• Read more about Whirinaki Whare Taonga's upcoming exhibitions, here.

The Board of Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre is excited to announce some exciting news: a new extension, a new name and a new chapter for Expressions Whirinaki.

On Saturday 15 May the new extension for Expressions Whirinaki opens. This new extension, five years in the making, features the Gillies Gallery: a dedicated space to showcase Upper Hutt’s stories sponsored by Malcom and Carol Gillies and their family. The opening exhibition is called Te Ara: Stories of our Streets and celebrates the significant stories behind the streets of Upper Hutt, its people and places, its meetings and memories, told and untold, and is the city’s first major historical exhibition. The extension also includes the new Heretaunga Rotary Gallery: an intimate space for local, national and international art sponsored by Heretaunga Rotary. A creative workshop is also added; a new custom built educational space for Upper Hutt, a collection store to house the nationally significant Pumpkin Cottage Collection and a commercial kitchen to support the Processionals Recreational Hall; a place for community gatherings.

Alongside the opening of this new extension Expressions Whirinaki also announces their new name;

Whirinaki Whare Taonga

Arts I Culture I Events

This name builds on the name gifted to Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre by Orongomai Marae and local iwi in 2011. Whirinaki means to provide support, or to lean on, and to encourage. Whirinaki Whare Taonga recognises the centre as a treasure house sitting at the heart of the Upper Hutt community; a place where art, culture and events are supported, and the community embraced. Whirinaki’s kaupapa is to provide arts, culture and event opportunities that inspire and engage. As one of the more diverse arts and culture institutions in New Zealand, Whirinaki offers bold, modern and truly remarkable exhibitions and events. These exhibitions and events bring the best of New Zealand to the region and the best of the world to New Zealand, encouraging innovation, creative thinking and meaningful engagement for all ages.

This new name also celebrates the new extension and Whirinaki’s evolving role as kaitiaki of our precious local culture and heritage, and the teller of local stories, weaving our cultural stories together in ways that engage and connect us. Leanne Wickham, Director of Whirinaki Whare Taonga who has led the extension project explains Upper Hutt needed its own heritage gallery that can serve as the teller of stories and cultural heritage. “Upper Hutt now has a permanent place to tell our local historical stories and to preserve New Zealand's history as well as meet the growing needs of the community with accessible, engaging and world class exhibitions and events.”

Wayne Guppy, Mayor of Upper Hutt is excited about the development. “Our new name and our new building guides us into an exciting new chapter and we welcome everyone to come and explore with us Whirinaki; a place where everyone is welcome, and memories are made”.

Peter Richardson, Chairperson of the Trust thanks all those who have supported the project and the fundraising, “Raising 2/3 of the total budget was an amazing accomplishment of the Trust and a testimony of the community who got in behind the extension to help make it happen.”


About Whirinaki Whare Taonga

Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre was built in 2003 and is owned by the Upper Hutt City Council. It is leased to, and operated under contract by a not-for-profit Council Controlled Organisation, the Expressions Arts and Entertainment Trust. The objectives of the Trust are those of a Charitable Trust to engage, enrich, inspire and connect people with art, culture and events in the Upper Hutt community.

Whirinaki Whare Taonga, previously known as Expressions Whirinaki Arts & Entertainment Centre is a vibrant arts centre in Upper Hutt featuring art, culture and events. Five galleries have a constantly changing programme of exhibitions ranging from the best New Zealand and international art, to local exhibitions, with a special focus on family friendly experiences. Whirinaki tours some of its exhibitions to other venues around New Zealand and is also the home of the Pumpkin Cottage Paintings Collection, a permanent art collection for the city. Upstairs in the Gillies Group Theatre the spotlight is on theatre, comedy, film, dance and music with a dynamic programme ranging from circus acts to classical music. Whirinaki is also home of the Professionals Recreation Hall which hosts a wide range of sporting and cultural events as well as conferences, public meetings and weddings and the Upper Hutt i-SITE.

Whirinaki Whare Taonga is managed by a small team led by Leanne Wickham who has been Director for the last 8 years. The Centre has grown to become a significant player in the region’s cultural life and performs extremely well in terms of levels of visitation, participation and community engagement and use. With over 140,000 visitors a year to both visual and performing arts experiences Whirinaki has grown to be a vital part of Upper Hutt and the surrounding Wellington region, and is known as the place to visit, to discover, experience and enjoy significant art and culture. This can be seen in some of the block buster exhibitions bought to the region, such as POP Garden (Italy) in 2020, The Secrets of Mona Lisa (The Louvre) in 2017, Catwalk to Cover (London Fashion Museum) in 2016 and 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic (The Smithsonian) in 2015.


About the Extension

In 2015 the Trust identified the need to extend the Centre to accommodate the extraordinary growth in visitors and to meet the needs of the local community.

The architect for the project is Athfeild Architects with Maycroft Construction building and leading the project. The building consent for the extension of Expressions Whirinaki was issued on the 28 August 2019 and a construction contract was signed with Maycroft Construction on 23 August with ground work commencing 31 September 2019. The total project price was set at $9,126,700 with the Trust and the team raising one third; $2,929,273. A major success of the Trust was The Ministry of Culture and Heritage Regional Culture and Heritage Fund granting a fund of $1,280,164 million.

Support from the extension has been huge and includes a major donation from Malcolm and Carol Gillies, $500,000 from Lotteries Environment and Heritage and $500,000 from Lotteries Community Facilities, $200,000 from Hutt Mana Trust and grants from Wellington Community Trust, Pelorus Trust, The Lion Foundation, The Upper Hutt Cossie Club, The Rimutaka Trust and the Expressions Foundation. Funds were also raised from members of the community who were able to purchase a red tile which are placed in the new hall lobby.