Marie Grice

Marie Grice

Founder and CEO Creator of Opportunities

Growing up on a farm in Wanganui (NZ) and later becoming a vet nurse means that Marie Grice has been surrounded by animals all her life. But it was not until she was recovering from a serious car accident that she began to paint.

Marie paints in a realism style using many fine layers, which means that her paintings show great depth and the finest of details. Marie’s work to date has mostly focussed around birds and common farm animals, her exquisite studies reminding us to acknowledge their simple beauty and dignity; qualities easy to overlook.

Alys Davidson

Alys Davidson

Director of First Impressions

Alys has had a passion for photography and the arts from a young age. Her work has been featured with NZ renowned photographic magazine D-Photo receiving first place for the creative category in 2015 sigma D-photo competition followed by a digital online publication “Catching up with the Winners a Year On”.

In 2016 an honourable mention in the world renowned International Photography Awards for her self-portrait “Inevitable Disappearance”. And featuring again in the latest issue of D-photo this time for her entry in the children’s portrait competition. Fine Art Photography is an infinite genre and Alys looks forward to exploring facets in the field that have not been discovered before and continue to push the boundaries beyond

What an incredible evening we had to kick off our first Frank Chats, Thank you all for coming.
We hope you enjoyed hearing more about Marilyn & Marty and their processes with their artworks and what their workshops will entail, it was a very inspiring evening indeed a very big thank you to Marilyn & Marty for their time tonight.
We look forward to seeing you at the Whanganui Visual Arts Symposium 6th-8th October 2017. And also hope to see you at the next Frank Chats evening on the 17th of August where we be talking more about what NZ Master Pastellist Julie Greig & Creative Photographer Jackie Rankens Art Talks and workshops will entail. Also a huge thank you to Victoria Campbell of Longspur Creative Studios for her incredible Design and Branding and Steve Caudwell Photography for capturing the evening for us !

Lee Williams and Helen Marie O’Connell present the visual arts symposium plan at the arts forum on
Wednesday the 12th July 2017. Photo/Gail Imhoff
Story By: Liz Wylie
Liz Wylie is a reporter for the Wanganui Chronicle

Plans for the Whanganui Visual Arts Forum (WVAST) were unveiled before a gathering at the Whanganui Arts Forum meeting on Wednesday night.

Lee Williams, Marie Grice, Alys Davidson and Helen Marie O’Connell announced the names of 10 guest artists who have confirmed their participation in the October symposium.

Former Whanganui artist Julie Greig, now residing at Burkes Pass in the Mackenzie Country, has confirmed a masterclass for the symposium.

“We have a number of visiting artists who will bring participants with them and they plan to extend their stays in Whanganui,” said Lee Williams.

“Our Website is live and bookings are also live.”

Around 150 people gathered for the arts forum meeting held at the Pioneer Room at the Whanganui War Memorial.

Councillor Helen Craig facilitated the meeting which introduced new fulltime Whanganui District Council Arts Facilitator Riah King-Wall.

Ms King Wall said she had only been in the job for three days after leaving her role as programmes officer at the Whanganui Regional Museum.

“I don’t have much to report yet but I am looking forward to hearing from everyone to develop polices and strategies,” she said. “What I do will be formed by what you do and what you want to do.”

The forum also heard from Russell Bell, of Balance Chartered Accountants, with an update on the public art strategy for Whanganui.

Mr Bell hoped to see strategy turned into action with a workshop including representatives from a range of arts to set a realistic course of action.

NZ Glassworks manager Scott Redding reported that the Chronicle Glass studio has been busy since opening last September.

“We have had a steady influx of visitors coming to workshops including an 86-year-old who came with her 82-year-old sister to tick it off her bucket list,” he said.

Whanganui Creative Communities co-ordinator Cath Watson told the audience how they could seek funding for projects and what the parameters are.

She was followed by Whanganui Venues and Events manager Tasha Parker who is based at Cooks Gardens where Ms Riah King Wall will also make her new home.

There were several “shout-outs” at the end of the forum including one from Leslie Stead, of the Guyton Group Trust, who said that $17,000 has been raised towards the planned bronze sculpture of James K. Baxter.

“We still have a way to go and donations can be made at Paiges Book Gallery,” she said.

Mrs Craig said it was great to see such a good gathering on a cold night and she hopes there will be an ever better turnout for the next forum meeting in October.


Our Story

TLC graduate Jane Toy, along with fellow artists Marie Grice, Alys Davidson and Craig Hooker, have just walked out of a dragon’s den alive, and $15,000* richer , as the team possessing the best vision, passion and skills to take their idea and make a real go of it. And they will. Not just once, but several times over.

