Cel­e­brat­ing Ara­toi’s arts cen­tre ori­gins


Forty-eight years ago to­day, on October 11, 1969, the Wairarapa Arts Cen­tre opened its doors.

Ara­toi will cel­e­brate the cen­tre’s be­gin­nings by giv­ing a home­made cup­cake to the first 48 peo­ple who come into the mu­seum to­day.

There is cer­tainly a lot to cel­e­brate. It is no small feat for a town and re­gion of our size to have a mu­seum of this stature. It has a large num­ber of Ma¯ori taonga and other price­less items in the col­lec­tion, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional shows on dis­play, an ar­chi­tec­tural award-win­ning build­ing, and mu­seum-stan­dard gal­leries.

Dame Robin White, New Zealand’s only artist-dame and Ara­toi’s hon­orary pa­tron, said ‘‘Ara­toi is our taonga.’’

Our taonga. Ev­ery­one’s. Master­ton’s, Wairarapa’s, New Zealand’s, and even the world’s – a fair num­ber of the mu­seum’s vis­i­tors are in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers.

The lo­ca­tion of the Wairarapa plays an im­por­tant part of the mu­seum’s iden­tity.

Lead­ing artist, au­thor, and cu­ra­tor Gre­gory O’Brien sees Ara­toi as ‘‘a great gallery in a great soul­ful part of New Zealand’’ while Mark Amery, a lead­ing arts writer who will be se­lect­ing the 2017 Wairarapa Arts Re­view, has writ­ten that, ‘‘you won’t see shows this di­verse and peo­ple­sized at Te Papa or Auck­land Art Gallery’’.

A town can en­able this soul­ful­ness to come for­ward: we know each other’s faces and smiles.

Over the years, Ara­toi has mounted many dis­plays about our so­cial his­tory and has proudly ex­hib­ited the work of well over 100 Wairarapa-based artists and ar­ti­sans. In truth, Ara­toi’s birth­day ex­tends back to 1963, when Wairarapa cit­i­zens pur­chased a Bar­bara Hep­worth sculp­ture ‘ Gal­liard – Forms in Move­ment‘ as a way to say, ‘We want a mu­seum here’.

Paris-born painter He´le`ne Car­roll chose to move to the Wairarapa, say­ing, ‘‘I knew I could live here be­cause it has a mu­seum - that was nine years ago. I knew I made the right de­ci­sion’’.

Ar­ti­cle sup­plied by Ara­toi.

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