Update May 2011
Some of the crafts and food stalls of the Arts Centre Market have shifted to the Ferrymead Heritage Park after the 22 February 2011 earthquake, as the Arts Centre remains cordoned off. For that reason admission to the Ferrymead Heritage Park is free on weekends.
You can still walk along the fences that have been erected around the Arts Centre. The buildings are damaged, some severely, some less significantly. You can still see the beauty of the former University of Canterbury. Although the tower of the Observatory has collapsed and a tower has been taken down after the Boxing Day earthquake already, the Arts Centre has not been flattened by the violent shaking in February.
The Arts Centre is a wonderful place on every day of the year. Already the buildings of the Old Canterbury University in its Gothic Revival style are stunning, and sitting on one of the benches under the huge old trees in the picturesque courtyard is very relaxing, and strolling through the many little shops and artists studios can be inspiring. But on the weekend there is so much hustle and bustle about that it is double worth a visit.
On the weekend there is a market where you can buy paintings, clothes, wood works, pottery and food. Behind the main building are a lot of foodstalls with cheap food from many different countries - Korean, Thai, Chinese, Black Forest wafers, pizza and delicious desserts from Slovakia. The Greek guy's souvlakis are so incredibly good that most times you have to queue to place your order, and then you get a number and have to wait again... (Tipp: The main shop is in Colombo Street, near the Square...)
Enjoy your meal in the big courtyard under the trees where you can listen to live music which is sometimes better, sometimes worse...
The restaurants in the Arts Centre are open on all days. Most of them are rather pricey but most offer some more affordable options. And it is very nice and peaceful to sit in the outdoor areas.
It is always nice to browse in the shops. My favourite place, the candle shop in which they sold spectacular lily-shaped candles (among a million others...) and you could watch how the candles were made, has unfortunately moved to Marshland Road, far away from it all. In the Fudge Shop you can test eat some of their treats.
Not to forget the cinemas in the Arts Centre, especially the Academy Cinema where they show high quality films - but be aware they do not have cheap tickets on Tuesdays like most of the other cinemas, so check if you cannot enjoy a film for less money somewhere else. And there is the Court Theatre, and there are always exhibitions, festivals and special events. Something for everyone.
There are even guided tours, and Ernest Rutherford, the Father of the Atom, who graduated at Canterbury University is honoured in Rutherford's Den.
The place is as unique as the action that takes place there: In a tiny theatrette at the Arts Centre, the Academy Cinema, they show the German film "Gloomy Sunday" in the sixth year! In Germany this film of director Rolf Schuebel is nearly unknown but cinema-owner Rodney Cook and his wife Annette love it so much that they keep on showing it since 4 April 2001. The people of Christchurch share this love of a film which is based on a real story in the Budapest of the Nineteenthirtees and -fourties, many have seen it not only once and some even up to 20 times. So a German film with English subtitles has become cult in New Zealand, and there is no end in sight. If you want to see the film you still should book in advance, otherwise it could happen that you do not get a ticket for the daily show. Sometimes tourists arrive and try to convince ticketholders that they should sell them their tickets...
In early times the film has been shown in the big theatre of the Academy Cinema which seats more than 200 people, and then in the Cloisters. In the meantime it has moved to the unique homelounge-like cosy theatrette which seats only eleven people - with a white cushion on every seat.
The cinema has a unique yesteryear atmosphere, with a grill in front of the cashier on the ground floor, old movie posters and figures like Laurel and Hardy, and the old-fashioned Casablanca Bar on the way to the theatre on the first floor.
Already the building and interior itself would be worth a visit. But Rodney Cook is right: The film is just wonderful. An unusual love story with three people involved, a bitter-sweet menage-a-trois with wonderful music, the song "Gloomy Sunday", but when the fourth person, a German business man a later soldier arrives life turns sour. The final point comes totally unexpected and leaves everybody with a smile who has become sad during the film.
It is always amazing to see how amazed people are when spotting the Echo in the main court of the Arts Centre, at the Cloisters.
The Echo is a simply shaped black metal frame attached to the surrounding towers by transparent threads. So the building shaped artwork seems to be hovering above the buildings.
From whichever point you watch it, it always looks different, reflecting the surrounding buildings. Or as you could say: echoing the originals. That is where the name comes from. As simple as that.
I have posted two photos of the Echo, so you can see what big difference a slight change of the viewing angle makes.
