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On Giving: Hamish Edgar

In this series, we're shining a light on our generous giving community – inviting our Kotahi whānau across the country to tell us how and why they give to the arts.

Hamish Edgar (pictured above with 2005 Laureate Neil Ieremia and Jo Blair) has been a part of the Arts Foundation Te Tumu story since day one, when his father Sir Eion Edgar co-founded the charity. With a background in finance, investments and company directorships, he joined our board of Trustees in 2019. The Edgar Family also fund two of our Springboard Awards, and continue to make a significant impact on philanthropy in New Zealand.

We caught up with Hamish to ask about being a trustee, and what it means to give to the arts.

Why do you think it's important to give to the arts?

As a family we support a number of areas across health, education, sport and the Arts. But we often feel that the arts in particular is a forgotten area in the philanthropic space. I suspect this is because often the connection to need and benefits to the community are less objective and tangible, harder to specifically point to. But we know the real need and benefit is there and is large. Art is a core part of our everyday culture and wellbeing, it is part of who we are as Kiwi. So I do think that supporting the arts through philanthropy is hugely important.

What is it about the Arts Foundation Springboard award that is so meaningful to you?

Our family have been long term supporters of the arts sector, in particular through the Arts Foundation, and that has given me a good lens to see how difficult it is for young, up and coming artists to really succeed as artists, no matter how talented they are. Often, all that is required is one extra boost which not only gives the artists the opportunity to grow but also, hopefully, gives them the belief in themselves that they do matter, they are relevant, people see them. The Springboards also provide a fantastic pathway to connect our Springboard artists with some Aotearoa’s established artists through the mentoring programme that forms part of the Springboard Award. And the amazing thing we have found is that in nearly all cases, the established artist gets as much out of the mentoring programme as the up and coming artist and the interconnection of our whole artist community grows.

What's your favourite thing about being part of the Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi?

As a trustee we are in the hugely privileged position of seeing and meeting Aotearoa’s amazing artists on a regular basis, seeing their everyday struggle just to do what they love and persistence to keep on going. Most importantly we get to see up close the positive impact that the Arts Foundation’s awards have on those artists careers and their lives. It is an emotional uplifting experience and always very humbling.

What are you most proud of as an AF Trustee?

Simply and hopefully that the New Zealand arts sector and our amazing artists are in a better place and, in a small way we have enabled our artists to further grow and flourish with no strings attached because of our involvement and giving.

What was the first creative experience that turned the light on for you?

My favourite early artistic experiences generally related to the interconnection between amazing art and architecture that I was lucky enough to see when I was travelling. Places like the Guggenheim and MOMA in New York, Louisiana Museum near Copenhagen, the Louvre and it’s amazing glass Pyramid, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin and the Tate Modern in London. I also remember when Mum and Dad built a new place in Queenstown which housed some art from many of our outstanding New Zealand artists. I just loved waking up there and the feeling of place those artworks gave to our home, and vice versa, the impact the architecture had on the art.

What do the arts give you?

They form a core part of who we are as Kiwi.