Petrena Fishburn

Petrena Fishburn Canterbury University

In her late 20s, Petrena Fishburn decided to put the communication and organisational skills acquired in over a decade as a youth worker, to the test via an undergraduate double major in English and History at Canterbury University. A strong interest in art saw her change one of her majors to Art History early on in the degree and she is, at time of writing in 2013, working on a thesis for her Masters in Art History.

Petrena’s thesis comprises a focused study, from a feminist perspective, of Barbara Brooke, a figure largely overlooked in Christchurch’s art history, yet an important advocate for contemporary art during the development of the modernist movement in Christchurch in the 1950s to 1970s. Brooke was involved in The Group, an informal art association formed in Christchurch in 1927, she co-founded the early contemporary gallery (Gallery 91), was the first female secretary of the Canterbury Arts Society, and a co-editor of the avant-garde arts magazine Ascent. The Brooke Gifford Gallery which Brooke co-founded in 1975, played a significant role in professionalising contemporary art practice in Christchurch, allowing local avant-garde artists to function in their trade full time and attract national and international acclaim.

Petrena also works part time in a local gallery established to support Christchurch artists after the earthquakes. She loves the outdoors and spends her leisure time anywhere near the water or the bush.