About Us

The eight New Zealand Societies are members of The Arts Society, one of the world’s leading arts charities. Founded in 1968 in England by Patricia Fay, there are now more than 375 Societies throughout the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, with a combined membership of over 90,000. Each local Society brings together like-minded individuals to share their appreciation of, and commitment to, the arts. All Societies offer a programme of lively, informative and entertaining lectures and study days. In 2001 the very first UK- accredited lecturer visited Christchurch to launch New Zealand’s inaugural Society.  In the intervening 15 years, Societies have been established in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Dunedin, and New Zealand is very proud to now have over 1,400 members nationally.

Forming New Societies

Already established New Zealand Societies provide support and encouragement to those keen to establish a new Society. Because of the requirements set by our international parent body, The Arts Society, comprehensive guidelines are available on how to proceed. Consideration should be given to the location of the new Society, the number of potential members and the availability of a suitable venue. To express interest in establishing a new Society in your area, please email the New Society Coordinator.

What We Do

While all New Zealand Societies come under The Arts Society umbrella and operate in a similar way, each is a separate entity, run by volunteers. Our Societies are not-for-profit and membership is by annual subscription, offering a program of eight or nine lectures each year. Following the one hour lecture, light refreshments are served and members have the opportunity to socialise and meet the lecturers.

The lectures are presented by international experts accredited in the UK by The Arts Society and are required to meet stringent criteria. Lecture topics cover the arts, design, culture, archaeology, history, music, literature and architecture. Societies may also offer more in-depth half study days presented by the lecturers from time to time.

As with all Societies around the world, every New Zealand Society has been involved in contributing to a range of projects and programs to help promote and support the arts in their community, and improve access for the young.

We welcome your enquiry. For information on lectures, study days and membership in your area, please click on the link to your closest centre: Auckland, Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, Marlborough, Otago


Locating Frances Hodgkins : A National Initiative

In addition to many local initiatives, the eight New Zealand Societies have together provided substantial funding for an international research project into Frances Hodgkins (1869-1947) led by Mary Kisler, Senior Curator at the Auckland Art Gallery. While Hodgkins is now recognised as one of New Zealand’s most prestigious and influential painters, her work was not highly regarded in New Zealand during her lifetime. Born in Dunedin, Hodgkins established her reputation and lived much of her life in Britain, where she was the first woman to have work accepted by the Royal Academy in 1903.

Funding from the New Zealand Societies has enabled Mary Kisler to travel to the UK, France and across New Zealand, re-tracing Hodgkins’ life and places of inspiration, and to pursue in depth research into the artist and her work.  This will result in the creation of an online catalogue raisonné (a comprehensive listing of all known artworks) of Frances Hodgkins, along with research for a book and an exhibition which will tour New Zealand that will focus on the importance of location for Hodgkins.

Read more about Mary’s project ‘Following Frances’.

You can read more about local initiatives that support and promote the arts on each Society’s page.

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