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Art is good for you

Art is good, Painting by Moana Munro

Art is good for you – Guest post by Emma Lord

The Spanish surrealist Joan Miró said, “A simple line painted with the brush can lead to freedom and happiness.”

Dog Barking at the Moon 1952 by Joan Miro

Dog Barking at the Moon 1952 by Joan Miró. Image credit: Artists Home

The benefits of painting and other art forms are well established. From concentration and fine motor skills to mindfulness and confidence boosting, the act of painting, sculpting, or making can be therapeutic.

Everyone can benefit from an art class

I recently joined a painting class with a friend. While I have a basic foundational knowledge and experience from high school art classes, my friend has never painted before. Although we’ve only been to two sessions, there have already been a number of “wow” moments.

In our first class, my friend whispered to me, as though it was a secret, “It’s so nice!” Her usual art practice is with coloured pencils, and she was surprised at the relative speed at which she could colour the background. Her sense of happy discovery was as good for me as it was for her. In that session, we both received an injection of joyful wonder at the world and what we were capable of, a shot of satisfaction within ourselves, and a dose of appreciation for the power of colour to affect us.

Art as play

“This is just playing for you,” our tutor said, watching me apply paint to the canvas for my background, before I knew what the painting would be about. The comment made me think of drawing with crayons, and that always gives me a little thrill of joy. For me, using crayons and paint really is a form of play, and that is something most adults don’t have nearly enough of in their lives. And you don’t have to be a ‘good’ artist to experience this. In fact, it’s precisely because I have no aspirations to produce great work that I am able to treat art as play. That’s the “freedom and happiness” Miró was talking about.

Stock image

But it’s not just the act of creation that can soothe and enliven us. The presence of art in our environment is vitally important to society, and can have a powerful effect on the individual.

Celebrating the David Fine Scholarship

For the past two weeks, the Hastings Community Art Gallery on Russell Street South has hosted an exhibition celebrating the first decade of the David Fine Scholarship, supported by local collective Iwi Toi Kahungunu.  David Fine played an important role in forming the Arts Centre, securing the the gorgeous Harvey Building as a designated art space, and creating the Hastings District Community Arts Trust. After his death, the Trust established the David Fine Scholarship in his memory. This ten year anniversary show of the recipients’ work drew me back again and again during its two-week showing.

David Fine and Hastings District Community Arts Trust chairman, Graeme Linwood in the Harvey Building, which houses the Hastings Community Art Gallery.

Many of the works on display, especially those from Iwi Toi artists, were an exploration of heritage and identity. This is something that always fascinates me. New Zealand’s colonial history has created (and still creates) a great deal of pain and division. Yet within nearly every New Zealander, whether Māori, early European settler, or more recent immigrant, is a combination of tangata whenua and manuhiri. Even the lives and identities of pākehā like myself with no Māori blood are deeply interwoven with the whenua and te ao Māori.

Living here means being ‘of’ here. I whakapapa to the mountains and rivers of my tūrangawaewae. I whakapapa to the journeys my ancestors took to get to New Zealand. I whakapapa to the distant and varied countries they started in. The knowledge of this connection to the land, and therefore also a connection to other people of that land, gives me a greater sense of belonging in this world. And belonging is good for us.

Moana Munro

One of the two scholarship recipients for 2019 is Toimairangi student Moana Munro. Her artworks particularly stood out to me as she combines iconic imagery from Māori visual arts with hints of Australian Aboriginal painting techniques, designs and colour palettes. The high-contrast landscape background of the painting below reminds me of my hometown. The way the stylised figures interact seems to represent the way I feel about the painting.

Art is good, Painting by Moana Munro

At the top of the stairs, presiding over all of the other work, was a painting of a tuatara by Wairarapa artist Sam Te Tau. I fell in love with him immediately. I say ‘him’ because in my mind, the painting is of Henry, the oldest tuatara at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill.  Henry is thought to be at least 150 years old. The painting is huge: about 5 feet tall. The tuatara looks as though he is about to crawl out of the canvas, prehistoric crest and all. Within the spots on his skin, the artist has included enchanting patterns like circles and korus. I can’t really explain it, but just being in the presence of this painting makes me happy.

Art is Good. Sam Te Tau, tuatara

When you see a painting you love, you feel good.

You are present, appreciating what’s in front of you. You connect with the artist, who may never meet or know you, and the artist’s influences, colours, shapes, ideas… this connection is powerful, and is what makes art so meaningful to me, and so good for me. Connecting with people, connecting with myself, and connecting with the real world is the cure for what ails me.

A big thanks to Emma for writing this post. If you have an art related piece of writing that you think would be of value to my audience. Get in touch. 

In her own words

Emma Lord is a work in progress. She loves learning, creating and sunshine. She lives in Hastings with her cat Galileo.

