A unique exhibition of artworks featuring some of the country's top Paralympic stars, including two of Northland's finest, will visit the region as part of a nationwide tour.

The Spirit of Gold Collection features a series of 12 works by artist Amber Stephens of some of New Zealand's most high profile summer and winter Paralympians and Para-Athletes, including Whangarei's Cameron Leslie and Dargaville's Emma Foy, who now lives in Cambridge.

Leslie is a double gold medallist and para-swimming world record holder from both Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and is a strong contender to make the team for the Rio Paralympics this year.

The painting of Dargaville-raised Paralympic tandem cyclist Emma Foy (left) and pilot Laura Thompson, by artist Amber Stephens.
The painting of Dargaville-raised Paralympic tandem cyclist Emma Foy (left) and pilot Laura Thompson, by artist Amber Stephens.

Foy is a World Champion Para-Cycling tandem prodigy and another strong contender to go to Rio.

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Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) said the innovative project is a unique combination of art and sport, and Stephens has created the artworks to showcase the depth of talent across Para-Sport in New Zealand.

PNZ has partnered with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce to take the Spirit of Gold Collection Tour to 10 centres around the country, including Northland, ahead of Rio. The exhibition will be at Dargaville Primary School on Friday, then from Saturday to Monday in the Kauri Room at the Hub, at Whangarei Town Basin.

On Tuesday it will be at a venue yet to be confirmed in Paihia, then on Wednesday will be taken to Cape Reinga for a photo shoot to show the exhibition on its way from the Cape to Bluff.

Leslie said Stephens met him a few times and they "chewed the fat" over what motivated him, including the choice of music he uses to train to. She took some photographs and went away to do the painting, which he said has totally captured his character.

"The first time I saw it was when it was unveiled. It's quite bizarre to see yourself on canvas, but she has done a great job. She has really captured myself and all the other Paralympians perfectly," Leslie said.

After the tour the collection will be auctioned during a planned "send off" event in June or July to mark the team leaving for training camps ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, from September 7-18.

Stephens said inspiration for the artworks was struck when she first met Paralympian Sophie Pascoe.

"I was immediately taken by Sophie's unapologetic drive to meet her sporting potential. Following this meeting knew I had to use my artistic approach to capture the story and raise the profile of these athletes. I visited Paralympics New Zealand in early 2015 and worked closely with them, and the collection was born."