Founded in 1999, the Blue Oyster Arts Trust is the governing body of the Blue Oyster Art Project Space, a not for profit art space located at 16 Dowling Street, Dunedin. All exhibitions and events are free to attend, the space offering an environment of criticality, support and learning.

Blue Oyster Art Project Space exists to enable emerging and experimental artists, writers, curators and arts practitioners to work free from commercial restraints in an innovative and experimental environment. Since its establishment the Trust has aimed to broaden an interest and understanding of contemporary art by providing a diverse and energetic forum for critical dialogue around a yearly programme of exhibitions, projects, events and publications.

We are supported by Creative New Zealand and the Dunedin City Council, along with a range of other sponsors, funders, patrons and supporters in and around the Dunedin community.

Click here to read out 2020-2022 Strategic Plan 

A Brief History

Playfully named after the Blue Oyster gay biker bar featured in the 1984 comedy film Police Academy, Blue Oyster began its life in 1999 opposite Arc Café then above it (now Taste Nature) on High Street in Dunedin. Blue Oyster has a strong history of supporting experimental and innovative art practices, and is one of the earliest artist run spaces to be established in New Zealand, influenced by spaces such as Auckland’s pioneering Teststrip (1992-1997), and Dunedin’s Honeymoon suite (1997-1998).

Founding members Emily Barr, Steve Carr, Wallace Chapman, Douglas Kelaher and Kate Plaisted opened Blue Oyster as an artist-run space with the exhibition titled Collections Taonga Trash curated by Emma Kitson. Replete with personal collections of humpties, soft porn record covers, catholic merchandise and Return of the Jedi cards as well as UK artist Richard Crow serving warm milk and liquorice in the basement of Blue Oyster, this founding exhibition opened the space as an exciting and potent site for testing out ideas.[1]

Soon after the founding of the space, the Blue Oyster Arts Trust was formed, allowing the gallery to have a life beyond the involvement of its originators. Since this time, Blue Oyster has seen several spaces in and around the central city, incredible support from numerous volunteers and talented trustees, administrators and directors that have allowed the space to grow and continue to be Dunedin’s longest running and experimental art project spaces.

Now located on 16 Dowling Street, with a large street front window and a variety of exhibition spaces, Blue Oyster Art Project Space continues to assist, promote and support emerging artists, writers, curators and practitioners to work free from commercial restraints.

Read more: Old, New, Borrowed, Blue: 10 Years at the Blue Oyster (2009)

[1] Description of Collections Taonga Trash taken from Bob Mould, “Dunedin Roundup” in Log Illustrated 8 (1999): “The Totem and Taboo Issue.” 

Blue Oyster High Street
High Street 1999-2005 

Blue Oyster Moray Place
Moray Place 2005-2013 

Blue Oyster Dowling Street
Dowling Street 2003-Present

About Current Staff

Gallery Director: Grace Ryder

Grace is a curator and arts administrator currently based in Ōtepoti, where she is the director of Blue Oyster Art Project Space (2017—). Since graduating from Ilam School fo Fine Arts, University of Canterbury (2015) she has worked at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu (2014-2015) and Toi Moroki Centre of Contemporary Art (2016). From 2014 to 2016 alongside Sophie Bannan and Sophie Davis Grace co-founded and operated North Projects, an artist-run initiative which supported the development of new and experimental work by local and international practitioners.


Gallery Manager: Phoebe Thompson

Phoebe graduated with a Diploma for Graduates endorsed in Art History and Theory at the University of Otago in 2017, and holds a Bachelor of Visual Art (hons) from the Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic (2013). She has worked within art communities in New Zealand and Australia, organising video-based art projects and engaging with installation practices. 




Previous Directors

2014-17: Chloe Geoghegan
2010-13: Jamie Hanton
2009-10: Jaenine Parkinson
2007-08: Michelle Armistead
2007: Benjamin Smith
2006-07: Charlotte Parallel
2004-06: Ali Bramwell
2003: Robyn Dold
2002: Melanie Oliver
2001: Pete Wheeler
2001: Byrony Allen
2000: Steve Carr
1999: Kate Plaisted

Previous Administrators

2015-18: Emilie Smith
2014-15: George Watson                        
2013-14: Briar Holt
2013: Melanie Wait
2011-12: Ellen Pullar
2009-11: Deidre O'Malley
2008: Karyn Taylor
2005-06: Charlotte Parallel


About Current Trustees

Dudley Benson (Ngāti Pākehā) is a Dunedin-based composer, producer and performance artist. He has released two albums (The Awakening, 2008) and Forest (2010), has been nominated for the 2011 Taite Music Prize, and won a 2014 New Generation Award from the New Zealand Arts Foundation. His work focuses on the relationship we have with our Whenua.

