Story: Arts education and training

Fine and performing arts have been practised and taught in New Zealand since the 19th century. While private tutors reigned in the early stages of art training, the need for larger institutions arose. These were developed to further the creative talent dispersed around New Zealand and continue to nurture artistic New Zealanders today.

Story by Megan Cook and Caren Wilton
Main image: Art class, Canterbury College School of Art, 1907

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Visual artists

In colonial New Zealand, being a good artist was socially desirable and economically useful. From the 1840s private lessons were available, and in 1870 the first publicly funded art school opened in Dunedin. After studying at an art school or with a private tutor, many New Zealand artists went overseas for further training, particularly to Europe. By the 2000s there were three kinds of fine art education providers: private tutors, technical institutions and universities.

Actors

From the 19th century, private tutors provided classes in speech and stagecraft. Amateur theatre groups and university drama clubs provided opportunities to perform and receive theatre training. In 1970 the New Zealand Drama School opened in Wellington. In 1989 it changed its name to Te Kura Toi Whakaari o Aotearoa: New Zealand Drama School.

Dancers

Many dance teachers ran their own schools, teaching various types of dance. Private schools remained an important source of dance training in the 2000s. The National School of Ballet was set up in 1967. It changed its name to the New Zealand School of Dance in 1982 and offered training in classical ballet and contemporary dance. In 1998 it gained a permanent home in Wellington, with purpose-built studios and a theatre.

Musicians and singers

New Zealand had a very active musical community in the 19th century and many music teachers worked from their own homes. However, by the 1960s both composition and performance were taught at university level. The Wellington-based New Zealand School of Music was set up in 2006 by Victoria and Massey Universities. It teaches a broad variety of music. Like artists, dancers and actors, musicians and singers also travel abroad to complete their training.

Writers

Before the 1970s creative writing was not generally taught in formal classes (except in schools). A course run by poet Bill Manhire began at Victoria University of Wellington in 1975. Other early courses were at Auckland University (from 1984) and Aoraki Polytechnic (1993). The International Institute of Modern Letters, a creative writing school, was set up at Victoria in 2001, and has produced many successful graduates. From the 1990s writing courses became more common. In 2014 a number of institutions offered degree courses, and there were many other courses focusing on different genres such as children’s writing, poetry and scriptwriting.

How to cite this page:

Megan Cook and Caren Wilton, 'Arts education and training', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/arts-education-and-training (accessed 25 September 2018)

Story by Megan Cook and Caren Wilton, published 22 Oct 2014