Our History

  • Image contains the lined-up plinths with several sculptures on top of it, displayed in a gallery with hardwood floors.

Our History:

The Arts Village was opened on 16th November 2002 by Rotorua MP Steve Chadwick. The complex was created by joining three historic dwellings into a unified gallery, studio and office space.


Lewis House, built in 1885 is the oldest of the three buildings and was the accomodation for Rotorua’s Dr Lewis. In 1908, Wohlmann House was built as accomodation for Dr Arthur Stanley Wohlmann, a renowned balneologist who was the designer and first director of the Bath House (now the Rotorua Museum of Art and History). The single storey Bungalow is the youngest of the three buildings and was built in the 1920s, it was occupied by the head of the Tourist Board in Rotorua. The three buildings continued to function as dwellings through until the late 1970s. From October 1986 Wohlmann House was leased to a variety of Rotorua artistic societies and community groups, including the Geyserland Arts and the Creative Fibre groups.


In 1999, the Rotorua Electricity Community Trust (later to become the Rotorua Charitable Trust) commissioned a series of investigations to assess the needs for further arts and music facilities in the town. A steering committee chaired by mayor Grahame Hall was established that over the next three years undertook extensive surveys and public consultation. The aim was to create a combined music, arts and cultural complex that would provide a significant contribution to community arts in the broadest sense.

With $1.6 million from the Millennium Grants of the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust, and further funding from the Lotteries Grants Board, and the Rotorua District Council. Construction began on 15 October 2001. The Arts Village (initially called ‘RAVE’) was officially opened by Rotorua MP Mrs Stephanie Chadwick on 16 November 2002. From the start community involvement has been a major imperative. The floor of the ambulatory gallery is a mosaic of 350,000 glass tiles in a design by local muralist Marc Spijkerbosch. Each mosaic piece glued onto 116 pieces of mesh by more than 1600 members of the public over 3500 hours. Other artworks have been added to the building – murals along the back studios, a vertical sundial and the three columned Nikau signage at the front on the building.