Fenton Arts Collective
Jo and Stuart have been around long enough to know the only accolade worth coveting comes from people that don’t require mass nor media to tell them what to do or think - that is why the subjectivity of ART is their indulgence. In 2016 they searched for a historic building to restore and turn into an Arts Collective. They found 11 Fenton Street in Stratford and almost two years later Fenton Street Art Collective has come into being. Take a look at what you can find here.
Creative character Writer and poet Stuart Greenhill of the Fenton Arts Collective in Stratford talks to UNO. PHOTOS ANDY JACKSON
UNO: What a beautiful building you are housed in. How did you find it?
STUART GREENHILL: My partner Jo Stallard had been looking for a heritage building to save. In 2016 she offered a ridiculously low price for Egmont Chambers in Stratford and bought it. No funding was available to earthquakeproof the building, as it was not listed on Stratford’s District Plan, so we did it. It was a fantastic journey. The renovation won an Architecture Award in 2019 and now has a Grade II Heritage Listing.
What is the Fenton Arts Collective?
It is a collective of our passions and interests: art, history, gin and espresso. We are 310 metres up a mountain, so our aspirations are just as high for each of them.
Your partner Jo is the curator and artist-in-residence. What is Jo’s artistic background, and what does she paint?
Jo comes from an art history background and is a portrait artist. She works in the traditional painting technique of “grisaille” or “dead painting” to traverse the landscapes of the human face and body. Those are the landscapes she loves. So people come to the Collective, grab a coffee or gin from downstairs, and visit Jo’s working studio upstairs – and maybe even chat about a commission.
Refreshment plays a strong role in your building; we hear gin and espresso coffee flow freely! Tell us more.
Making gin is like writing. Botanicals are characters; each brings a different personality, so it was simply a matter of creating fantastic stories. People hear those when they book a gin tasting with me. Our espresso bar uses Proof & Stock coffee, made by our daughter Adrianna, and offers high-quality healthy options including gluten-free and keto. And Tauranga celebrity chef Ken Greenhill creates a monthly five-course degustation for us. They are so popular we have a waiting list.
What’s your connection to Tauranga?
My brother’s been here since 1997, and Jo and I set up Deckchair on Marine Parade with him in 2007. We sold three years later, travelled for a bit, and were approached in 2013 to establish Quantum Vis Eatery on Cameron Road. We still have a connection to the Bay, having formed many friendships over those years, and are thrilled that our gin is now carried by Mount Wine Barrel and Fife Lane Restaurant.
And on top of all that, you’re a published author! What have you written?
Dante Fog was published by Austin Macauley Publishers in London last year. It is autobiographical fiction (yes, that is a genre). The mother in the novel tells her son, “There are no better observers of life than artists.” I totally agree. Artistic licence takes life and makes it art. That’s why I write poetry and prose and make gin and Jo paints. There is a beautiful complexity in discovering and understanding the layers in the mirror looking back at us. Our art attempts to express it so does the character Dante Fog.
What does the future hold for the Fenton Arts Collective?
There’s pressure to grow, but the distillery will remain boutique, and so will the Arts Collective. Our gallery is booked for 2021, I am contracted to Austin Macauley Publishers for my next book, and Jo has two exhibitions this year. The future will be busy.
The historic Egmont Chambers building, home to the Fenton Arts Collective
The Vintner and The Artist GINS made the top 12 in Dish Magazine's best NZ gins. The judges 'sipped their way through 70 entries to find the finest examples in all of Aotearoa.' Check out the magazine for the full story.
'Dante Fog', the long awaited novel by Stuart Greenhill was launched at the Art Collective at the end of September.
Champagne flowed amongst the words of special guests and family.
Published by Austin & Macauley, London you will find it at Fenton Street and other classy book stores.
Contact us if you'd like a signed copy posted.
Dante Fog Launched
More about the author...
Greenhill talking about his novel
We are thrilled to announce that in the 2020 New Zealand Spirits Awards, The Vintner and The Novelist received BRONZE Medals. We only entered these two gins.
Our 'Pioneer Gin' won Gold and 'The Artist' Bronze at The Junipers 2020. This is a significant achievement against such a distinguished international and national body of distilleries.