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. For 15 years 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.

A Brief History

Playfully named after the Blue Oyster gay biker bar featured in the 1984 comedy film Police Academy, the Blue Oyster Gallery began its life in 1999 opposite Arc Café then above it (now Taste Nature) on High Street in Dunedin. The 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 the 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 the 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, the 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, the 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

Chloe Geoghegan graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in graphic design in 2008. Since returning to complete a Post-graduate Diploma in Art Curatorship in 2011, she has been involved in curating and managing numerous exhibitions and art projects including COCA Window Projects and at the Ilam Campus Gallery. She has worked for the Govett-Brewster Contemporary Art Museum (2009), SCAPE Public Art (2008 & 2011) and as a curatorial intern at City Gallery Wellington (2011). She has written for The Physics Room, un Magazine, Hue & Cry, Oculus: Postgraduate Journal for Visual Arts Research and completed her research dissertation on Christchurch artist-run space High Street Project (1992-2011).

Between 2012-2014 she co-founded and ran Dog Park Art Project Space, a Christchurch-based artist-run space. Her current interests lie in speculative, experimental art practices and curatorial production.

Emilie Smith has an Advanced Diploma in Entertainment Technology from Toi Whakaari, majoring in costuming and performance design. She has experience in the realms of theatre, film, fashion, music, visual and performance art. She is currently experimenting with sound, exploring melody and frequency intent.



Previous Directors

Current: 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

Current: 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

Kirsty Glengarry (co-chair) is currently Visitor Experience Manager at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum and has been a trustee since 2013. Previous arts management roles include: Manager Education and Public Programmes, City Gallery Wellington; Access Programmes Coordinator, Auckland Art Gallery; Arts and Funding Advisor, Auckland City Council; Manager Visitor Experience Waikato Museum of Art and History.

Dr. Natalie Smith (co-chair) is an Independent Scholar and Tutor at the University of Otago. She holds a PhD (Art History and Theory) and has been a Trustee since 2011. Her research interests include the art fashion nexus and the social history of New Zealand visual culture.

Dr. Jonathan W. Marshall is a cultural historian and arts critic. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Melbourne and is currently Lecturer in Theatre & Performance Studies, University of Otago and has been a Trustee since 2009.

Jeremy Smith is currently Manager, Olveston Historic Home, Dunedin and has been a Trustee since 2013. He holds an MA in Curatorship and Modern Art, University of Sydney. Jeremy has held arts management roles at the Fortune Theatre, the Biennale of Sydney and at the Sherman Visual Arts Residency, Sydney.

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.

Mark Bolland is a Dunedin based photographer, writer and lecturer and has been a Trustee since 2014. He graduated from The Royal College of Art in 2004 and from the Surrey Institute of Art and Design (now UCA) in 2002. He is currently Lecturer, Photography at the Dunedin School of Art.

Lauren Gutsell is Assistant Curator at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, her recent projects include: ‘Gabriella and Silvana Mangano: Visible Structures’; ‘Sleight of Hand’; ‘Paul Maseyk: One Pot Wonder’ and ‘Wonderwall’ (co-curated with Henry Davidson). She was an exhibition attendant at the New Zealand Pavilion for the 2013 Venice Biennale. Lauren holds a MA Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.



Founding Board Members

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

Past Board Members 1999-2013

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