A challenge from the Dowse

I heard so much about The Dowse from my high school art teacher, I imagined it would be filled with cocktails, berets and 10-minute lectures about the nuances of colour.

I was wrong, but not disappointed.

The works on display are still intriguing, but far more about …people… than I expected. Like one collection of portraits, several of them adorned with fresh kawakawa leaves. We learned that these leaves are gathered every week and placed on the images of people who have passed away, as an acknowledgment of their enduring life force.


I was impressed by Dowse director Courtney Johnston, whose passion for her work sometimes moved her to tears, sometimes exploded in a rant against ‘the system’ as she hosted our visit. She’s fiercely intelligent with the kind of fearlessness it takes to dismiss a conventional digital presence in favour of real, in-the-flesh experiences of art.

My biggest takeaway from our visit to the Dowse was when someone (was it me?) asked Courtney about her online strategy and she said something like, we’ve got the content. How about you build your own digital audiences for it?

I was like, sweet. Done.



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