One of the biggest events on the Whanganui arts calendar, the annual Artists Open Studios, wraps up this Sunday.

"It's an opportunity to meet with the public and talk to people in a less high stress environment than a gallery where it's quite professional," said artist Hamish Webster.

The event, founded by Sue Cooke and Catherine MacDonald 19 years ago, has been held over two weekends in March every year since.

"The intention was to educate the audience on how an artwork is made so they can appreciate it and understand why it cost what it costs," Cooke said. "And so that they would actually take that next step and buy, because artists have always struggled financially and they need supporting."


Sixty studios throughout the region are taking part, with a variety of fringe or unofficial events too. One thing is common to all the studios - a yellow flag flying outside is an invitation to go in.

"Art actually invites you to absorb more of what's going on here than just the paint itself," said artist Duncan Smith, who has set up a gallery of his works at his home.

The experience brings out the artistic and creative side in everybody, even local MP, Harete Hipango.

"The appearance of things changes according to the emotions," she said. "And thus we see magic and beauty while the magic and beauty is really in ourselves."

Like much of New Zealand, support for the arts in Whanganui is sporadic, often depending on current leadership in local council or central government.

Cooke says there is a lot that could be done around Whanganui but it's difficult when jobs change hands and projects such as the Sculpture Walk along Somme Parade get dropped.

"They were doing really well at amassing [sculptures] and suddenly it's all stopped and nobody's done anything to complete it," she said.

In an effort to create reliable ongoing support, Whanganui District Council is consulting on a strategic plan for arts and culture in the region.

In the meantime, the town's artists must make their own opportunities.

At least after this weekend, they'll have their studios back to themselves.

More details on the open studios here.

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