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 Cafe 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.
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.
Founding Board Members
Douglas Rex Kelaher
Past Board Members 1999-2020
Amy Jo Jory
Cr. Aaron Hawkins
Dr. Jonathan W. Marshall
Dr. Natalie Smith