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Student story

Caitlin Clarke

20 July 2023

"I enjoy the intellectual but also material development of being an artist..."


Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture


Kaiwhakahaere, Ōtautahi Kōrerotia

Library Assistant, Tūranga, Ngā Kete Wānanga-o-Ōtautahi | Christchurch City Libraries

As a sculptural artist within Christchurch’s art scene, Caitlin’s research and practice has steadily grown since completing Fine Arts studies at UC.

"I have wanted to be an artist since very young. I enjoy the ability to move throughout intellectual divisions; for example, I can be a geologist, historian, weaver, and potter all in one day. No other vocations give you that flexibility," Caitlin says.

Using natural and cultural perspectives, Caitlin’s art philosophy examines the ways in which we create separate versions of a self-identity, and how this affects different aspects of our lives, with particular use of film, pottery, writing, natural objects, and "public programming".

"My work always has a strong personal element, as I often centre this complex around my own experience and understanding of the world. I am a collector of stories for my family and a large portion of my work is working towards understanding my place, and love for this landscape as a pākehā in New Zealand.

"I enjoy the intellectual but also material development of being an artist. Working towards big ideas, but also towards defining new ways of making work, being my own boss, following what I am interested in, and getting to collaborate and share my knowledge in my own way."

UC was the best option to develop Caitlin’s art education further, and also offered an Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship.

"The arts courses were more attractive; I could take a wider range of courses to supplement my Fine Arts degree. The Anthropology/Māori and Indigenous Studies papers were super helpful as a way of bursting that “bubble” and being able to bring the world and all its things into my art."

Christchurch itself was also a source of inspiration, already being a local and wanting to expand on connections within the growing art community.

"I had lots of material in Christchurch to work with. I am influenced and get most of my ideas through nature, and in my last year I was doing at least three big walks around the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula a week. This was so helpful for my practice, as I think best when outside and walking. Here, I was able to properly situate myself in the New Zealand context. Being able to be this flexible and take my studio outside was awesome."

Caitlin was also able to include field trips as part of the degree, including to UC’s field station in Cass, which was a "really great to take the classroom out of Ōtautahi and change our environment".

The School of Fine Arts lecturers were hugely influential in pushing Caitlin’s art further, and recognised Caitlin’s results with the Rosemary Johnson Muller Scholarship. Other classmates were also helpful in making studies more enjoyable and developing personal connections.

"Talk to your classmates, talk to your lecturers, and be around. Art is a wonderful thing, so treasure these years as time to be yourself and make mistakes," Caitlin says.

"The small group of people in my year group were awesome, and were open to communication and development of not just ourselves as separate people, but as a group or community."

Being a part of SKUB, the School of Fine Arts’ student club, was one way for Caitlin to give back to the student community.

"We worked hard to get the club back up and running after a hiatus; we held a Fine Arts ball and it was rewarding to include first years and have a place to meet one another," Caitlin says.

This experience was partly what motivated Caitlin and two other UC students to establish Ōtautahi Kōrerotia (ŌK), a public art community space in Christchurch. As one of the Kaiwhakahaere (starting energy/organisers), Caitlin helps coordinate local artists in exhibitions, performances, educational workshops, and other events.

Involvement with ŌK led to Caitlin being awarded a UCSA Arts Blues Award in 2017.

From developing an interest during study in how we form our identity, Caitlin was inspired by the process of gathering and archiving information that reflect our history, and also decided to go into library work after graduating.

Caitlin now works on the Auahatanga | Creativity floor of Tūranga, the central library in Christchurch, which focuses on creative production in things such as music, video, and crafting.

"I am often helping out with 3D print jobs, showing the public how our resources like embroidery machines, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, and other tech works – my Fine Arts degree is helpful for this when assisting makerspace events which are held weekly. I really enjoy the range of people I get to meet – all walks of life, working with people to find a great book, to helping them make a t-shirt design to embroider.

"The cool thing about libraries is that you are encouraged to read, and read what you enjoy, and if you do it for long enough you end up knowing a fair bit. I can do my own art research on the job all the time, and I am encouraged to do so."

As such, Caitlin hopes to continue growing as a practicing artist, and in creative public spaces.

"I would love to see myself part-time in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) industry, hopefully in an interesting place where I get to use my art background and apply it to my workplace. I hope to continue making art, and becoming better at it."

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