Anne Smith, artist and Cathedral stalwart

Parting with artwork is personal for Anne Smith. The process is similar to giving up friends, muses the retired New Plymouth art teacher.

“They are your creations.”  

But she is giving them up in order to help fundraise for the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary, the oldest stone church in the country.

Three years ago it was closed and a project to earthquake strengthen and redevelop the central New Plymouth site was launched.

An art and collectables auction on Friday May 3 – as well as a designer clothing sale on Thursday May 2 – are all part of the fundraising efforts.

Anne painted this work after her brother Brian Davis died

At least 88 paintings will go on sale at the Plymouth International Hotel, almost half of them painted or donated by Anne.

She and husband Ross Smith are Cathedral stalwarts. In 1970 they started helping, and over a 50-year span the pair has held every governance role in the local Anglican church.

Landscapes, still lifes, portraits, prints – large and small, framed and on canvases – lie in rows across the Smith garage. In their home, more are stacked in boxes and against walls.

For more than a month Anne has been gathering, dusting and re-framing works. Among them are an unusual landscape etched onto bamboo by renowned NZ artist Stanley Palmer (his works fetch thousands), a rocky shoreline by Alby Carter, early works by Michael Smithers and John McLean, and a Jane Mitchell piece (paintings by the New Zealand artist are sought after).

Some of the beautiful artworks that will be on offer at the charity auction

A set of four watercolours painted in the early seventies portray The Gables, St Marys’ first vicarage (since demolished), the Te Henui Vicarage and Atkinson Cottage painted by Mrs A Jolly.

Anne taught at New Plymouth Girls’ High School for 18 years, Spotswood College for four years and then later in her career, supported other North Island art teachers in an advisory role.

The creative impulse is a strong thread through her life.  Her father and brother both painted; the family home featured original artwork.

A rocky shoreline, by Alby Carter

After the death of her brother Brian Davis (a former Bishop of Wellington and Archbishop of New Zealand) she painted a dramatic seascape full of angry seas and dark clouds.

“I was really so upset and I went in and just painted it. It wasn’t a conscious decision at all,” she says of the subject matter.

Later she added geese to the sky and says they signaled hope and new life.

She’s sold a lot or given work away over the years, but she was always painting.

“Some were done as exercises at home before school, because if I set my students a subject I wanted to do it first to understand the problems, and I would do variations. It was good to have understood the difficulties.”

Others are purely fun. Pointing to a painting of purple petunia she talks about winning the potted blooms in a bridge tournament.

“There were two choices [as prizes]. An expensive trinket box and a pot of petunias and I just loved the petunias so I chose them. I wanted to paint them straightway.”

A canvas dominated by reds, oranges and thin, charred trunks was painted after some bush fires.

“I very rarely work from pictures – I work from the real thing in front of me, or when I’m out sketching.”

Anne has worked alongside hotelier Terry Parkes and Raewyn Wolfe to pull the collectables and art auction together. Items are still coming in but the range of collectables on offer is staggering: Whole dinner sets, antique furniture, lamps, cutlery, china and household ornaments.

Taranaki Arts Festival Trust manager Suzanne Porter is also throwing her weight behind the event, with her designer clothing sale on Thursday from 4pm at The Plymouth in aid of the Cathedral Project fundraising.

Everyone has some kind of talent, and a way of contributing, says Anne. “Mine is painting.” And turning her creative energy towards reopening the Cathedral and expanding on its vision is valuable for many reasons.

“It’s a wonderful place to go and be quiet and peaceful and it is a place of prayer.

“We all need a place to go, a place to seek solace, something to hope for and something to believe in and I think you find that inside the Cathedral.”

  • The Designer Pre-loved clothing sale is at the Plymouth International hotel from 4pm – 7.30pm on Thursday May 2.
  • On Friday May 3 the Great Collectables Road Show and Art Auction opens at 10am at the Plymouth, with cash and carry sales and silent auctions during the day. From 6pm the evening auction starts. For queries contact Terry Parkes 027 457 6633 or the cathedral office 758 3111. To keep up to date visit the Cathedral Facebook page here.

By Sarah Foy