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Top 5 things to do during your visit to Art Deco Napier

Art Deco Napier, Top 5 things to do

Art Deco Napier – get me to the Hawkes Bay

You love Art deco I know you do. Here are a few tips for your next visit to Napier. Are you bring the kids? Napier is super family friendly or maybe get some you time by going it alone. (You time is so important)

A little bit about my own journey to Napier

I moved to Art Deco Napier in 2016 from Auckland and I have zero regrets (other than leaving behind a few awesome friends). I knew that Napier had a cool Art Deco vibe but I wasn’t sure about the whole art deco festival, it seemed like an overwhelming event to me. I’m not into the party scene anymore, I know you hear me. Now that I live here that overwhelming feeling of the crowds from Art Deco weekend can be easily avoided, instead I get to experience all the beauty of art deco every time I walk out the door at any time of the year.

As an artist, some of my favourite things about Napier are the little art deco details that you can find if you look a bit closer. The stunning street signs and the elaborate manhole covers. Don’t forget to look in every doorway and check out the ceilings in every building.

art deco napier, rothmans building, art deco, national tobacco company
Taken on an Art Deco tour of Napier, New Zealand, March 2010. By russelljsmith

How did Napier become the art deco capital of the world you ask?

In February 1931 there was a devasting earthquake and the city changed it’s landscape forever. When Napier went to rebuild they embraced the popular style of time which was Art Deco. It now has one of the highest concentrations of this building style in the world. I believe Miami in America also a place to visit for this style. Visit the MTG to learn more about the earthquake.

Visiting Art Deco Napier – What should you do?

MTG napier, art deco napier, pin wall, sara hughes, gregory kregar, napier museum
Sara Hughes and Gregory Kregar Pin Wall at the MTG

Not ready to just wing it? there are some great websites to check out that will help plan your visit before you arrive.

Some great options for things to do:

  • Art deco Napier walks and tours at all times of the day – Book these in through the Art Deco Trust
  • Vintage car rides – Book these in through the Art Deco Trust
  • Visit during the Art Deco festival, winter or summer for a full-on experience
  • Not particularly an Art Deco thing but Hawkes Bay has a number of impressive vineyards to visit
  • Walk or drive around and see how many seawalls you can spot.
  • Hire a tandem bike from Fish Bikes and go for a cruise towards Cape Kidnappers.
  • Get a fancy cocktail at the Emporium or Monica Loves
  • The MTG is free and has excellent merchandise and exhibitions.
  • Visit Te Mata peak for a view that has to be seen to be believed.
  • Hawkes Bay has lots of locations to check out, Havelock North, Hastings have lots to offer or go country and check out Puketapu.

Art Deco Napier, Hawkes Bay, Napier, get me to the hawkes bay, visitor guide, marine parade
Photo credit: Mundus Gregorius on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Check out my top 5 activites below

Great kids activities to try while you’re in Hawkes Bay

  • The skate park, Marine Parade
  • Visit our independent local bookshop Wardini Books in Napier or Havelock North
  • The fenced in Bike Track (For younger kids), Marine Parade
  • Fenced playgrounds for all ages along Marine Parade
  • The National Aquarium of New Zealand
  • Train world
  • Andersons park has a miniature railway train on Sundays between 11 am and 4 pm.
  • Love chocolate visit Silky Oaks
  • Splash planet in Hastings

How to get here and where to stay

There is a variety of accommodations options in Hawkes Bay to suit all budgets. If you are planning to attend the Art Deco Napier festival or the Mission Estate concert you need to book early to avoid disappointment.

Napier is on the East Coast of the North Island so a good road trip from Wellington or Auckland or a quick flight would be the best way to get here.

Art Deco Napier, visitors guide, hawkes bay, napier

My Top 5 things to do

  • Getting gelato and walking along Marine Parade is a very overlooked perfect Napier experience in my opinion
  • Drive or walk up to the lookout over the Napier Port, a perfect spot for a picnic lunch
  • Get a coffee from one of the many markets and browse the local stalls. (Check out the eco wrap by Lily Bee)
  • Drive out to Ocean Beach to get a surf lesson and enjoy one of the best beaches in New Zealand (Debatable I’m sure)
  • Visit as many art galleries as you can my top suggestions are, The Rabbit Room and Tennyson Gallery

Architecture – Art Deco

What makes art deco art deco?

Art Deco is dominated by simple lines, pastels and luxury it has many influences and crossovers with other styles. You can see in Rothmans building (Illustration below) has a lot of influence from Art Nouveau. Learn more about Art Deco on Wikipedia

I’ve really started looking closer at the buildings around Napier and I like what I see. The Details on the buildings show a real attention to detail and high level of craftsmanship.

Buildings of note to visit in Napier – Since you have an interest in Art Deco Architecture I highly recommend a walking tour as they also point out some beautiful Art Deco Sculptures.

  • The Rothmans building (National Tobacco Company LTD)
  • Napier Sound Shell and the Napier Arch
  • The Daily Telegraph Building
  • The Criterion Hotel
  • The Masonic Hotel

Rothmans building, tea towel, Ngaio Blackwood, art deco napier, National tobacco company
Tea Towel design by Ngaio Blackwood of the Rothmans building (National Tobacco Company)

Get on the waiting list for my tea towel designs.


See you in Napier soon


Ngaio Blackwood


Please note none of these links is paid for in any way they are just my personal recommendations.