Left to right, middle school students Kaitao Jayde Phillips (11), Chloe Russel (12), Kiara Pelasio (13) and Caprease Pullen-Burry (12, front) with teacher Wendy Stafford (behind). Photo/Laura Smith
An impressed Rotorua headmaster has bought his own students’ artwork at an auction supporting the local museum.
The auction was organized and hosted by the Friends of Rotorua museum, held at the Arts Village on Wednesday and overseen by auctioneer Steve Lovegrove. It included 41 painted tiles.
The total of $8,810 raised at the auction will be used for museum acquisitions.
Wendy Stafford, an intermediate visual arts teacher at Kaitao, said the project and subsequent auction was the highlight of her career.
“I can’t even describe how proud I am…it’s been a wonderful trip.”
Ten children participated in the painting and, with the help of two teachers, produced 12 finished tiles which were offered for auction.
Stafford estimated that each child has spent around 30 hours on their tile in the past 10 weeks, including four Sundays.
The tiles were 115 years old and came from the Rotorua Bath House. Stafford wondered about their history and what future they had.
“I can see these children’s children walk by and see the artwork.”
Eleven-year-old Jayde Phillips created her own masterpiece by styling her blue-themed tile with a painted dream catcher.
“It’s unique… I enjoyed doing it.”
The whānau of two of the children had purchased tiles, but the remaining 10 would be displayed in the school.
The school principal, Phil Palfrey, attended the auction and it was he who did the bidding.
He said he couldn’t let the artwork leave the school after all the hard work of the kids, especially considering how high quality it was made.
Having received the green light from the school board, Palfrey rushed ahead of the other bidders and bought the children’s tiles.
The tiles cost about $1,300 in total, and Palfrey thought it was worth it.
“One of our mission statements is about excellence…these kids persisted and worked very hard for them.”
He said he didn’t tell the students he bought their tiles and lied to them that their work hadn’t been popular.
Then, to their delight, he surprised them on Thursday afternoon by announcing that although their tiles had in fact been requested, they would be going back to school.
All the artworks in the auction were sold by multiple bidders, with the highest bid of $1750 going to Tame Iti’s artwork, Taku Ira Tanata.