Over two weekends in early summer, the artists of Kapiti Coast open their studio doors to visitors. They share where and how they work, demonstrate their many various skills and provide insight into what they do.

The annual Kapiti Arts Trail, an initiative that’s been going for 16 years, gives access to over 60 studios, 13 galleries and four collective artist hubs in one glorious hit.

Thousands drive up from Wellington, across from the Wairarapa, south from the Manawatu and beyond, to feast on the creative output of the coast. And, of course, it is an enriching experience for the artists, too.

“It’s so good to have people come in, to have the chance to talk about what I do,” says artist Fabienne Joni Sopacua, who works from her Raumati Beach home.

Originally from the Netherlands, the self-taught painter has portraits of people from various cultures, of children and of animals, painted in realist style from photographs, hanging and propped around her studio. Kapiti INP2

Visitors will be able to watch her paint and can buy work at ‘studio prices’, although there will be no pressure to buy.

“I work alone so much,” Fabienne says. “It’s just great to have people interested in what I am doing.”

In Paekakariki, Alan Wehipeihana is sharing his studio with other artists for the duration of the arts trail, creating a hub.

“It’s a really strong arts community here,” he says, of Paekakariki. “People are supportive. It’s still very much a village here; it’s nice and relaxed and it’s a good mix of people.“

Alan’s work is also a good mix of reconsidered materials: tukutuku panels made from book spines, patterned panelled wood carvings, found objects colliding and given new life. He is sharing the upstairs space, near the railway, with Storm Davenport whose oil on canvas paintings are layered and iridescent, full of light and movement, and Harriet Bright who works directly from life on quick, energetic line drawings and oil portraits.

Harriet’s work also features in a group show at Mahara Gallery, the district public gallery based in Waikanae’s centre.

For the arts trail, director Janet Bayly has invited eight local artists, some fresh and edgy, some well-established, to show. It is part of an ever-changing exhibition schedule for the busy, vibrant gallery.

Micheline Robinson, a relative new-comer to the area who is showing solo for the arts trail, confirms Kapiti Coast is a particularly arts-focused community.

“I’ve found Kapiti Coast a very creative and welcoming community, and being part of the trail has made it easier to get involved,” she says.

Micheline, originally from Canada, plays with materials, shapes and patterns and uses texture, inks and acrylics to create abstract and figurative works. Of the open weekends, she says: “I try to make it entertaining!” Kapiti INP

For glass artist Graeme Hitchcock, who lives on the slopes above the coast at Waikanae, sharing the spectacular view is one of the pleasures of the open studio weekends. His address has been on the trail since its inception and he is quite used to having hundreds of strangers traipse through his home.

His brightly coloured figures, male busts with flying ties and multi-hued luminous hands waving at the world are fun, witty and warm-hearted; with a workshop busy with samples, templates and moulds, tools and kilns and intriguing materials, the reaction from visitors is inevitably positive.

Once artist trail trekkers are replete with aesthetic feasting, they will need sustenance of the other kind and Kapiti is generous in this department, also.

Morning tea at Ruth Pretty’s serene and inspiring Garden Room at Te Horo, perhaps? Lunch at Waikanae’s Long Beach, a busy, rustic ‘modern pub’ with an edgy vibe and truly interesting food?

The owners of this business also have a bakery in town, famous for its cheese scones and old-school milkshakes. Or an evening meal at sophisticated Soprano Ristorante at Paraparaumu Beach would round off the day beautifully.

Also in the ‘hood is Tuatara Brewery, one of New Zealand’s top craft beer producers, open for a drink on tap and a pizza, takeaways, and the chance to check the timetable for tasting sessions.

It seems there’s no shortage of creative energy being spent on this stretch of coast.

Perhaps inspiration is found in the dramatic, looming Tararua hills, the endless crashing surf along the great curve of beach, or watchful Kapiti Island, lying protective and mysterious just out to sea.

Reported by Kathryn Webster for our Summer 2016 issue

More information

For more on the Kapiti Arts Trail, click here.

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