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Former Director of the NZ Portrait Gallery Receives Tempus Award

A significant contribution to raising awareness and accessibility of New Zealand art has seen former Woodford House student Avenal McKinnon, MNZM, presented with the Tempus Award 2018.


Ms McKinnon became Director of the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in 2005 at a time when the trust had no physical exhibition space which proved to be a huge challenge. Ms McKinnon found the members of the team to be immensely supportive, as were portrait galleries around the world, and all work undertaken and programmes achieved were the result of willing, collaborative effort.

“I think we all dream of somehow making the world a better place. In my position at the Portrait Gallery, I wanted to make art, through portraiture and visual biography, freely available and accessible to all, to help bring vividly to life those who have shaped our nation. For it is in understanding our past that we can look to the future.”

Today the New Zealand Portrait Gallery enjoys a long-term lease in Shed 11 on the Wellington waterfront and holds an important collection of New Zealand art for everyone to enjoy.

The Woodford House Old Girls’ Association was proud to present the prestigious Tempus Award to Ms McKinnon at a special event held in her honour on Saturday 10 November. The Tempus Award, now in its fifth year, recognises outstanding achievement by an Old Girl in her field. Previous recipients have included New Zealand actress, Dame Kate Harcourt and co-founder of Trade Aid, Vi Cottrell.

The event was attended by Old Girls, including friends from Avenal’s time at Woodford House, members of the Old Girls’ Association, Head Prefect Georgia Trent and Principal, Mrs Julie Peterson. Ms McKinnon was also joined by husband John, daughter Sophie and son Alex, along with his wife Rhiannon and their three children Madeleine, Elizabeth and Percy.

Mrs Julie Peterson (Principal), Ms Avenal McKinnon and Mrs Mary Sherratt (Old Girls’ Association President).

Mrs Mary Sherratt addresses invited guests.

Ms Avenal McKinnon talks about her career and memories of Woodford House.

Mrs Mary Sherratt, Ms Avenal McKinnon and Head Prefect, Georgia Trent with the Frances Hodgkins painting of ‘The Tyrant’ as gifted to Woodford House by Ms McKinnon.

Ms McKinnon’s family from left to right: Ms McKinnon’s son Mr Alex McKinnon, grandson Percy, husband Mr John McKinnon, granddaughters Madeleine and Elizabeth, daughter-in-law Ms Rhiannon McKinnon, Ms Avenal McKinnon and daughter Ms Sophie McKinnon

Invited guests enjoyed the opportunity to hear about Ms McKinnon’s time at Woodford House where she attended from 1962-1966, one of only 14 girls who travelled from the South Island by boat.

Art has always been an absorbing interest to Ms McKinnon, but she was initially inspired by the work of Frances Hodgkins through the painting titled La Première Communion, which hung in the Woodford House dining room, when she was a boarder.

“At our assigned tables, we would move around one place at every meal, and I always loved coming close to this beautiful work and actually sitting beside it on various occasions.”

In a touching tribute to her time at Woodford House, Ms McKinnon presented a very special painting to the school. The artwork by Frances Hodgkins reimagines the original oil painting The Tyrant by Marie Seymour Lucas in watercolour.

Mrs Andrea Jackson, Communications and Marketing Coordinator