Megan Brady  is a Dunedin-based artist working across multidisciplinary fields. Newly graduated (2017), she holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (First Class Honours) from the Dunedin School of Art, and recently exhibited her first solo show, A quiet corner where we can talk (2018), at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. She also facilitates creative practices at Studio2/Margaret Freeman Gallery – a small, all-inclusive art studio for local artists with disabilities. 

Matthew Galloway (co-chair) is a Dunedin-based artist and designer and a Senior Lecturer at the Otago Polytechnic School of Design. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from Canterbury University. Recent exhibitions include; This Time of Useful Consciousness, The Dowse, 2017; Beyond Exhausted, The Physics Room, 2016; As Time Goes By, ARTifariti, Algeria, 2016; Beachhead's Peace of Mind, Artspace, 2016; and The Ground Swallows You, Blue Oyster Art Project Space, 2016.    

Leyton Glen (co-chair) is an award winning and critically acclaimed sound artist operating across many different fields all with a common theme of creating unique and compelling sonic experiences. He co-wrote the award winning music for the feature film Snakeskin, has released several albums, and appeared on over 50 national and international compilations. Leyton has been nominated for the prestigious Chapman-Tripp theatre awards for best sound design, and won both top composition prizes at Otago University in 2008. His last Rotor plus work Unreliable Witness won 'Most Original Concept' and 'Best Overall' at the 2016 Dunedin Fringe Festival. Leyton has taught music and digital technology at Otago University (2004-07), and Sound and Interaction Design at Otago polytechnic (2008-2017).

Ayesha Green (Kai Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu) is an artist based in Ōtepoti. She graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Elam in 2013 and completed a Graduate Diploma in Museums and Cultural Heritage in 2016. Recent exhibitions include: (Un)Conditional, The Melbourne Art Fair, The Physics Room and The Suter Gallery (2018); Alma Venus, Corbans Estate Art Centre (2018); The Spirit of the Thing Given (Māori), RM Gallery (2017); Biographies of Transition, To Busy to Think, Artspace (2017).

Saskia Leek is a Dunedin-based artist and has been a Trustee since 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury and a Post Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Saskia exhibits both nationally and internationally and is represented by Ivan Anthony, Darren Knight and Jonathan Smart.

Katrina Thomson is a Dunedin-based artist working mainly in sculpture, with some past works presented as ‘installation performance’ in non-conventional spaces. Katrina has presented her work at international residencies, including Arte de la Tierra – 5th Land Art Festival, Paricutín, Mexico; Freshwinds Biennale, Iceland; and Art Islands Tokyo. She currently works as the administrator for the Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust, and as a technician at the Thin Air wind-turbine project.

Dr. Yuki Watanabe is currently a Teaching Fellow at the University of Otago. Yuki has an MA in American Studies, an MS in Media Management, and PhD in Education from the University of Kansas. She was a regular cast member of a weekly TV drama nationally broadcast in Japan. She was also involved in the production team of the show. Her research interests include representation of gender and social class in popular media.  



Founding Board Members

Steve Carr, Douglas Rex Kelaher, 
Kate Plaisted, Wallace Chapman, 
Emily Barr

Past Board Members 1999-2019

Teresa Andrew, Ali Bramwell, 
Cathy Helps, Nathan Thompson, 
Terrence Wood, Bekah Carran, 
Claire McClintock, Iain Cheesman, 
Lynda Cullen, Nick Dewar, 
Don Hunter, Ana Terry, 
Jay Hutchinson, Anna Muirhead, 
Emma Bugden, Amy Jo Jory, 
Emily Pauling, Rachel Gillies, 
Michael Morley, Jenna Todd, 
Sue Marshall, Julia Davies, 
D’Arcy Dalzell, Peter Gorman, 
Maddie Grady, Joanne Campbell, 
Max Oettli, Erika Wolf, 
Anya Sinclair, Aroha Novak, 
Vanessa Gordon, Tess McLauchlan, 
Clare Fleming, Graham Fletcher,
Cr. Aaron Hawkins, Emma Chalmers, 
Dr. Jonathan W. Marshall, Mark Bolland, 
Ted Whitaker, Jeremy Smith, 
Dr. Natalie Smith, Kirsty Glengarry,
Lauren Gutsell