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Christchurch update – Arts and Culture

10 May 2019

New Zealand has a veritable arts and culture pedigree, producing world-class artists, musicians and creative thinkers of a calibre exceeding the expectations of an island country of less than five million people.

Fostering the arts in Christchurch over the years have been numerous arts-focused tertiary institutions, gallery spaces, and a diverse landscape and culture for inspiration. The likes of artists Rita Angus, Doris Lusk, Colin McMahon, and Bill Sutton were either born in Christchurch or drew inspiration from here. Musicians including Marlon Williams, Nadia Reid, Jordan Luck and Aldous Harding have all called Christchurch home, adding to the arts and culture history of the city.

Visitors to the city can enjoy a variety of experiences designed to showcase our artistic pedigree, from Maori culture to libraries housed in architectural landmarks. Heritage is still a valued aspect of Christchurch’s culture, hinging off our title as New Zealand’s oldest city and the landing point for our earliest European settlers.

He Tāngata opened in late 2018 at Ngā Hau E Whā, the country’s only national marae. The experience seeks to exhibit genuine Maori culture, allowing regular visitors behind the gates of this sacred place for the first time. The experience includes kapa haka performances, story-telling, and a traditional feast, as well as a chance to interact with the performers themselves.

In another Maori cultural experience set to be completed in late 2020, visitors will be able to take waka tours on the Avon River when Ko Tāne open their new venture in central Christchurch. The $3.5 million cultural centre will build off Ko Tāne’s existing attraction at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

Tūranga, our new central city library, opened its doors in late 2018, quickly becoming an important and popular public hub. The five-storey building dominates views in Cathedral Square, its gold façade an eye-catching reminder of rebuild progress. 

Arguably the most modern of such a public amenity in the country, the library includes more than 160,000 books, recording studios, a large touch wall, 3D-printing facilities, and robotics. The children’s area boasts a slide and playground, and a vast Lego area, regularly teeming with smiles and built creations.

Restoration of the Arts Centre of Christchurch continues, the largest job of its kind in the world. The $290 million building programme is now more than two thirds complete, with more than 15 buildings reopened. For years to come, this heritage precinct of central Christchurch will be prized for its history, as well as its ability to return from hardship.

The complex, once the University of Canterbury’s city campus, is now home to retail including galleries, clothing stores, a tattoo studio and a gelato store. The Lumiere Cinema is scheduled to open in 2019, and a boutique hotel will open in the centre in 2022. The category one heritage School of Art building had its public opening day on Sunday 12 May, 2019.

The Arts Centre of Christchurch also welcomed Bic Runga as the first artist in residence since 2011, when the Creative Residencies Programme had an extended hiatus. She was in residence at the centre through April and May, and will return for a week in July to hold workshops.

In future developments, Ravenscar House is under construction and set to open in 2020. On Rolleston Ave, near Canterbury Museum and the Arts Centre, this modern gallery will house contemporary art, sculpture, and classical antiquities.

Our free-to-use image library can be found here.

Facts cheat-sheet:

  • He Tāngata opened in late 2018, offering visitors a look around the country’s only national marae, while enjoying Maori cultural experiences and a traditional feast.
  • Ko Tāne will offer waka trips on the Avon River, when they open their central-city cultural centre in late 2020.
  • Tūranga library opened in 2018, marking a significant milestone for rebuild progress. The gold-plated building has quickly become a popular hub for learning and technology.
  • Restoration at the Arts Centre of Christchurch is two-thirds complete. The heritage area remains popular with locals and visitors, and will soon boast a cinema and boutique hotel.

For more information, get in touch with jack.fletcher@christchurchnz.com.