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 18 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.

Click here to read our 2016-19 Strategic Plan

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

Gallery Director: Grace Ryder

Grace graduated from Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with honours in Film and Sculpture (2015). Since completing her studies, she has held the position of Gallery Co-ordinator at Centre of Contemporary Art Toi Moroki, Ōtautahi. She has previously worked for Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu (2014-2015) and as an intern for The Physics Room, working toward the re-presentation of their website (2014).
Grace co-founded, directed and curated North Projects, an Ōtautahi-based artist-run initiative which operated from 2014 to 2016. 


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. She held a research position during an internship at the Otago Art Society in 2017. 



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

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.

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.

Lauren Gutsell is Assistant Curator at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, her recent curatorial projects include Marie Shannon: Rooms found only in the home (2017) and Rebecca Baumann: Untitled (exploded view) (2016). She is the curator of Kushana Bush: The Burning Hours (2016), and managing editor and essayist in the accompanying publication. Lauren holds a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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.  

Matthew Galloway 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.    

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.



Founding Board Members

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

Past Board Members 1999-2017

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