There’s a buzz happening in the Western Bay of Plenty and the region’s creative sector. Eric Holowacz, General Manager at Creative Bay of Plenty has faith in the Zen of things. And he and his team believe in bringing people together in a casual and unprogrammed way. That’s why last week they invited artists, producers, civic leaders, educators, and organisation managers to come together for an informal meal. A new networking tradition began with the Zen of the Creative Connections Lunch.
“We have such a diverse and interesting arts sector, but it’s not always aware of one another,” explains Holowacz. “We wanted to bring people together but with no agenda, not one bullet point, and definitely no death by power point. Instead, we wanted to spark new conversations and friendships in a natural way and without forcing any of it.”
Holowacz formed a partnership with Tauranga culture and lifestyle magazine Our Place, and began inviting the sector to the table. Annie Hill, Creative Bay of Plenty’s Funding & Project Coordinator, secured Trinity Wharf Hotel as the first site and began planning the logistics for an inaugural creative community meal. Within a few days of the first invitation going out, all 60 places for the event were reserved by local artists, performers, teachers, and community leaders.
On Tuesday 8 September, as the sun beamed down over the Tauranga waterfront, a Level 2 crowd helped begin a new Creative Connections Lunch tradition. Ideas were shared, new friendships were made, future projects were discussed, and the Zen of things unfolded.
Holowacz opened with a toast 'to great people, wonderful food, new connections, and the enhancement of our creative community’. After that brief formality, the event was given over to spontaneous networking and dozens of creative conversations that filled the dining room.
"Our only agenda was to bring together venue managers, festival producers, non-profit staff, folk musicians, school administrators, mural artists, and a wide swath of our creative neighbourhood,” says Holowacz. “We all went away wanting to do it again. And we will."
But afterwards—as the well-fed crowd trickled out into the early spring sunshine—Holowacz and his team admitted that this new series is all part of their secret plan. They want to bolster the arts, culture, and heritage community as a way to emerge from the pandemic more vibrant and engaged and connected. The organisation has set the grandiose goal of making the Western Bay of Plenty the most creative and interesting place in Aotearoa, and are developing a raft of arts partnerships and sector initiatives for Tauranga, Te Puke, Katikati,and surrounding communities.
“We now know how easy it is to get disconnected and crave inspiration,” explains Holowacz. “It’s time to collaborate with one another like never before—break some bread, start conversations, find the Zen, and get new creative connections going. This recent buzz and the widespread conversations that filled the room last week are really good signs. We all want to nurture and celebrate our creative potential. And we will.”