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Putting Art Into Action

It’s not the most typical teen hangout, but local artist and lecturer Darcell Apelu has always loved visiting museums and art galleries.

“While I enjoyed spending time with friends hanging out at the mall or the beach I was also interested in art and history but during my youth it was almost non-existent in Tauranga. I was lucky my parents encouraged me to explore art from an early age – I’ve loved art ever since I can remember,” says Darcell.

Now a successful artist and lecturer at Toi Ohomai, Darcell is excited about a new Arts and Culture Action and Investment Plan being developed by Tauranga City Council, which she hopes will build on the great work already being done by the sector.

“From being an advocate, to trusting emerging artistic talents, and creating opportunities for spaces to be activated throughout the city, the Council has a huge role to play in the arts," she says.

“My aspiration is to create a space where we can retain our artists here in Tauranga and hone their skills, and where we start to hear more stories like mine where people find careers in the arts sector.”

Tauranga City Council Arts Manager James Wilson, says the council has heard loud and clear that its communities want to live in a vibrant city that celebrates arts and culture. To help enhance the work of artists like Darcell, the Arts and Culture Action and Investment Plan will set out a list of actions for now and in the future.

“There's already a thriving arts and culture scene in Tauranga that supports the social and economic wellbeing of our city and region, and we want to build on that. Together with our communities, we want our city to be even more vibrant; a place that continues to celebrate artists like Darcell and supports new emerging talent like the students Darcell teaches at Toi Ohomai,” says James.

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After finishing college in Tauranga, Darcell studied art at the Auckland University of Technology and graduated with a Master of Art and Design. Returning home eight years ago to be closer to family, she got a job lecturing at Toi Ohomai teaching the Bachelor of Creative Industries, which fosters visual, art, graphic design and fashion.

“It’s a privilege to be able to share my passion and enthusiasm for art with my students, and they in turn motivate me to keep pushing the boundaries with my own work,” says Darcell.

Darcell’s latest work “A death of prosperity” challenges stereotypical views on space.

“The reason I called it a death of prosperity is in response to Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s ‘possess yourselves of the soil and you are secure’. My art piece is centred around the fact that you will never possess the soil, you will never be secure,” says Darcell.

“So when I talk about space, I mean space for all of us to create and thrive, together. To do this, we need to reassess and reconsider our perceptions of security, value and kaitiakitanga, from our views on land and spaces, to how we activate spaces for our community. Every space has a history, a currency and a variety of stories shared from one generation to another.”

However, she says her work is about more than sharing her artistic talents.

“It’s also about being part of the community’s fabric and its identity. For me to showcase my work, I need to collaborate with engineers, technicians, my students and other artists who are as much at the heart of our community as I am.”

To share your thoughts on what action we can take together to support arts and culture in our city and provide more opportunities for local artists right here in our own backyard go to

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