Your Self-Guided Urban Arts Tour of Palmerston North
Palmerston North is a city that continues to surprise us with its abundance of neat cafés, shops and galleries, so it’s no great revelation that it’s also home to an active arts scene.
Words by: Nicole Mudgway
Palmerston North has a wide variety of studios, theatres and galleries to keep even your most ‘urbane sophisticate’ friend happy. Palmy is particularly well-appointed with public sculptures, and visitors with a few hours to kill could certainly do a lot worse than taking themselves on a self-guided urban arts tour of Palmerston North’s fledgling downtown core.
Public Sculpture Trail
The Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust (PNPST) is responsible for many of the sculptures you’ll find around town. Grab a map, circle your faves and get your walking shoes on. The construction of these sculptures has increased the profile of art in the region and introduced numerous new points of interest to the city centre. Building on the success of the PNPST sculptures (figuratively, not literally), there have been a number of other sculptures popping up in recent times (namely at Zimmerman Gallery and Te Manawa, see below). The PNPST website is a valuable resource, providing information not just about the sculpture itself but also the artists and inspirations behind each of the works.
Square Edge, 47 The Square, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North
Square Edge is a special place where local artists, community groups and the general public can come together and connect. On the outside, it’s an eye-catching art deco building. On the inside, you’ll find a lively hub of activity. There are a number of rotating exhibitions in the entrance and main foyer, beyond which is a hallway that invites you to discover a world of creativity. Meander down and see artists at work; an open door is a sign they’ll welcome a chat.
Square Edge was established as Palmerston North’s community arts centre over 40 years ago, and it now houses numerous studios, galleries, workshops, stores and even a coffee shop. It doesn’t stop there, though: the space lends itself to community events such as wellbeing workshops, crepe-making classes, drag bingo, French workshops and oh so much more. Pop in for a visit, stay for a while.
326 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North
Te Manawa, Palmerston North’s premier museum, was conceived at the intersection of art, science and history. There is a wide range of permanent exhibitions showcasing the region’s past, its people and the land. There are dedicated sections catering to children, lovers of heritage buildings and even rugby fans - with an interactive zone allowing All Black wannabes to test their skills in the official museum of New Zealand’s national game. Don’t miss the eye-catching kinetic sculpture in the museum’s internal courtyard. “Kowhai” was installed in early 2022 by artist Andrew Drummond and is inspired by the shape of a kōwhai seed - best viewed on a windy day!
329 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North
Centrally located Zimmerman Gallery draws crowds with its ever-changing full window display. Inside, a wide range of contemporary artworks from local emerging and established artists awaits, most of whom friendly owner Bronwyn Zimmerman knows personally.
Paul and Fran Dibble are two local artists and bronze sculptors that commonly showcase their works in the gallery with Fran’s piece “In Still Ponds the Universe is Reflected” being installed outside the gallery’s frontage on Main Street in early 2022. The work pays homage to water - evoking its simple familiarity, and highlighting its precious and powerful essence. It’s hard for anyone strolling down Main Street to miss the almost 2-metre-high gilded drop, so if you’re pounding that particular pavement, why not step inside and browse the rest of the works in the gallery itself.
Regent on Broadway
53 Broadway Avenue
Few will be surprised to learn that the Regent on Broadway has had a rough few years. Fortunately, things are now looking up. The majestic 1930s heritage building has been described as one of the country’s top performing arts centres and there’s a real thirst to get this particular show back on the road.
Playing a pivotal role in Palmerston North’s art and culture scene, many locals were particularly invested in seeing the theatre survive the rigours of the pandemic so that it could again thrive. Thankfully the 2022 calendar looks reminiscent of a pre-pandemic era, there is plenty on to tickle one’s fancy. From musicals and ballets, to concerts, comedy and school performances, the Regent’s upcoming bills are as good a sign as any that the arts are here to stay in Palmerston North.
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Neat Palmerston North Places
LOCAL Café and Eatery
LOCAL Café and Eatery truly lives up to its name. After several years of successful trading, the spot has earned a solid regular following who love the café’s colourful plates, locally sourced ingredients, homemade baked goods, coffees and tipples.
Nero, a family-owned modern bistro, has made a name for themselves in Palmerston North over the last twenty years with consistently great food and service.
The Herb Farm
Head to Ashhurst to experience one of New Zealand’s most beloved natural skin care brands in more ways than one. When you arrive, you’ll immediately be greeted by the beautiful gardens which are home to many of the herbs that feature in The Herb Farm’s products.
Be Free Grocer
Plastic / package free grocery shopping is the way of the future. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. At Be Free Grocer, however, it is. Owner Bron and her friendly staff are 100% committed to sourcing the lowest impact groceries around, and they do it with a lot of joy.
On George Street you’ll find Libre, one of the best spots we’ve found for authentic and delicious Mexican food and drink in all of New Zealand.