Aratoi Institutional Profile

Aratoi – Wairarapa Museum of Art and History

The development of Aratoi - Wairarapa Museum of Art and History came about to meet the community’s need for a modern museum and art gallery in the Wairarapa.


Wairarapa Arts Foundation

In the 1963 a group of citizens purchased a Barbara Hepworth sculpture “Galliard – Forms in Movement”. The cost was 475 guineas. The Hepworth was purchased to stimulate public interest in the arts and act as the founding piece for a new arts centre, with the vision that this work would give the institution an international perspective.
The Wairarapa Arts Foundation Incorporated was formed in 1969 to administer the Wairarapa Arts Centre. It continued this objective until 1996, when the Arts Centre was renamed The Wairarapa Arts and History Centre.
Through its 27 year history the Wairarapa Arts Foundation purchased, and was gifted, a wide variety of art works.
Aratoi Regional Trust (Previously the Wairarapa Cultural Trust)

The Masterton District Council and the community had been debating the need for a museum for a number of years and the Wairarapa Cultural Trust (now the Aratoi Regional Trust) was registered in February 1996 to administer a new combined museum and art gallery.
The initial Wairarapa Cultural Trust Trustees represented the Wairarapa Arts Foundation funders and management: Dorothy Booth, Brian Bourke, Helen Dashfield, Gavin McLachlan, Alan Sadler, Patrick White, Gareth Winter and Wendy Woodhouse.
The Wairarapa Arts Foundation Collection was transferred to the Wairarapa Cultural Trust via a Heads of Agreement on 1st May 1996.

Chairs of the Wairarapa Cultural Trust (now the Aratoi Regional Trust) include:

    Alan Sadler (1996 - 2002)
    Gavin McLachlan (2002 – 2011)
    Kristy McDonald QC (2011 – 2012)
    Frazer Mailman (2012 - 2016)
    Barbara Roydhouse - Current Chair

The Aratoi Regional Trust vision is “Aratoi will be acknowledged for its quality, innovation and performance.
"Our Mission is to tell our stories, explore our history, exhibit, celebrate and encourage creativity.”

The Friends of Aratoi

Whilst the initial Wairarapa Cultural Trust Trustees represented the Wairarapa Arts Foundation funders and management The Friends of the Wairarapa Arts and History Centre Society Incorporated (Friends) was formed in November 1997 to represent the Wairarapa Arts Foundation community. The objects of the Friends included promoting the awareness of Wairarapa Arts and History, to support and assist the Centre in its diverse programmes and to promote the development of the permanent Collection.
At the AGM in February 2003 the Friends adopted a new constitution and name: Friends of Aratoi – pathways – Wairarapa Museum of Art and History Incorporated.
The Friends act as advocates for Aratoi, supporting programmes and events. They also assist Aratoi with weekend volunteers, operational funding and Collection purchases.

Chairs of the Friends include

    Marilyn Strang (1997 - 1999)
    Phillip Vallance (2000)
    John Wilson (2000 - 2001)
    Lyn Eglinton (2001-2002)
    Allen Hair (2002-2007)
    Penelope Bunny (2007-2013)
    Jo Beetham (2013- 2016)
    Sandra Debney (2016 - current)

The Friends appoint a distinguished person as Patron of Aratoi every three years.

Honorary Patrons of Aratoi include

    John MacDonald (2003-2006)
    Doctor Ian Prior (2006-2009)
    Helen Dashfield (2009-2012)
    Dame Robin White (2012- current)

The Aratoi Foundation

The Aratoi Foundation was established in 2002, with the Trust Deed executed in 2004. Established by the Wairarapa Cultural Trust (now the Aratoi Regional Trust) and the Friends of Aratoi, the Foundation raised capital funding to assist with the costs of mounting exhibitions and the acquisition and collection of works of art for Aratoi’s permanent Collection. Regular donations were made to the Aratoi Regional Trust for specific purposes. Chairs of the Foundation were Jim Rowe (2002 – 2007) Bob Francis (2007 – 2018)

The Aratoi Foundation wound up in 2018, following the handing over to the Masterton District Council of the Ascension sculpture by Neil Dawson positioned on the Northern Roundabout.

Most recent trustees were Bob Francis (Chair) Mena Antonio, Kate Bunny, Leanne Southey, and Jane Terpstra.
The Aratoi Regional Trust is grateful for the Foundation’s contribution over a number of years.


