For visitors to this inspired town, located on the western shores of the Waikato, the thriving arts scene means there is always a treasure trove of special finds to take home – and, for those who aspire, art classes and workshops to attend.
Raglan’s artists draw inspiration from their natural surroundings – the ocean that stretches out to the horizon, plummeting waterfalls, rocky cliff faces, caves where glowworms sparkle, and some of the best beaches in the country where the glistening black iron ore-rich sands make for added visual drama at the shoreline.
This striking environment, along with the hiking, biking, watersports, and fishing pursuits the area is famed for, kindles the creativity of local artists, including photographers, potters, painters, poets, sculptors, and designers, both architectural, landscape and fashion.
Raglan Old School Arts Centre
The Raglan Old School Arts Centre located on Stewart Street is very much the creative heart of Raglan.
A category one heritage building, it was constructed in the 1880s and served as the town’s school for more than 80 years.
Today, the building it is a multi-purpose venue for the arts run by the Raglan Community Arts Council which acts as an umbrella organisation for groups and individuals involved in the arts in the area.
The centre stages regularly changing exhibitions in its gallery and is the venue for most arts-related events including the creative market held on the second Sunday each month, workshops, demonstrations, dance classes and live music sessions, and screens movies most weekends, as well as hosting the annual Raglan Film Festival.
It’s the starting point for many who come to town for the popular Raglan Arts Weekend, held on Labour Weekend each year, and often the first stop for visitors following the Raglan Arts Trail around artist studios, galleries, and design stores.
Raglan Art Galleries
Along with the art available for purchase in cafés and boutique stores, Raglan has dedicated art and design galleries showcasing local art alongside works created by leading artists around the country. As well as visitors to Raglan, many also have a customer base that includes New Zealand and international aficionados.
Raglan Artists Studios
The annual Raglan Arts Weekend is when artists in open their studios to visitors, showing techniques, displaying and selling their works, and negotiating commissioned work. Throughout the year most studios are open by appointment – just ask at the Raglan information centre, or arts centre to make direct contact with an artist.
A local artist making a unique statement that reflects his own passion for surfing and Raglan’s surf town reputation is Aaron Kereopa. He turns old surfboards into works of art that are sought after around the country and internationally – and not just by surfers.
Another Raglan creative is the acclaimed local potter Tony Sly whose studio and shop are located in what was a boatbuilder’s shed on Raglan Wharf. His hand-thrown pieces have a place in many homes and eateries. He says he did not ever set out to create a brand, but just wanted to make a living doing what he loved.
Raglan art includes wearable art too. Locally designed hand-made creations are sold in boutiques around town, and directly by designers themselves. From practical garments and kids wear to high fashion, jewellery, footwear, and accessories (think Soul Shoes which also makes belts and bags), there is plenty to tempt discerning shoppers.