Update 7 October 2007
The columns at the Arts Centre are not wrapped in the kaleidoscopic artworks anymore. What a pity! I leave the tip here as a memory of this fantastic work - and a reminder that the Arts Centre is a very lively place with new things to discover all the time.
The patio at the Arts Centre went through an amazing transformation in February 2007. The Korean artist Lee Joong Keun who was an artist in residence until then, wrapped the columns on two sides of the pond in his artworks which made the area look like taken from a fairy-tales book. The patterns were strikingly bright and colourful which was a response to the shades of grey and white of the Arts Centre and most of the historic buildings of the city. This created an incredible contrast.
From my visits to Korea I know that that Koreans love colours, just if you look at their festive silk clothes, and the wonderful silk cushions you can buy everywhere. However, the patterns of the Arts Centre columns were more Arab and somehow like designs of neckties from the 1970s or gift wrapping paper. The biggest surprise came when you had a close look. The patterns had their origins in photos taken in Korea and Christchurch. The artist then manipulated them digitally on the computer, transforming them into kaleidoscope patterns. So you could identify flowers and people. An amazing installation that was in place for seven months until September 2007.
The work was associated with an installation at the Christchurch Art Gallery which is just 200 metres from the Arts Centre. There Lee Joong Keun, born in 1972, transformed the staircase in the foyer into a piece of art. He combined photos of Milford Sound with pictures of mountains in North Korea. If you had a close look you could identify the NZ rainforest with its huge tree ferns and temples in the Korean mountains. The colours were tones of dark green to black, giving it a feeling of serenity, peace and contemplation, so a huge contrast to the the joyful installation at the Arts Centre.
What a wonderful find! The weekend markets at the Art Centre were absolutely fantastic. Genuine hand made items of all types and prices. Fashion, jewellery, toys, wood and lots more. Just the pleasure of meeting Ron the guy who makes skirts from vintage materials was worth the trip to NZ alone. He is delightful and what the best clothes in such flattering sizes as "gorgeous" and " extra gorgeous"
The galleries and working artist studios, so envious that there is nothing like this in my home location.
In 1890's Christchurch no-one could have known where the experiments that undergraduate student, Ernest Rutherford, was working on would lead him - and the world. Then the high frequency magnetization of iron was filling his mind and he needed a very stable environment to work in - a space provided by the basement room in the University's Clocktower Building, known to all and sundry at the time as Rutherford's "den".
Well, Ernest graduated and was accepted for further studies at England's prestigious Cambridge University where he moved on to study radioactivity. Within 10 years, the boy from Christchurch was to be a Nobel Laureate for "his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances". Ultimately his work led him to the postulation of the existence of the nucleus within the atom - a ground-breaking concept of unparalleled importance in the world of physics - earning him the soubriquet "Father of the atom".
Rutherford is buried in Westminster Abbey along with other great scientists but , thanks to another wonder of science - the hologram - visitors to Christchurch can see and hear the great man speak. A Rutherford museum has been created in the Clocktower. As well as the 'den', you'll find a student's room such as he would have occupied in his time at the University and an extensive display devoted to his life, work and honours.
Rutherford's Den is open 10-4 daily (closed Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day [April 25] morning). Entry is by a gold coin ($1 or $2) donation.
Christchurch's Art Centre, located on Worcester Street, is a delightful complex of old gothic style stone buildings and archways set around green lawns. The complex was the original University of Canterbury, with parts being built in the 1870s. Now, the buildings are turned over to shops selling locally made arts and crafts and the old chemistry block now houses arts and crafts workshops, where you can watch artisans and craftspeople at work and purchase hand made items in situ.
The architecture here is extremely appealing and just a stroll around the Art Centre is an enjoyable activity. There are a couple of cafes here on the street front and a theatre in one wing.
Every week there's markets held in the Art Centre and the Cathedral Square that are great for margin hunting and picking up unique and alternative nik naks. Also every Sunday there is a massive market held at the Riccarton Raceway that sells everything from antiques to plants to art.
There's much, much more to Christchurch Arts Centre than just craft shops and galleries - this really is a centre for all the arts - theatre, ballet, music, cinema all have a home here along with the wonderful variety of artists and artisans who have studios in the complex. Add several cafes and restaurants, a brewery, an observatory, a regular weekend market offering the work of even more artists and craftsfolk - plus great speciality foods and local produce all mixed up with live performances - and you begin to get an idea of why this place is such a source of pride here in Christchurch and such a part of the city's life. All this is housed in a lovely complex of Victorian buildings - the original campus of the University of Canterbury.
