Arrowtown is renowned for its gold bearing river, abundance of history, beautiful walks, trees and many heritage buildings but as Miranda Spary discovered it also has prominent art galleries and a museum reflecting a quality far greater than many cities would expect.
The Lakes District Museum, housed in the original Bank of New Zealand complex, is by far the largest building in Arrowtown, and hosts permanent exhibits on the town’s extraordinary past.
Director, David Clarke, created the museum’s art gallery area in 1993 to provide a space where everchanging art and history exhibitions could display more of Arrowtown’s many sides.
Upcoming shows in autumn include Poles Apart(March 16 until April 21) which presents the combined work of photographer, Russ McLean taken on a recent visit to Iceland and Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, and Paul Rea whose photographs are stunning images from the other end of the globe, shot in Antarctica and Patagonia.
The hugely popular annual Ray White Autumn Festival Art Exhibition (April 26 until May 26) promotes the work of local artists – always an eclectic display. It will be followed for the third consecutive year by Showing Off, highlighting the artistic talents of top painting, photography and design students at Wakatipu High School.
“All these different exhibitions create a greater audience for the museum and demand from artists is huge – the gallery is booked up 18 months in advance, with the commission on art sales providing much needed funds for new projects”, says David. “The recent artist in residence show by Italian husband and wife team Kate and Luigi Agnelli attracted such enormous interest and income for the museum that we hope they will return next summer.”
Visitors keen to see important names in New Zealand art will discover them in Arrowtown’s main selling galleries. Gary Mahan has been in the art and antiques business forever and his tiny shop in a courtyard off the main street, flanked by life size corrugated iron cows created by New Zealand sculptor Jeff Thomson, is full of Kiwi icons such as Paul Dibble, Tony Fomison, Don Binney.
Nadene MIlne Gallery has been operating in a tiny space above the historic Arrowtown Pharmacy for nearly 20 years. Nadene brings leading artists to town, organising art lectures at Dorothy Browns boutique cinema on a regular basis –Tony de Latour and Jude Rae are both speaking this autumn.
As well as promoting established artists Nadene has a great eye for up and coming talent and is a mine of information about all things art.
Numerous artists open their studios to the public –long-time local landscape painter, Graham Brinsley, can be found in a restored church in Romans Lane. Then there is Jenny Mehrtens’ studio beside the historic Dudley’s Cottage and from there wander through the Chinese Village to Manse Road where several more, such as well-known portrait and landscape painter David John, are based.
Arrowtown is the perfect backdrop – simply, a walk around this beautiful, historic village can be as appealing as any art gallery – easyto see where the town’s best-known artists draw their inspiration from.