New Zealand artists are being urged to get back to nature.

The Department of Conservation and Creative New Zealand today launches a scheme called Wild Creations to connect artists with the country's natural and historic heritage.

Described as a fusion of creativity and conservation, up to three artists will get access to DOC experiences between November and June 2018. These could include visiting a place of significance to Maori, working alongside a team trying to save a threatened species, learning more about marine mammal monitoring or staying close to the city to explore urban parkland.

The aim is for artists to create work during or soon after inspired by the cultural, spiritual and environmental knowledge gained through visiting and spending time at heritage and conservation sites. DOC says the artwork produced will directly support several objectives, including bringing our history to life and connecting New Zealanders to conservation.


CNZ will invest up to $36,000 to support Wild Creations. The funding covers artists' stipends, travel and agreed costs associated with up to three proposals over one year. DOC won't make a direct monetary contribution but will support artists with accommodation at its sites and transport to get there.

Wild Creations is an extension of a residency programme that ran from 2002-2012. This saw 24 artists develop work across a range of art-forms including craft/object, photography, film, mixed-media, literature, music and theatre.

Photographer Fiona Pardington, who speaks at today's Wild Creations launch, was one of the participants. She has fond memories of living in a garage in Kingston, at the end of Lake Wakatipu, during the winter months.

"The air was pristine, the lake enchanting. My boy, Jack, insisted on jumping in and went blue! He is always adventurous and I had warned him it was cold ... but there's no cold quite like a winter Wakatipu. He didn't try that again!"

Pardington photographed the high bush where locals say patupaiarehe (fairy-like beings) lived, the greenstone-bearing rivers around the Dart and Cameron's Flat, named after her father's family.

"It was a life-changing experience, one that allowed me to grow even closer to and more knowledgeable of the whenua I knew and loved as an Ngai Tahu artist."

She would recommend Wild Creations to any artist, saying it sparks the heart and imagination. Other participants say it enabled them to investigate and use different materials, helped them better understand specific environments and cultural issues and led to changes in the way they work.

A growing body of international research points to health, wellbeing and creativity boosts that getting out into nature offers. Musician Lorde recently told RNZ's Kim Hill how natural and historic heritage inspired her breakthrough album Pure Heroine.

"I go to Fort Takapuna - there's a weird old fort there and a lot of old guns and [it's] very grassy and verdant and I feel like that sort of became the palate of the record."

Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage and Conservation Maggie Barry will launch Wild Creations at Fort Takapuna in Devonport this morning. Artists are able to apply to CNZ from today for one of its three spots.