Art from the Wellington Teachers' College

Story by Rebecca Ford

Museum and Heritage Studies, 2016

Wellington Teachers' College

The Wellington Teachers’ College believed that the best way to grow good teachers was to grow creative, socially-conscious students.

Its art collection was a resource and an emblem of the College’s embrace of adventurous, energetic creativity.

Developing the Art Collection

The College's art collection developed organically. As with the education style on campus, the art collection was the product of enthusiastic individuals. The principals in the 1950s and 1960s were liberal thinkers who encouraged the rapid expansion of the collection.

A.J. Waghorn (principal 1948-1958) was a painter himself, and active in the arts community. Works by his friends, including Toss Woollaston, are part of the collection.

Collective efforts by staff and students also built the collection. The College Arts Council was established by a student in the 1960s. Partially funded by the Students’ Association, it is an example of how students were connected to the collection.

The staff similarly purchased art works through the Arts Committee, which was founded following the move to the Karori Campus in 1970.

The aim was to fill the raw concrete walls of modernist architect Bill Toomath's remarkable brutalist building and to inspire students by displaying adventurous works.

Works were collected from a mix of local artists, young artists, and from staff and students themselves. Renowned potter Doreen Blumhardt is one staff member represented in the collection.

Connecting Staff and Students

In the words of Head Librarian Julia Traue, art was the 'collective memory' of the College. Traue was the driving force behind the library's own art collection. This had been started using small portions of the fines collected from overdue library books.

Traue expanded the practice, saying “we take very seriously our role in developing in students an awareness of the arts. Our walls have been enriched by paintings, prints, drawings, photographs and hangings, and other spaces enlivened by pottery, sculpture and plants.”

The fine money provided a direct link between the students and the art – people thought it was a pleasing and responsible practice.

Traue also noted that the collection was primarily an educational collection for the public good. She recalls that many artists donated works in support of this philosophy.

A Legacy for Victoria

Collecting declined from the late 1980s into the 2000s. In 2005 the Wellington Teachers’ College was amalgamated with Victoria University.

The Adam Art Gallery took over management of most of the College's art collection after the amalgamation, however, some pieces, namely the ceramics collection, remain within the Faculty of Education.

After the closure of the Karori Campus in January 2016, some of the works displayed can now be found around Kelburn Campus.

Find the Faculty of Education

15 Waiteata Rd, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand