75 Years in the Making


75 Years in the Making

Rita Dibert

Opening: February 17 5:30 pm

Viewing: February 17 until February 27

Celebrate with us the life and achievements of this much loved local artist. 75 Years in the Making is a snapshot of artistic involvement from 1970’s to just yesterday; mediums include painting, photography, drawing & printmaking.

As most of us realise, it gets more and more difficult to condense who we are down to a few specifics.

I had supportive working-class parents (my family had worked at General Motors since its inception) and was very lucky to have been gifted a scholarship to attend the Flint Art Institute (Michigan) children’s art program when I was seven. I then decided to be an artist, a missionary (we had had one very occasionally as a babysitter) and an actress. I think becoming a teacher pretty much covers all of that.

Going with five other art and drama college students in a VW bug to join Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Improvement Association (Alabama) meant I decided to not be a missionary or a minister but rather an activist. I was active in the civil rights, abortion rights, (I had an illegal abortion in 1969 as a married student), Native American Rights movements as well as the Anti-Vietnam cause during University years, travelling many times to Washington and other cities to protest. It was a life changing experience. 

I was incredibly lucky to have encountered Mary Wright who was the director of Xochipilli Gallery in Birmingham Michigan who promoted my painting, photography and installation work from 1972-1997 when she closed her doors. 

I taught at the University of Michigan, Hartwick College (NY), Pomona College (CA), Visual Studies Workshop (Rochester, NY) and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before applying for the job at the Whanganui Regional Community Polytechnic in 1995. (The only thing in our University library about NZ was a 1935 anthropology text and the internet was brand new, so this was quite the adventure!)

This brought me to NZ to design both the physical darkrooms and the curriculum for the Fine Arts Photography there. However, it was all the clever and wonderful KIWI art students who kept me here, far away from US friends and family. They are my family here.

I live with a wonderful, seven-year-old re-homed Greyhound named Mea Moa in a 1903 house in Whanganui where we have attempted to design a “forest” in our back section.

This exhibition is the third in a series, at 25 at the University of Michigan, at 50 in the Quay School Gallery and now here for my 75th. I tried to assemble a range of work from 1970’s on, though it is the tip of the ice burg as much work stayed in the states or is stored in the depths of my garage…I may get there at some point!

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This exhibition runs in conjunction with La Fiesta, NZ’s best Women’s Fest!