Ann Nighy has been supporting Nelson art for almost 20 years but is moving away to be closer to family. Photo: Charles Anderson

Leaving a lasting mark on Nelson


Ann Nighy was living in Auckland and sitting behind a pile of traffic when she decided she needed to get out of there.

She went home and told her husband Cliff that it was time to go. After researching many different locations, they took a flight to Nelson.

“We landed on the runway, took one breath and thought ‘yes, this will do’.”

That was 20 years ago and marked the start of an artistic legacy Ann and Cliff embarked on – commissioning public sculptures for the Nelson waterfront and also becoming heavily involved in the Suter Art Gallery.

When Ann arrived in Nelson 20 years ago she did not know anyone.

“So I went down to volunteer at the Suter and straight away jumped behind the desk. I stayed there for six years.”

She and her husband Cliff, who died in 2012, were also great lovers of sculpture – so they signed up to be on a committee to decide new works for the city.

“But nothing happened,” Ann says. “They talked month after month but nothing got done. So I said to Cliff, ‘let’s just do it’.

“He was a good man. He always went along with me.”

They asked local sculptors to come and meet with them and together they talked about designs and locations.

The results of that are three iconic pieces along the waterfront – ‘Sails’ by Mike McMillan, which is currently being repaired and sits next to the Abel Tasman sculpture at Tahunanui, ‘Navigator’ by Tim Wraight, which is next to the Early Settlers sculpture at Wakefield Quay, and an untitled sculpture by Jim Mckay which is also on the waterfront.

“Since then we have been championing for the local sculptors. Why do we spend hundreds of thousand on international works when we have all these artists here but are not supporting them?”

Ann is leaving Nelson to be closer to her family in Hamilton.

“After thinking it over, it is probably the sensible thing to do. We are all getting older.” She also has 12 great grandchildren to wrangle. “I’ll have my very own school up there.”