Hutt ValleySee & Do
A family walks towards the Dowse Museum in Lower Hutt.

The Dowse Art Museum

The Dowse, as it’s known by locals, opened in 1971. Its focus was on studio craft, including ceramics, textiles, and weaving, which was unusual for art galleries at the time. The museum has continued to carve out a niche in the applied arts. It now has one of the largest collections of this kind in New Zealand with more than 3,500 objects. It’s considered a pioneer in the presentation of art forms underrepresented and underappreciated in the mainstream art world. Visitors can explore The Dowse for free and enjoy contemporary art and culture.

It established the First National Weaving Award in 1976 along with an exhibition, elevating craft to something other than ‘just a hobby’. Exhibitions now regularly cover graphic design, contemporary jewellery and ceramics, interactive virtual reality, Māori whakairo (carving) or raranga (weaving), photography, and paintings by emerging and leading New Zealand artists.

A young child and their parent enjoy the lights inside one of the Dowse Museum exhibits.

The Dowse is known for accessible exhibitions, public programmes and spaces for people of all ages. In the forecourt in front of the museum sits ‘Fallen Robot’, a giant robot sculpture by leading New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout. While children will delight in climbing over this permanent sculpture, adults can ponder the meaning of a fallen industrial giant and its relationship to the Hutt Valley’s industrial history.

Taking pride of place in one of the main galleries is Nuku Tewhatewha — an important local . It is one of Te Awa Kairangi’s greatest treasures. Built in 1856, it is the only known intact pātaka of seven or eight that were carved across the North Island as symbols of support for the Kīngitanga (Māori King) Movement.

No matter what is on when you visit, you can be sure that you’ll walk away feeling inspired, challenged, and reinvigorated. The museum’s café, Bellbird Eatery, and gift shop are also excellent additions to your experience. The Dowse always endeavours to reflect its local and wider community with imagination and intelligence.

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