With its world-class symphony and ballet, a roster of some of the world's finest museums, and an increasing presence on the world's cinematic scene, New Zealand is rapidly taking a place center stage in the cultural arena.
If your time in Auckland allows for just one excursion, make it to the Auckland Museum and find your way to the fine South Pacific collection. Time your visit around lunchtime and see a fine outdoor concert of Maori music and dance. If your itinerary takes you on a drive north, don't miss the wonderful Kauri Museum in Matakohe. Here you see the uses, both practical and artistic, made of this remarkable timber throughout the country's history. One can only wonder how many countries have museums devoted to just one tree species.
Rotorua is a central site for the Maori people of New Zealand. Here one may visit the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. The goal of the Institute is the preservation of the culture and art skills of the Maoris. Visitors watch up close as gifted Maori youth practice wood carving, weaving, painting and other expressive crafts whose practice has been handed down by generations of elders.
Christchurch lays claim to two fine art centers, the Art Centre of Christchurch and the new and modern Christchurch Art Gallery, but the jewel in the crown of museums in New Zealand must be Te Papa in Wellington. With its goal of "preserving and presenting the taonga (treasures) of the New Zealand peoples," it has met resounding success since its opening in 1998.
Many of the lodges, inns and bed-and-breakfast accommodations visited by our clients have fine collections of native art and sculpture. Sue Farry, owner of Punatapu in Queenstown, has instituted a wonderfully popular Artist in Residence program. Each summer finds a different New Zealand artist or craftsman working on site for the enjoyment of guests.
Auckland and Wellington have fine theater companies producing contemporary and traditional works. Spend time on the Auckland Viaduct or the avenues in Christchurch and Queenstown and you will surely see buskers (street performers) entertaining any and all who stroll by.
Yes, culture and the arts are alive and well in New Zealand!