Place at Carter Observatory. As the residency evolves, they are seeking input and support on how to best ensure the residency continues to run.

Even in these early phases of developing the residency, it’s promising to see how a unique collaboration of two sectors, science and art, can come together and create a new space that celebrates culture and provides another creative space for the public.

For any queries on the residency get in touch with Tamsin at Museums Wellington.