One of Central Otago’s best kept secrets, the Cromwell Heritage Precinct exudes historic charm with its warm stone walls, cottage gardens, lakeside location and character-filled stores.
Created by volunteers 27 years ago when the rising waters of man-made Lake Dunstan began lapping at Cromwell’s former main street, the historic village continues to grow. It is not only a delightful and free visitor attraction with interactive historical displays and beautifully restored buildings, but also a hub for artists and craftspeople.
The schist stone cottages and shops are tenanted by an arts collective, master printmaker, renowned goldsmith, highly original wire sculptor and bone carver The goldsmith, Les Riddell, has been plying his ancient trade for over 25 years, the talented Canadian reworking family heirlooms as well as crafting new pieces. Wire sculptor Marie Velenski’s work is as original and quirky as it is intricate and plant expert and maker of herbal creams and perfumes, Karen Rhind, also adds unique character to the precinct.
Unique imported and New Zealand-made giftware is found in Jan Hawkin’s ever-changing treasure-trove of a store, Sequioa. Italian cuisine including delicious gelato at Armando’s Kitchen is one option for great eating, the other is the delightful Grain & Seed Café where visitor’s sip coffee from vintage crockery.
Named last year as one of New Zealand’s best ‘hidden gems’ by AA Directions Magazine, the precinct is gradually being discovered by overseas visitors, Kiwi families, and locals.
Historical displays tell the story of the frantic 1860s gold rush when sparsely populated Central Otago was suddenly inundated with thousands of prospectors. Children love the talking ‘locals’ who tell the yarns, life-size horses and secret alleyways, as well as the ducks, fishing wharf and picnic areas.
Located on Melmore Terrace, the Precinct hosts the Cromwell Farmers Market every Sunday from November to March. The market incorporates crafts now too and is great place to grab a coffee some fresh baking and catch up with friends.
Original and Innovative Arts at Hullabaloo and OCTA Gallery
Quality art work of international standard can be found at both the Hullabaloo Art Space and Old Cromwell Town Art Galleries.
The majority of the 15 professional artists that make up the Hullabaloo collective have been recognised in the art world with awards and other accolades.
The success of the gallery, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is attributed to the group’s focus of maintaining high standards of work that is constantly being refreshed.
“The gallery is rehung each month with new work and we exhibit a wide range of artistic disciplines. It’s an artist-run initiative so there is always one of us on hand to discuss the works with visitors,” collective member Lynne Wilson said.
At OCTA gallery, master printmaker Chris de Jong displays fine works by international and national artists, some of whom are his former pupils. Before he and his artist wife Gail moved to Central Otago to pursue their artist careers fulltime, Chris was principal lecturer at the School of Art in Dunedin. Gail’s stunning landscapes, often depicting the ruggedly beautiful terrain around Bannockburn, can be found in both galleries.
Creating a bit of a Hullaballoo and Christmas Cheer
What do you get when you combine the talents of 15 different artists and create a self-directed, self-governing co-operative? A celebration of Central Otago art in the Hullabaloo Art Space of course! Found in Scott’s Bakery in the Old Cromwell Heritage Precinct, this is the ninth year that Hullaballoo has opened its doors to share a very special Christmas Show with the wider community.
This year’s theme is ‘Christmas Cheer (Chair)’ and each artist, working in their chosen medium has created a piece based on their interpretation of what this is. The opening night is on Saturday 5th December from 6 pm onwards, and visitors can expect to see paintings, photographs, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery and prints adorning the walls. As always, a cheeky glass of liquid Christmas cheer and nibbles will also be on offer.
According to Lynne Wilson (local ceramicist, landscape designer and member of the Hullaballoo ‘Hanging Team’), the truly special thing about this event is that each artist gives away one of their works of art. In the spirit of giving and thanking the community that has supported them, all they want in return is people to visit on opening night, view the art and take a number when they walk in the door. At the end of the night, the winning numbers will be drawn out of a hat and fifteen people will be walking away with a new treasure to display in their own home.
Hullaballoo came into being because of the vision of Odelle Morshuis. The founding members were very clear about the need for Hullabaloo to be a true co-operative. There are no employees, the artists contribute a specific sum of money each month to cover rent and overheads, and the price you see on the artwork is the amount of money that goes to the creator. This means a sustainable income for the artists involved, and as it is the artists that keep Hullabaloo open seven days a week visitors actually get to talk to the people that created the work on display.
Scott’s Bakery, with its weatherboard walls and original white beech floors that now houses Hullaballoo, has its own fascinating story. It was originally found on the corner of Melmore and Inniscort Streets, which is now deep under Lake Dunstan. In June 1869, the bakery opened; however, it wasn’t until 1880 that Mr Scott proudly displayed the first bread made from local wheat in his shop window. For many decades, the Scott family supplied Cromwell with baked goods and in more recent times the building was used as the New Zealand Road and Rail Services bus depot. Thanks to the forethought of a talented group of craftsmen, the building was both relocated and restored in 1987.
Today, much like the bakery that it originally housed, the art space and its associated business model is a grand success. The gallery is refreshed every month and there is a waiting list of artists who desperately want to be a part of the Hullabaloo team - proving that the Central Otago Art community is both alive and thriving. So don’t forget, even if you are feeling sun kissed and weary after going the Festive Fete on Saturday, it is worth visiting Hullaballoo to see the opening of the latest show and spread a little ‘Christmas Cheer(Chair)’ this Saturday night at 6 pm or visit before the show ends on January 1st 2016
Artists: Andi Regan, Annemarie Hope-Cross, Eric Schusser, Gail De Jong, Jillian Porteous , Kay Turner, Lorraine Higgins, Luke Anthony, Lynne Wilson, Marion Vialade, Megan Huffadine, Nigel Wilson, Rachel Hirabayashi, Ro Bradshaw, Sue Rutherford.