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From inception Riversdale Arts main aim has been ‘to promote the arts, in all their forms’ within the local area.  Classes are held offering tuition in various art and craft forms, local groups meet regularly at our Art Rooms.  In the past there was an annual Scholarship offered to people in the local area for study or arts related course. A new award has replaced the scholarship. A $1000 prize for an Emerging Artist awarded on Opening Night. Entrants are Southland based artists/residents under the age of 25. Work from selected finalists is displayed in the Exhibition. Local schools/playcentres are also supported with the opportunity to have a display in the Café at the Exhibition. The Exhibition of late has had a theme which gives the children a topic to use if desired. All the schools are invited to the exhibition, generally before days opening to the public to be shown around and given floor talks by our local artists. Many children bring their parents back after school. But it is the Annual Mixed Media Exhibition that is the heart of the organisation. An Exhibition which gives people from Otago and Southland (and anyone passing through) the opportunity to view/purchase an amazing selection of mixed media art from around New Zealand well displayed in our large Community Centre.


In 1973, Riversdale celebrated its Centenary and a group of local women organised an Art and Craft Exhibition to coincide with the event. A new Community Centre was being built as a Centennial project and they felt it should be a place for the arts as well.  A steering committee was set up with the mission statement ‘The aim to help establish the Community Centre – The Theatre and the Arts should be an integral part of Community life and not performed in isolation’. Art and craft classes started at the local school until 1987 when our own art rooms were purchased.These are now used for many activites especially at Exhibition time. Over the first 25 years a large variety of productions have been presented from musicals, one act plays to locally written shows. In recent years the drama has been undertaken by the Balfour Theatre Group.


1974 – First art course at school part of Southland Polytechnic Off Campus Department with 32 participants.

1982 – We are nominated ‘Club of the Year’ in Southland and win 2nd place nationally

1987 – We purchase former Milkbar from ANZ Bank. A derelict building we converted into our current art rooms.

1998 –‘ Celebration of Southland’ Medallion and Certificate for Services to the Arts, History of group featured in Otago & Southland Encyclopedia.

2000 – Prime Minister & Minister of Arts, Helen Clark opened the Exhibition.

2013 – Celebrated 40 years. Pinky Agnew was our guest speaker.

2014 – Outstanding Contribution to the Arts of Southland – Commitment to bringing nationally recognised artists to their exhibition and fostering interest and enthusiasm for Art across Southland.

2015 – Trustpower Regional Community Award – Arts and Culture

2017 – Guest artist Stephen Martyn Welch paints portrait of Jim Geddes the Gore Districts arts and heritage curator.  The portrait is purchased by the Mataura Licensing Trust who then presents it to Jim Geddes to be displayed in the Eastern Southland Art Gallery.

2018 – We celebrated our 45th annual exhibition, with an installation collaboration between cake artist Jude Taylor and artist Janet de Wagt - the theme of the installation was celebrating the past of the Riversdale Community.  We also exhibited 3 extreme cakes by cake artists Tammie Mahwhinney, Kathryn Wright and Brittany Thurston.

2019 - Sale of Guest Artist Ben Foster's sculpture for $18,000.
2020 - Covid 19 prevented us from holding a physical exhibition so we held a Virtual Exhibition instead.

2021 - Renata Karena a Tattoo Artist from Queenstown was our guest artist, he held a pop-up studio for the duration of the exhibition. Renata also won the award for most popular artist at the exhibition by public vote.

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