Masterton Art Club on show at Aratoi

The Masterton Art Club’s history reaches back to 1921 when a meeting was called to set up a ‘sketch club’, and a committee of nine women was formed. Over ninety years later, the Club is still a fixture in the Wairarapa art scene, holding its Wednesday art sessions and running other activities from its clubrooms at 12 Victoria St.

The group is also showing its latest work at the Windows Gallery in Aratoi. By the early 1940s, the ‘sketch club’ had morphed into the Masterton Art Club. It clearly answered a need as several dedicated members serving overseas in the forces regularly sent back artwork for the group’s exhibitions, including cartoonist Jim Welch who spent almost five years in Stalag Prison Camp. In those days, the club ran outdoor sketching trips and tutored classes along with music recitals, garden parties and picnics.

Today, along with the Wednesday sessions, the Club runs workshops, visits to local artists’ studios and monthly trips to arts venues. It helped raise funds for the Wairarapa Arts Centre, and in 1991 were helped by Trust Lands Trust to purchase the Victoria St premises, where there is also a library of art books shared by Wai Art.

Dawn Macdonald joined the group two years ago soon after moving to Masterton and has reaped the benefits of being among other like-minded people. “I had been painting on my own in a rural environment and realized that the advice and constructive criticism I’ve received from other members has widened the scope of what I do and given me the confidence to develop my own style.” An example of this occurred when Dawn brought in a landscape painting in oils that she felt was nearly finished and another member pointed out that the tree looked “a bit flat”. “I followed their advice and made some changes to make it more three dimensional, and now everyone comments on that tree!

” Years ago critiques at the club were more daunting – art teachers and artists were invited to assess members’ work, and there was a fine of 2/6 for failing to bring a sketch. Informal, friendly feedback is the order of the day now. Each month, a painting topic is suggested and members vote on their favourites from the resulting work. Judi Ferris is the new president and says they would like to attract new members to the 80 strong group:

“The club rooms are a lot busier now as we have members offering tuition – Jane Sinclair runs a painting class on Tuesday nights, and Anthea Crozier teaches watercolours every second Saturday morning. We are hoping to have more workshops and regular video screenings covering techniques and skills.” Dawn says she has already learnt a lot just from working alongside others: “It gives you the confidence to go a bit further, and do a bit more.”

All are welcome to the Masterton Art Club’s Wednesday art sessions at 12 Victoria St, from 10am onwards, followed by an evening session from 6.30-9pm.

Contact Lorraine MacDonald T: 06 378 8372.

Currently showing at Aratoi: Art ‘n’ Soul: The Masterton Art Club Inc., until 19 May; Thirty-Three: Matthew Couper, until 26 May; Spirit Tree, until 26 May; To the Beginning: 50 years of acquisitions from the Friends of Aratoi, until 19 May.