New Zealand arts festivals show off creativity

Kiwis love the arts, and local and international artists living in or visiting New Zealand are often inspired by the country’s diverse natural landscapes, friendly people and unique Maori culture.

New Zealand has a vibrant and thriving arts scene, and Kiwi artists and performers are known for their avant-garde flair, quirky sense of humour and unconventional approaches.

Arts festivals are a way for Kiwis to show off their originality to the world on a large scale - as well as an opportunity for visitors to experience the best of the New Zealand creative scene all in one spot.

These events bring together a collaboration of local and international artists, designers, muscians and performers - resulting in an exciting melting pot of shows, exhibitions, music and art.

Artistic culture

There are many galleries and studios dotted throughout New Zealand - and each region has its own eccentric and unique artistic personalities and stories to tell.

The South Island city of Christchurch is proving to be a key player in the New Zealand art scene, hosting some of the most exciting and diverse arts events in the country.

Nelson, at the top of the South Island, is known for its inspirational landscapes and creative environment. The region itself is home to many of the country’s top artists and craftspeople.

In the sunny Hawke’s Bay region, Napier is New Zealand’s ‘Art Deco capital’, so-called because the entire town was rebuilt from scratch in the distinctive 1930s style after a massive earthquake in 1931. Many heritage buildings have been preserved as living architectural history, and each February thousands of visitors head to Napier for the annual Tremains Art Deco Weekend - a not too serious celebration of the Art Deco style and times.

Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland, is home to many artists and sculptors seeking refuge from the big city. There are more than 70 working artists in residence on the island, many of whom exhibit their works at Artworks in the Waiheke Community Gallery.

East of Auckland, on the Coromandel Peninsula, the late Kiwi potter Barry Brickell created a unique tourist destination with his Driving Creek Railway and Pottery. The 60-minute narrow gauge mountain railway travels through kauri forest to spectacular panoramic views that's a one-of-a-kind art and environmental experience.

Arts festival highlights 2016

Spectrum - Christchurch
12 December 2015 - 17 April, 2016
The Spectrum Street Art Festival is based in Christchurch’s YMCA, in the central city near Hagley Park, while other new works will be displayed on sites around the city. International street artists include France’s Seth Globepainter, Barcelona-based Cuban artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, Dutch artist duo Telmo & Miel, and Australia’s foremost female street artist, Vexta. Two South Island artists, Ikarus, from Christchurch, and Deow, from Invercargill, and two from the North Island, Berst and Elliot Francis Stewart, will join the multinational mix. 


New Zealand Fringe Festival - Wellington
2 February - 1 April, 2016
Held annually in Wellington, the New Zealand Fringe Festival is a community based open-access festival promoting some of the most creative people the creative capital has to offer.

For over 20-years the New Zealand Fringe Festival has been providing a platform for some of Wellington’s most diverse, thought-provoking and contemporary artists. The festival, that showcases music, theatre, dance and visual arts is held in venues around the city and has been the launch pad for the likes of the Flight of the Conchords and New Zealand actor and comedian Rhys Darby.

New Zealand Fringe Festival

Splore - Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
19 - 21 February, 2016
Splore, one of Auckland’s most loved events, returns annually to the picturesque beachfront of Takapakanga Regional Park. This diverse festival is renowned for its rich programme of art, music and contemporary culture, set within a natural coastal backdrop.

Visitors to Splore can dance in the warmth of the ocean while listening to local musical talent; enjoy performances ranging from cabaret to comedy, circus and theatre, and marvel at visual arts that demand interaction. Dressing up is also encouraged and adds to the family festival atmosphere of this truly unique event.


New Zealand International Arts Festival - Wellington
26 February - 20 March, 2016
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is known to be a centre of creativity, and it is never more cool than when the NZ International Arts Festival is in town. This event brings Wellington to life with over 300 events in indoor and outdoor spaces around the city. This leading Australasia multi-arts event celebrates some of the world’s top artists whilst also nurturing New Zealand’s local talent.

New Zealand International Arts Festival

Dunedin Fringe Festival - Dunedin
3 - 13 March, 2016
Dunedin vibrates with artistic activity and creativity during the 10-day Dunedin Fringe Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the South Island. Known for featuring experimental and innovative art forms of all kinds, the 2016 festival is set to be bigger, brighter and better than ever as an estimated 200 artists from New Zealand and around the world showcase their unique talents.

Dunedin Fringe Festival website

WOMAD - New Plymouth
18 - 20 March, 2016
Known as the ‘world’s festival’, WOMAD brings together a selection of some of the biggest artists from round the globe with the aim of celebrating different forms of music, art and dance.

It's held in the beautiful surroundings of New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park (a New Zealand 'Garden of National Significance). Key music acts of 2016 include St Germain, Seun Kuri and the Egypt 80 and American hip-hop veterans De La Soul.

But WOMAD is more than just the music. Experience is enriched with tastes from around the world, various workshops and an ‘artists in conversation’ programme.


Auckland Festival of Photography
2 - 24 June, 2016
Auckland’s annual Festival of Photography is a stunning signature visual arts event that provides a unique insight into one of New Zealand’s largest and most multi-cultural cities. The lengthy event is the biggest of its kind in New Zealand and includes a programme of exhibitions and events. These include free and professionally curated exhibitions.

Auckland Festival of Photography

Brancott World of WearableArt (WOW) - Wellington
22 September - 9 October, 2016
Dubbed ‘Mardi Gras meets haute couture’, New Zealand’s WOW or World of WearableArt is a uniquely Kiwi event mixing high fashion and art in a spectacular stage show. This dazzling show lists on the international calendar and attracts entries and audiences from all over the world.

Although the event is now held in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, it had humble beginnings, starting in Nelson when local sculptor Suzie Moncrieff came up with the idea of taking art from the gallery wall to adorn the human body. A year-round museum honouring the history of this visual extravaganza has been established in Nelson, housing collections from finalists and winners for the past 20-something years.

World of WearableArt website

Otago Festival of the Arts - Otago
30 September - 9 October, 2016
This biennial art festival started in 2000 as a way of bringing some of the world’s best artists and performers to the Otago region. The 10-day festival programme includes music, theatre, dance and visual art exhibitions at galleries around Dunedin. Many local artists hold exhibitions during the festival.

Otago Arts Festival website

NZ Garden and Art Festival - Tauranga
17 - 20 November, 2016
2016 sees the return of the NZ Garden and Art Festival, a biennial event that successfully combines the wonder of art and nature. With over 40 gardens to explore, work by acclaimed local artists to view and a new exhibition and entertainment hub, this vibrant and colourful festival has something for everyone.

NZ Garden and Art Festival

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