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Enjoying the moment ....Rangiora artist Carol McQueen, who is also a retired sign writer, with her work at the Kaiapoi Art Expo on opening night last Friday evening. PHOTOS: SHELLEY TOPP

By Shelley Topp

Kaiapoi celebrated the arts in style last weekend with the return of the Kaiapoi Art Expo and the Fire and Ice Festival.

The popular winter events, which bring many visitors to the river town, were cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, although a virtual Art Expo was established online by Martyn Cook, the then business manager of the Kaiapoi Promotion Association.

At this year’s 15th annual expo, which opened last Friday evening and ran on Saturday and Sunday, 125 artists exhibited 800 artworks.

Guest artist . . . Kim Henderson, of Motunau Beach, in Greta Valley, with some of her work on opening night.

The expo, in the Kaiapoi Club, was organised by the Waimakariri Arts Trust and included the School Art Expo, featuring paintings and drawings from Waimakariri school children. There was also an opportunity to learn about arts and crafts at the Have A Go section of the expo.

Waimakariri District Mayor Dan Gordon, who is also the former Waimakariri Arts Trust chairman, said the art expo was now “very firmly on the arts calendar as a must see”.

In the 15 years that the expo has been held it is estimated the event has attracted more than 60,000 visitors to the town to appreciate art with just under $400,000 in sales going to the artists who have exhibited.

“It is an exciting time to be involved in the arts in Waimakariri,” Mr Gordon said.

The Waimakariri District Council is working with the arts community to establish a Waimakariri Arts strategy and councillor Al Blackie will lead the initiative with a new portfolio of Arts and Culture, to signify the importance of the arts in Waimakariri.

Meanwhile Mr Gordon realised a long-held ambition to own a painting by Kaiapoi artist Paul Smith.

He was gifted one of Paul’s paintings As Time Goes By during the opening of the Kaiapoi Art Expo.

The painting, which was one of two Paul had in the exhibition, was given to Mr Gordon, by the Waimakariri Arts Trust committee in recognition of his service as chairman.

Mr Gordon announced his resignation as the trust chairman, at the opening of the expo.

“I have decided that after 17 years as chair the time has come to step down, but I will remain as a trustee,” he said.

“I have a few things happening in another job that takes my focus, but I am very proud of everything we have achieved over these last 17 years.

“From a conversation with Elaine Armstrong that led to a discussion with fellow neighbour Jackie Watson, and others, here we are,” he said.

Initially they thought the expo would only be a few events, but every year it has greatly exceeded expectations and grown in popularity to become a “must see” annual art showcase bringing many visitors to Kaiapoi.

Trust deputy chairwoman Jackie Watson will succeed Dan in the top job.

The painting gifted to Dan by the trust committee will hang in his newly decorated mayoral office.

“I have always loved Paul’s work and have wanted to buy one of his paintings for a long time, so it is great to finally have one and to be able to put it up in my office,” he said.