Sculpture park forced to close

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The Waitakaruru Sculpture Park will no longer open on a daily basis from the end of the month.

For just over eight years the park has been open every day and in recent years attracted up to 9000 visitors annually.

But the Waikato Sculpture Trust, which operates the park, said it had been unable to raise sufficient funds to continue to keep it open daily despite the best efforts of trustees and a staunch band of volunteers.

The current financial climate had meant an additional $75,000 needed each year to keep the park open could not be sourced, said trust chair Kate Wilson.

“It is with considerable regret that the trustees have decided to close the sculpture park until we can secure sustainable funding,” she said. “Personally I am gutted. Fortunately we have volunteers who will be maintaining the park grounds. This means that annual pass holders can access the park and, if funding eventuates, we can quickly open and fulfill its purpose.”

From July, the park, which has supported numerous artists over the years and gained a national profile as an arts destination, will be open by appointment only and to annual pass holders.

The sculpture park is part of the Scene Between art trail, which also includes many Tamahere destinations, including Inspirit Gallery.

Inspirit owner Jenny Scown said the park’s closure was very sad.

“It is a magic place to visit. The combination of art and nature is fantastic,” Scown said. “I know it has been a struggle to fund for many years and only hope they will be able to find a way to open again and be sustainable for the future.”

Scown said the park’s founders and landowners, John and Dorothy Wakeling, had given their heart and soul to the venture and provided an outstanding cultural attraction for all to enjoy.

“Let’s hope it will not be too long before they can open their gates again.”

The Wakelings created the park from a derelict quarry, landscaping it to provide a beautiful setting for recreation and the arts.

The sculpture trust has presented a succession of 24 curated sculptural exhibitions over the life of the park. Visitors viewed between 60 and 90 sculptures and installations on a walk along a 2km long nature trail. The park also provided an outdoor recreational choice for families and an arts educational opportunity for schools.

The Wakelings have protected the 17.5 hectares of trees for the next 50 years as a permanent carbon sink and hope to continue to maintain it for its recreational, horticultural and botanical potential.

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