"Olivia Spencer Bower’s death in Christchurch on 8 July 1982 while drawing to a close a richly productive artistic life, marked the beginning of a quite different contribution to the visual arts in New Zealand. Since 1987, the Olivia Spencer Bower Award is building a reputation as one of the most valuable and prestigious forms of sponsorship available to New Zealand artists.
Olivia Spencer Bower was born in St Neots, Huntingdonshire (more commonly known as Cambridgeshire), United Kingdom on 13 April 1905 and died in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 8 July 1982.
It was during that period, when she saw woman artists and their interests overlooked, that Olivia began to frame in her mind the idea of an award, initially intended to support women artists only but now open to promising male artists and sculptors.
While the instigation for the Foundation was the perceived inequity between male and female artists, the terms of the Award do not include gender discrimination. The Award is open to both men and woman artists, but selection is made by a committee of which at least half must be female.
The main provisions and purposes of the Trust Deed as set out by Olivia are:
1. The general purpose is to encourage and promote New Zealand artists and sculptors with particular emphasis on future artistic potential rather than financial need. It was Olivia’s specific objective to assist New Zealand artists and sculptors with talent so they could devote their energies, on a full time basis for a twelve month period, to painting and sculpture freed from the necessity to seek outside employment.
2. The Art Award is open to an artist or sculptor of either sex who has been resident in New Zealand for a period of not less than five years at any time. There are no age requirements.
3. No formal qualifications in art or any other discipline are prerequisites.
6. The Award winner is free to undertake any particular artwork and is not required to submit or complete any particular projects. Olivia’s whole idea was to free up the artist or sculptor completely. She hated any humbug.
7. In 1999 the Trustees established a joint venture with the Christchurch Arts Centre whereby the Awardee at his/her option, is offered the free use of an apartment and studio for the year of the Award. Because of the Christchurch 2010/2011 earthquakes the Christchurch Art Centre Apartment/Studio is no longer available for the award year residence awardees.
The Arts Centre remains committed to onsite residencies and its relationship with the Foundation. The building intended to accommodate residencies is currently being rebuilt and should be completed by 2019. The trustees are hopeful this residency option will once more be available to awardees at this time.
In the meantime the Foundation gratefully acknowledges the funding it has received from Creative NZ towards the cost of a studio for 2017 and 2018. As a result of this funding the Foundation has been able to secure a studio Unit at the Physics Room, Christchurch for 2017 and 2018. This will enable the Olivia Spencer Bower Art award winners to have Studio accommodation to work in during the course of their tenure.
The Foundation also wishes to thank the Christchurch City Council ( Creative Industries Support Fund) for providing a grant towards the Olivia Spencer Bower accommodation costs for 2017 and 2018. This grant will ensure the 2017 art winner has residential accommodation.