Ria Hall, the artistic director of Tauranga Arts Festival, offers her top tips for an art-filled weekend in the Bay of Plenty
Tauranga Arts Festival
Held in October every two years, this is the flagship festival of Tauranga Moana. Our aim is to deliver a world-class arts programme for our diverse community to immerse themselves in, and become inspired and hungry for the next instalment. I am very excited and honoured to be at the helm of the Tauranga Arts Festival waka, and look forward to curating how our festival looks as we move forward into a new direction.
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There's always something interesting happening at Baycourt. As the home of Tauranga Arts Festival and our Escape! Writers and Ideas Festival, it's very much at the heart of the arts in Tauranga.
Baycourt has played a starring role in the lives of so many people who grew up in Tauranga (including myself) with lots of wonderful Bay of Plenty talent making their debuts on the stage of either the Addison Theatre, or the X-Space.
Alongside our wonderful local creative community, Baycourt hosts some of the best touring theatre, music and dance shows and is a regular stop for the NZSO, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and some of the highlight acts from the NZ International Comedy Festival.
A favourite Baycourt event is the International Youth Silent Film Festival - an annual competition where young film-makers get to see their work up on the big screen, with live accompaniment from Baycourt's Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, which rises up from beneath the stage. Very cool.
The Incubator gallery contains a series of individual cubicles that provide professional arts practitioners with the personal space to research and create their individual works in an inclusive, supportive and connected environment. The Incubator is also home to The Jam Factory, a wonderful live music venue.
Tauranga Art Gallery
The Tauranga Art Gallery has been a go-to space where I take my son, Te Rongotoa, on exciting visual excursions. I love this place. Positioned smack-bang in the Tauranga CBD, it's the perfect place to take your whānau – entry by koha if you are able.
TOTARA ST is an unrivalled, multi-functional entertainment venue located in the heart of Mount Maunganui. TOTARA ST has become the Bay of Plenty's premier live music, entertainment and events facility. They always have amazing acts rolling through on the regular, check out their website for updates.
Te Puna Quarry Park
An artistic feast of sculptures awaits those who visit the Te Puna Quarry Park – a brilliant sculpture park with more than 50 works of outdoor art on permanent display. Mediums used include Hinuera stone, pottery, and ponga (tree fern trunk), in sizes ranging from small pottery pieces to man-sized stone sculptures. They actively promote outdoor art and hold sculpture symposiums within the park. Formed in collaboration with my hapū, Te Pirirākau, which is pretty awesome. A great place to get active with your whānau on the different tracks and walkways too, which I love.
Te Pakanga 0 Pukehinahina – The Gate Pā
Take a step back in time to the most significant event that shaped the landscape of Tauranga as we know it. Located on Cameron Rd, beneath St George's Anglican Parish of Gate Pā, The Gate Pā – Pukehinahina historic battle site provides a backdrop to the local history of collision between Māori and Pākehā.
Walk the pathways, read the information provided on the plaques, feel the series of pou whakairo (carved posts) and immerse yourself and your whānau. If you are after a sense of nostalgia, this is place to visit.
The Arts Junction, Katikati
The arts are alive in Katikati. Known as New Zealand's Mural Town, Katikati has more than 75 artworks in their public gallery, which is looked after by Katikati Open Air Art. Late 2018 saw the opening of the Arts Junction, a multi-use facility, which houses the Visitor Information Centre, home for Katikati Open Air Art, gift shop, gallery and the Junction Theatre, a multi-purpose theatre that accommodates stage performances, cinema and exhibition space.
Katikati now boasts four art galleries and has many private studios you can visit by arrangement. There is a strong theatre group, folk club, camera club, art group and more.
Stroll down the acclaimed Haiku Pathway which weaves alongside the Uretara Stream in the heart of Katikati. This pathway is the only one of its kind outside Japan and features more than 40 haiku poems carved on to river boulders. Each short poem has been chosen to reflect its location and provides a novel way to reflect on your peaceful surroundings.
This pathway also links with the popular Yeoman Walkway. Explore the Uretara estuary and wetlands just on the outskirts of town – home to lots of native birds and several more interesting sculptures.
Western Bay Museum
Housed in the historic Fire Station in Katikati, the Western Bay of Plenty Museum summons the pioneering spirit of tangata whenua and settlers who built the Western Bay by telling their stories through fascinating collections, interactive experiences and beautifully curated exhibitions.
A unique regional museum, exhibitions are updated three times a year. Specialist rooms feature captivating collections of technology, natural objects and hands-on features, which kids love.
They also have multiple experiences, including a museum tour during which guest are served scones baked on the wood range and tea served in bone china. Their 1900s School Experience is a beloved interactive school experience.
Whether you are passing through on a day trip, need a rainy day activity or staying a while, it is a real hidden gem.
Katikati Twilight concert. Set in the grounds of what used to be large private gardens, vineyards and lodge gardens, the venue has a permanent stage, and professional sound and lighting set-ups for all concerts which take place every January and February. Audiences have been anything from 800 to 2200, and performances have included everything from jazz and Big Bands, to country rock and tribute shows.
Ria Hall is the artistic director of Tauranga Arts Festival