Visitors are welcome to wander right through the complex as they choose. If you want to know more of the history of the place there are guided tours on offer from 10- 3.30pm daily.
However, just wandering around is a pleasure - there are so many attractive buildings, pretty courts, outdoor sculptures, nooks and crannies to explore - and that's before you find your way into the shops and galleries that are filled with all sorts of goodies. This was a wonderful use to have put these buildings to once the University outgrew the site.
The Arts Centre was originally home to Canterbury University from 1873 to 1975. The buildings are set in lovely Gothic architecture and it presents a rabbits' warren of over 40 shops selling New Zealand-made arts and crafts plus food stalls. There's some pretty bizarre stuff, but overall the standard is high. There are excellent buys in leather, wool, wood, and crafts - mostly from locally sourced raw material - made by local artists.
The Court Theatre (check listings for some very good plays) is housed in the original Engineering Building and Hydraulics Lab, the Academy Cinema is in the old Boys' High Gym, and the Southern Ballet now occupies the Electrical Engineering Lab and the Mechanical Engineering Lab.
Rutherford's Den is here in its original state. Born in Spring Grove in rural Nelson on August 30th 1871, he was the world's first successful alchemist (he converted nitrogen into oxygen). Or put another way, he was first to split the atom. A tiny bit of trivia - in 1893 he boarded with Mary Newton, who, as secretary of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, was a leader in the movement which culminated in 1893 when New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the vote. It was also the first election for which Rutherford was old enough to appear on the electoral roll.
There are also several good places to eat at the Arts Centre including Dux de Lux, Le Cafe, the Boulevard Cafe and Annie's Wine Bar & Restaurant.
You may look at the outside of the Arts Center and feel like you are in old England, with the stone architecture. But inside is all sorts of crafts from New Zealand. You can buy beautiful wooden crafts, made from New Zealand wood. Greenstone, the treasured stone of the Maoris is sold here, and crafted into symbolic shapes for necklaces and broaches and rings. The Fudge Cottage is not to be missed! Taste test their deeelicious fudge! I recommend the Kahlua Fudge. There's also a shop that sells handmade candles, the beeswax ones smell so good!
What I love the best about the Arts Center is going for a coffee in the small coffee shop and taking it up the narrow winding stairs on the side and sitting upstairs in a little tower. (but I think now they've turned the tower into an internet cafe. Convienent for tourists, but it has obviously lost the 'quaint' feeling!) And then after my coffee, I like to go to the shop on the second floor - The Bead Shop!! Jars with different colored and shaped beads line the walls, and tables are scattered around so you can create your own bead necklace/bracelet/earrings. Great souviner of NZ, for yourself or your friends. I think it makes a special gift. If you are not a 'crafty' sort of person, they have already created many original pieces that are for sale in glass cases, or that may jog your creativity.
One of my favourite Place in Town :)
Located in front of the Botanical Garden and open everyday.
It is Christchurch‘s hub of arts and crafts, featuring art galleries, craft studios and shops, theatres, cinemas, a selection of cafes, restaurants and bars
There is a friday lunch time concert in summer. Check out the schedule at the art center ot website
A weekend market is held every saturday and sunday. Very interesting, you can see all the artists, craft people and musician get together and enjoy the international food fairs. Weekend Market hours 10am - 4pm
This could also be a 'shopping' tip, because there are so many artistic vendors here, at least 40.
This is the former Canterbury College Campus, just blocks from Cathedral Square. Here is where you'll find a wonderful assortment of local crafts.
The Arts Centre of Chirstchurch is a very historical and impressive site located along Worchester Blvd. During the weekends, there is a weekend market where all sort of interesting stuff are sold here.
The Arts Centre is a great place in Christchurch. It is a cultural centre and is housed in various Gothic style buildings. The complex used to be where the University of Canterbury town was. But is now transformed in this great arts and crafts centre. There are quite a few very nice bars, restaurants and cafe's on the site. Make sure to take a look and a taste in the shop where they sell fudge and sign up for one of the daily tours at 2pm through the fudge factory. Make sure to taste some of the Bailey's fudge, this is their specialty and is mouth watering!!