Open Homes Exhibition / Art Installation


NameOpen Homes
Start Date1 January 2020
End Date1 January 2021
Names of ArtistsCharles Buenconsejo, Grace Bariso-Buenconsejo, Auggie Fontanilla
ArtformVisual arts, Socially engaged art
CityTāmaki Makaurau Auckland


Open Homes was a community-focused creative arts and gardening project that shared food, agroecology gardening knowledge and creativity from an urban garden in New Lynn, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Before permanently closing in 2021, Open Homes gave birth to the arts collective Soil of Cultures, currently based in Whangārei.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the husband and wife team consisting of multidisciplinary artist Charles Buenconsejo and software product manager and community organiser Grace Bariso-Buenconsejo had an epiphany while cultivating their backyard in New Lynn. Supermarket shelves were emptying of food and seedlings were disappearing from garden centres, yet in their garden there was an abundance of lettuce seedlings. In a spark of inspiration, they harvested the lettuce seedlings, potted them and gave them away for free from a lockdown-approved socially-distanced table at their front gate. In return they received a lot of smiles and waves, conversations and sometimes even jars of marmalade and chicken curry.

The Buenconsejo’s front gate — with the table of free produce, home-made worm fertiliser and harvested seeds — became a safe socially-distanced neighbourhood gathering spot during the lockdown. Neighbours would come to share stories, food, organic scraps (for composting), gardening supplies and seeds for germination. Soon, folks inspired by the Buenconsejo’s abundant agroecology-based garden and generosity were offering their own backyards to grow food for the benefit of their neighbourhood, which inspired the couple to hold gardening sessions: showing his neighbours how to plant, build compost, harvest, ferment, cook and save seeds.

At the same time, the Whau Arts Local Trust saw the potential in their initiative and provided some funding to help with expenses and offered a guaranteed space at All Goods gallery in Avondale to host an exhibition. This prompted the couple to contact their long-time collaborator and friend, Philippines-based contemporary artist and designer Auggie Fontanilla, to create the branding and imagery for what became Open Homes.

In an interview with Stone Soup magazine, the couple revealed that a huge inspiration for the kaupapa of Open Homes was when they attended their te reo Māori class. Grace suggested that if they wanted to learn te reo, they had to find mirrors of its concepts in their own language. Kapwa is a practice of reciprocity which is mirrored by whanaungatanga: it is about relationships, not only with fellow human beings but with all of nature. “As we learnt through the lens of te ao Māori, we were led back to something in ourselves that we had lost our connection with.”

In 2021, Open Homes opened their exhibition at All Goods gallery in Avondale. The exhibition featured video and photography highlighting the various activities within a community garden, a zine capturing the experiences of people who took part in Open Homes, shared food that showcased produce grown from the garden, and free seeds labelled with plant names and care instructions for people to take home and enjoy.

In this exhibition, gallery guests were invited to explore the world of Open Homes and the diversity (both human and organism) that creates it, celebrated in the communal rituals of seed saving, compost building, and the growing and sharing of kai — responding to the damages of our individualistic era with a collective practice rooted in care.

From the experience of Open Homes, Charles shares:

The practice of kapwa/whanaungatanga restores our humanity, braids us together in nets of kindness and reciprocity, points us towards a viable future in harmony with all the other living organisms. We hope the Open Homes of our village will inspire other homes to open, that it is a model that germinates in other communities, making them and theirs more connected and resilient too.


ASIA: Art Stories in Aotearoa | Episode 2: Multi-Media’ — video documentary by RNZ

Growing food, growing community’ — RNZ

A roadside attraction’ — Cuisine Magazine

Open Homes: Another world is possible’ event post from Whau the People

Kapwa’ — Stone Soup Magazine

From lockdown to Open Homes’ — Beacon Community News

Key works / presentations

2020–2021 – Open Homes, New Lynn, Tāmaki Makaurau

Related entries

Last updated: 5 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


Poster with the words "Open Homes, Another world is possible" in front of various vegetables

Open Homes, Another World is Possible digital poster, 2021

Graphic design by Auggie Fontanilla

Five people sitting around a low table sharing stories

Volunteers sharing kai at the Open Homes New Lynn-based māra, 2021

Photo by Charles Buenconsejo

Various produce and seedlings placed in a steel framed shelf

Free seeds, seedlings, worm tea fertiliser and salad greens at the Open Homes New Lynn-based māra, 2021

Photo by Charles Buenconsejo

Seed packets on a woven mat being labelled properly

Seed saving and labeling at the Open Homes New Lynn-based māra, 2021

Photo by Charles Buenconsejo

Three volunteer gardeners harvesting produce from a lush garden

Volunteers working on the Open Homes New Lynn-based māra, 2021

Photo by Charles Buenconsejo

A young kid with her nana holding up seedlings in front of a lush garden

Neighbours visiting the Open Homes New Lynn-based māra, 2021

Photo by Charles Buenconsejo

Open Homes zine, 2021

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