They were judged by the four dragons*: Kathy Cunningham, Executive and owner of Empire PR; Simon Phillips, Director of Regions for NZ Maori Tourism; Petrina Maxwell, Founder of Agent 86 Events and Blair Jagusch, General Manager of Orange Productions.

Whanganui Dragons Den winners Marie Grice and Jane Toy

Their idea:

Jane Toy and Marie Grice pitched a proposal to run a regular three day art symposium in Whanganui, New Zealand.

Their yearly art event will hold creative, hands-on workshops where artists and hobbyists can get together with experts and further develop their artistic skills. The symposium will also include guest speakers, lectures, and cover a broad range of art related topics such as running a gallery or investing in artworks.

Like Napier’s art deco event, Jane is confident that their event will boost visitor numbers to the Whanganui region and help grow the local arts economy. Her team are currently on the lookout for a naming rights sponsor.

“We are very confident in our idea. Whanganui already has 400 resident artists and many interesting galleries and creative spaces. It is our intent to place Whanganui squarely on the map as the visual arts hub for New Zealand. By creating this event we hope to educate and inspire all those with an interest in the visual arts, from the professional artist to the hobbyist, from curators to collectors, from art students to art teachers. It will be an all-inclusive arts education forum which we hope will go from strength to strength.”

– Jane Toy

Jane Toy, Marie Grice, Alys Davidson and Craig Hooker already work with six other artists in running Fine Arts Whanganui, an art gallery on Taupo Quay. They opened its doors last November and during this year’s Artists’ Open Studios event alone, received over 4,000 visitors over the two weekends, with very impressive sales. It was this success that spurred them to put forward their art symposium proposal.

©Dragons Den Chairs. Image sourced from

*The $15,000 prize covers promotion, guidance, mentoring, and the right to stage their event in October 2017.

Whanganui Den of Dragons

The Whanganui Visual Arts Symposium Trust
thanks our Den of Dragon’s Sponsors 2016
for their foundation support towards the first VAST 2017

Team members Melinda Hatherly (left), Alys Davidson, John Archbold, Marie Grice and Lee Williams are ready to make a big splash.

Lee Williams is in the driver’s seat for the Whanganui Visual Arts Symposium, and she is off and running with ideas and enthusiasm.

Appointed as coordinator on Monday, Ms Williams brings her experience as a costume designer for international films and stage productions to the role.

“Creativity is contagious and we have to spread it around,” she says.

The symposium was the winner of the Whanganui Dragons’ Den competition, held in 2016, in which entrepreneurs pitched a business idea to the judges.

Fine Arts Whanganui members presented the symposium idea which won the judges approval and led to the establishment of the Visual Arts Symposium Trust (VAST).

VAST is now in the process of moving into the former CES office next to the Community Arts Centre at 19 Taupo Quay.

Ms Williams was working with artists Alys Davidson, John Archbold, Melinda Hatherly and Marie Grice to transform the space yesterday.

“We have a timeline worked out, and we will hold the symposium from October 6 until October 8 and we have great things planned,” she said.

“There will be visiting artists as well as Whanganui ones and we are waiting on confirmation from some.”

Ms Williams is full of admiration for members of the fine arts group and says their willingness to share their abilities and learn from others is what drove the symposium idea.

She says Fordell painter Marie Grice is an example of how a strong creative drive can lead to success.

“Marie is a busy mum with a farm to run, and she has pretty much taught herself to create beautiful paintings.

“She shares her work with other artists, and she wants to expand on that.

“I think the name VAST is really apt, because we want to make it really big.”

Ms Williams has recently returned to live in her home town, and she believes Whanganui is a perfect setting to hold an arts symposium.

“It is a beautiful city and an easy place for visitors to negotiate.”

The Dragons Den prize has provided the seed money for the symposium, but Ms Williams said there would need to be fundraising, and she is hoping to encourage sponsorship.

“That is where my experience comes to the fore,” she said.

“I’m not shy about knocking on doors and asking for help.”

The format for the symposium has been mapped out, and Ms Williams said there will be plenty of variety and fun.

“The mornings will be devoted to art talks, which will inspire people before they join afternoon workshops.”

Ms Williams said trust members had plenty of skill and experience and she was happy to have the support of artist Julz Coffey.

Ms Coffey has been involved in organising the successful fibre arts symposiums, that have now been running in Whanganui for seven years.

Ms Williams said she is interested in hearing from anyone who would like to help or learn more about VAST and asks that they visit the new website.

Words By Liz Wylie | Image By Stuart Munro
18 May 2017