Lee Woodman and Nick Haig during the epic task of unpacking The Suter Art Gallery's collection into its new home.

Suter Art Gallery re-development


“The gallery owns our side of the pond which is always assumed to be part of Queens Gardens, and one of the lovely things about the redevelopment is that the gallery is more integrated with this fabulous setting,” says gallery director, Julie Catchpole.

Locals attend the blessing of The Suter Art Gallery at the end of the redevelopment project.
Locals attend the blessing of The Suter Art Gallery at the end of the redevelopment project.

“With the sculpture garden, plantings and what was already here, it’s looking beautiful.”

Nelson Suter Art Society also calls the centre home and within its walls they have their own gallery space and meeting room.

While the historic memorial gallery has been earthquake strengthened, the redevelopment also offered the opportunity to create a more functional building that was capable of hosting different exhibitions and artworks.

As a result, The Suter Art Gallery now has the most up-to-date lighting available and a brand new heating and ventilation system.

The project has been anything but simple, from the construction itself, to the work required by Suter staff and volunteers to prepare the building.

“It was a tricky process moving out for the rebuild as we had to move everything from the building down to Halifax St,” says Julie. “Absolutely everything had to be moved because so much of the gallery was demolished, and now we’ve also had to move everything back, and within that time we’ve added to our collection.”

Plus, with the historical Albion Square right beside the building and Queens Gardens on the other, not to mention The Suter Memorial Gallery itself, Julie says everyone has been “working around trying to be careful and respect all those heritage values and construct something that’s functional, beautiful and something that the city and the region is going to be proud of.”

With the hard work nearly over, The Suter Art Gallery staff are counting down to their grand reopening and looking forward to showing off the regions wonderful new facility.

Set to be held on Sunday, October 2, from 11am, the reopening day will include an eclectic mix of Nelson’s dynamic art, culture and family fun.

Outside the gallery there will be live demonstrations from Plein Air Artists of Nelson, while in the refurbished theatre Hugh Neill will be performing a lively and educational vocal recital, The Suter Art Gallery from Birth to Rebirth. Pack a picnic lunch or dine at the new look cafe while vintage rowboats and the amazing Spoonaker glide across the pond.

For children there will be magical fun with Faerie Lou, face painting with Meredith Thorpe and Balloon twisting with Flossie Balloons, plus, there are several competitions to enter.

Dress up ‘artfully’ to be in to win spot prizes all day or get on social media as the best three tweets will win a prize, as well the best three Instagram posts.

The opening exhibitions are currently being hung and are entitled Milk and Honey, Promised Land and Exodus.

They trace the history of Nelson and the top of the South Island as a subject for art, Nelson as a home for the arts, the collecting history of The Suter and its place as a contemporary art gallery. Drawn primarily from The Suter Collection, with a few star loans from major New Zealand art galleries, there will surely be something for everyone.

“We chose these exhibitions because we want to celebrate the place of Nelson in New Zealand art history,” says Julie. “Primarily it will feature artworks from our collection, including many that the community has raised money for, one standout being Rita Angus’ ‘The Apple Pickers.’”

While planning and fundraising for the rebuild started back in 2012, the physical transformation of the building has taken just shy of two years, beginning in February 2015.

“It’s such a beautiful building and people are really going to enjoy it,” says The Suter Art Gallery’s Julia Warren. “The building is an artwork in itself.”

After the reopening day, The Suter Art Gallery will be open seven days a week, excluding certain public holidays, from 9:30am until 4:30pm.

Entry into the gallery is free and for those wanting to stay up to date with their programme of every changing exhibitions, visit their brand new website at thesuter.org.nz, their Facebook page – The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatu, or follow them on Instagram and Twitter.