Wairarapa Arts Centre (1968-1999)

The Wairarapa Arts Centre was built by the Masterton Trust Lands Trust and opened on the 11th of October 1969 at a time of increased professionalism in art museums throughout New Zealand. The Arts Centre was the home of the national Hansells Sculpture Awards in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The Arts Centre served the community until the mid 1990s, when the need for an improvement became obvious. A three-way agreement was formed between the Masterton Trust Lands Trust , which funded the construction of the new Aratoi facility, the Masterton District Council, the major operational funder, and the Wairarapa Cultural Trust (now the Aratoi Regional Trust), which acted as a service provider to the Council to fulfill aspects of their cultural policy.
Aratoi (from 2002)

After consultation, and in response to a report by David Butts (Head of Museum Studies at Massey University), Aratoi opened to the public on 9 February 2002 telling the stories of Wairarapa’s cultural heritage. Aratoi is the store house of the Wairarapa’s important cultural material. The building has been designed to meet modern museum standards and handle a wide range of exhibitions and events. The building was designed by Studio of Pacific Architecture and received a 2002 NZIA-Resene New Zealand Award for Architecture in the Community and Cultural category.

The judges said: “The Wairarapa Museum of Art and History site has a complexity of adjoining neighbours. It builds on the rural town environment and develops a strong sense of belonging for Masterton. The development of the gallery spaces, work areas and entry combined with the changing scales of internal spaces seduce the visitor into an enjoyment of the exhibition areas. The neighbouring Wesley Church has been sensitively adapted as an exhibition gallery and an inexpensive overlay enhances the tradition of the space. A strong contribution to the building of a rural town.”

The buildings features include:

    The development of 370 square metres of fully air conditioned galleries capable of handling touring exhibitions
    The refurbishment of the former Wesley Church into a short term exhibition gallery which can also be used for performances
    Public thoroughfares that double as exhibition galleries
    A large central Foyer that doubles as a venue for private functions
    A courtyard which includes a Marae Atea with a dedicated entry where Taonga can be brought into the building
    The back of house, includes the collections store, preparation area and loading bay
    A café on the north-eastern corner

The Collection

The Aratoi collection is unique in the Wairarapa. There is no other public collection of art works in the region.
The collection contains work of regional and national significance as well as work of international significance, a Barbara Hepworth sculpture which was the founding work in the collection. There are works by artists of national importance such as Colin McCahon, Toss Woollaston, Bill Sutton, John Drawbridge, Philip Trusttum, and artists of great local significance such as Roy Steer, who bequeathed a large collection of work - he was the subject of one of the opening exhibitions in the new museum.

The Hepworth sculpture was a catalyst for the Hansells Sculpture Awards. These awards, held annually and then biennially at the Wairarapa Arts Centre (the forerunner of Aratoi) in the 1970s and early 80s, were a national sculpture competition that attracted emerging and established artists. It was the only one of its kind at the time, and many of these artists now see it as an important event in their careers. Aratoi owns an important collection of works from the awards.

Principal Funding

Masterton District Council

The MDC’s 1995 Cultural Policy reads: “To celebrate, support and stimulate arts and culture as part of the everyday life of the Masterton District community”. The MDC aims to:

Offer wide-ranging opportunities for residents and visitors to increase their participation in, and enjoyment of, artistic and cultural activities. Improve understanding of and respect for the contribution of the many different cultural traditions in the district to the quality of its social life. Celebrate the unique identity of the district, enhanced by particular recognition of Wairarapa’s heritage and contemporary artistic and cultural expression.

Service Contract
The relationship between the MDC and Aratoi is detailed in a Service Contract. The MDC is committed to an ongoing annual operational funding contribution. Aratoi is required to generate 20% of its own income.

Other operational funders are:

    South Wairarapa District Council
    Masterton Licensing Charitable Trust
    Carterton District Council
    Prime Community Trust

Masterton Trust Lands Trust (MTLT)

Formed by the Masterton Trust Act in 1871 its activities and operations are governed by the Masterton Trust Lands Trust Act 1996. The Trust’s strategic goal is to support educational and cultural activities within the Masterton community. It does this from revenue generated from property owned in Masterton. The MTLT raised the $3m of capital for the building and fit out.
Other capital funders were Masterton Licensing Charitable Trust, Tararua Foundation, Eastern and Central Community Trust, Lottery Heritage, Juken Nissho Ltd and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage Regional Museum Fund.
The MTLT leases the building to the ART rent free as an “in kind” grant.

Aratoi Regional Trust Board

Chair: Barbara Roydhouse

Board members:

Syd Morgan
David Moriarty
Elizabeth Johnston
Lydia Wevers
Huria Robens
Donna Burkhart
Wayne Pitau

The Friends of Aratoi

Chair: Sandra Debney

Committee members:

Janet Avery
Briar Toop
Stephanie Chilcott
Sandra Debney
Steve Davis
Simon Dixie
Megan Slight
Bryn Tate

The Friends of Aratoi  appoint a distinguished person as Patron of Aratoi every three years
Current patron: Dame Robin White


Key Funding


Masterton Trust Lands Trust (MTLT Masterton District Council


South Wairarapa District Council Carterton District Council

                                             Tranzit Group logo

Masterton Licensing Charitable Trust Tranzit Group 

Breadcraft (wai) Limited

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