The Waikato Museum is the centrepiece of the renaissance. Overlooking the Waikato River, and with eight galleries over four levels, it features both art and history in its exhibitions. Exhibitions delve into local heritage and challenging contemporary art is showcased from local and overseas artists, while children can learn while they play in the Exscite interactive science gallery. The Te Winika Gallery pays tribute to the Maori heritage in the region and displays the majestic 200-year-old carved waka tua (Maori war canoe) Te Whare Waka o Te Winika.
Beside the museum, ArtsPost is dedicated to showcasing the best of local artists’ work. It has three exhibition spaces, and features everything from installation art to more conventional painting, photography and pottery. Its gift shop rivals any with its range of crafts, jewellery, art and cards.
Private galleries also do an excellent job of profiling local artists. Among the relative newcomers making a name for themselves are La Mezz in Hamilton and Inspirit on the city outskirts, both hosting regularly changing shows. La Mezz includes an impressive stockroom with works by artists who have exhibited there. At the high end of the market is Aesthete in the city centre, which sells works by leading New Zealand artists. Nearby Soul and Thornton Gallery focus on work by local artists and craftspeople while the Hamilton Art Trail introduces many of the best artists working in the area. Adding to the array of crafts on sale are galleries in Cambridge, Tirau and Raglan along with other towns.
Innovative art forms have also been created by local artists, such as Aaron Kereopa from Raglan who has added a twist to the traditional Maori Carving methods. Substituting wood for the foam base of surf boards, Aaron carves intricate Maori and Polynesian designs, each one unique with its own story to tell.
When it comes to live theatre and the performing arts, Hamilton has several venues that regularly put on shows, including the best of touring acts. The largest of them, Founders Theatre, hosts the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet. The Meteor and Clarence St Theatre offer smaller shows, while Riverlea Theatre and the Hamilton Operatic Society put on regular local seasons.