The 2017 Harcourts Hawke's Bay Arts Festival was officially opened last night at Parlour Projects in Hastings.

Surrounded by the work of internationally recognised artist Shane Cotton, festival director Pitsch Leiser said people were in for an exciting two weeks.

The opening night moved from Parlour Projects to Arts Inc Heretaunga where the first event of the festival graced peoples eyes.

Read more: Spiegeltent set to take its place as arts festival centrepiece
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival programme launched

Almost Serious- Fane Flaws had taken over the centre and Mr Flaws had set up a working-studio area. This included a speed-portrait salon, a re-creation of his living room with a telly running selected video clips, a performance space, which will feature action painting to live improvised music and a series of live concerts from the Fane Flaws songbook.

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Mr Leiser said this was their largest programme to date with a lot of variety for people to choose from.

"We have shows coming from as far away as Switzerland and Ireland but then also some strong local shows."

Mr Leiser said they wanted to focus on the Hawke's Bay content this year and they had eight shows, which were purely local.

"It is good to foster and develop these local artists so they have a platform to showcase their work."

The Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent was back for another year but this time facing towards the new Village Green development.

The spiegeltent is a kiwi design featuring paua shell inlay on the wooden pillars, New Zealand ferns on the ornate mirrors and harakeke designs on the stained glass windows.

Like last year, the space would offer a place for people to meet for drinks during the day and in the evening throughout the festival.

"It has a wonderful festival ambiance and atmosphere and we encourage people to come down and make the most of it."

For the first time people will able to meet the artists from some of the shows in an intimate environment on the Wednesday to Sunday during the festival at a breakfast at Malo in the village.

Mr Leiser said this was something new that could give people the chance to connect further to what the festival was about.

Acting Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst was equally as excited about the two week event and said it gave the region the chance to develop and invest more in the arts.

"I reflect on the performances last year and they gave you a chance to challenge yourself, laugh and also cry. The festival expands us and energises us."

Today the festival gets into full swing with Back of the Bus playing at the MTG Bus Stop at 6pm and 8pm, A Prudent Man playing at the spiegeltent from 6pm and the Covered- Yana Alana finishing things off at 8.30pm.

Tomorrow, entertainment in the spiegeltent kicks things off at 5.30pm with Women of Influence, a reader and writer show. Back of the Bus plays again at the MTG Bus Stop at 6pm and 8pm, and The Wholehearted show begins at 7pm at the Blyth Performing Arts Centre.

For more information and to see the programme visit: www.hbaf.co.nz/event-programme.