Last year we were at The Incubator at the Historic Village. Since then, Simone Anderson taken off like a rocket, with Tauranga’s art scene coming along for the ride.

WORDS MEGAN RAYNOR / PHOTOS TRACIE HEASMAN

Simone Anderson, The Incubator, Hostoric Village, UNO Magazine

Simone Anderson is not interested in being in the spotlight. But with international artists on a waitlist, awards being won, and two new buildings in progress, The Incubator’s growth has us looking to this Women of Influence Finalist as the driving force.

At the barn door I am greeted by Wendy, Simone’s gatekeeper. She asks if I have an appointment. Any lingering perception that this is just a shed full of artists painting, vanishes straight away.

This creative hub means serious business. “We don’t do mediocrity,” says Simone.

Nominated for Community of the Year in the 2017 New Zealander of the Year Awards, and Tauranga winner for Trustpower’s Community of the Year, The Incubator is on a steady up-spiral. And it’s taking Tauranga with it.

“Tauranga’s pretty edgy and cool. It’s a creative hub.” Simone says that making Tauranga the go-to for the art industry is not a lofty goal, it’s a happening thing. And based on daily calls from national and international artists wanting a studio space here, she’s right.

Across from The Incubator is a seventies bungalow waiting to be given some loving and slotted into place. This new addition will be Satellite Studios. Established artists with different specialities, from all over the world, will be able to bring their stories and skills to share. Renowned artists are already jostling for studio space, where they will be able to be observed at work by public. I’m pretty excited for our city – imagine being able to spend a morning watching the next McCahon at work, Whipped Baker treat in hand.

Simone favours a Richard Branson approach. “You have to take opportunities when they come – there’s no waiting until you’re ready.” This is made easier with teamwork thanks to the underpinning Incubator philosophy ‘Do It Together’ and their one and only rule “don’t be a dick.

It’s clear Simone’s driven by a love of art rather than a lust for leadership, but even the greatest team needs a captain. She is definitely the driving force behind Tauranga’s creative evolution.

While we talk we’re interrupted by an Maori sculptor who’s exhibiting and taking bone carving workshops during Matariki. His nerves and excitement are evident as he, Simone and the team try to work out how to fit two booked-out art classes into the same night. Last time UNO visited, these art classes had only just started, now it’s hard to get a space.

“Every term our beginner classes are full…Now more and more established artists from around New Zealand are asking to visit and hold workshops here.”

A solution is found, carving outside under the stars. Seems appropriate.

Simone Anderson, The Incubator, Hostoric Village, UNO Magazine

Creating solutions is what The Incubator do. The white-washed hall of the new People’s Gallery will soon be home to IHC New Zealand’s travelling exhibition – the first time they’ve been able to share their stories in Tauranga. Simone tells me “they’ve never had anywhere here before so have always had to skip us. Now they don’t have to.” This new addition to The Incubator’s already has a list of eager community art groups that spans well into 2019.

As Simone says “we’re not growing for the sake of it. There’s a tsunami behind us, pushing us.”

This snowball effect has their Jam Factory on the music circuit, before the building’s even been put on site. I’m already sifting through my wardrobe mentally, picking out dancing shoes for the opening night.

We’re just setting into a pair of the plush red armchairs, carefully and intentionally mis-matched, when the dynamic GM of Historic Village, Blair Graham, shows up. Like everyone else, he is here to see Simone.

I leave feeling lucky to have snagged an hour with Tauranga’s busiest woman. My eyes and ears are peeled for what she and The Incubator do next.

Follow @theincubatortauranga on facebook to keep up to date with their new developments.