Art club still strong 125 years on

The Wellingtonian - - Front Page - RUBY MACANDREW

The legacy of a group of 19th­cen­tury artists lives on at an art club in the heart of Mi­ra­mar.

After 125 years, the Welling­ton Art Club is still alive and thriv­ing, get­ting set to cel­e­brate the mile­stone an­niver­sary, which club pres­i­dent Judy Lang­ham says could be a New Zealand first.

‘‘We are al­most cer­tainly the old­est op­er­at­ing art club in New Zealand.

‘‘The club goes back to the time of the ‘Pump­kin Cot­tage’ artists of 1882 who started paint­ing out in Up­per Hutt in a lit­tle cot­tage.’’

Back then the club was led by James Mclauch­lan Nairn, a Scot­tish im­mi­grant and teacher at the Welling­ton School of De­sign.

While it started small, mem­ber­ship grew to in­clude some well-known Kiwi artists such as Syd­ney Ham­let Higgs and Ma­bel Hill.

‘‘They were very well re­spected artists of their time,’’ Lang­ham says.

The group moved around a lot be­fore set­tling at its pur­pose-built clu­b­rooms at Chelsea St in Mi­ra­mar in the 1980s.

‘‘When it opened in 1984, it was the first per­ma­nent home the club had ever had,’’ club mem­ber and his­to­rian Phil Dick­son says.

Be­fore that, the club rented premises in var­i­ous parts of Welling­ton.

While Lang­ham had only been pres­i­dent since April this year, she had been in­volved with the club for the past, very en­joy­able, decade.

‘‘The club is a very sup­port­ive and friendly, pleas­ant place to be. There’s lots of in­ter­ac­tion be­tween mem­bers, work­ing in dif­fer­ent classes and medi­ums.

‘‘We have a mix­ture of peo­ple ... it’s a hobby-friendly, sup­port­ive group ... we have a few laughs.’’

Cur­rently, the club has about 150 regis­tered mem­bers with about half of them ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in club ac­tiv­i­ties.

Lang­ham says new mem­bers are al­ways wel­come with a push to get some fresh, young blood into the club. ‘‘Whether you are a stu­dent just be­gin­ning to un­der­stand the wide world of vis­ual arts or a sea­soned artist will­ing to share your ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge, ex­per­tise and pas­sion - the club’s doors are open.’’

The 125th cel­e­bra­tion will be low-key, with mem­bers en­joy­ing cake and bub­bles at an af­ter­noon tea be­fore get­ting back to their works-in-progress.

‘‘There’s lots of in­ter­ac­tion be­tween mem­bers, work­ing in dif­fer­ent classes and medi­ums.’’ Judy Lang­ham, Welling­ton Art Club pres­i­dent

Welling­ton Art Club is turn­ing 125-years-old this month, mak­ing it pos­si­bly the coun­try’s long­est-run­ning club of its kind.

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