Skip to content

A space for creatives in New Brighton

There’s a black door covered in white painted koru at 186A Shaw Avenue, New Brighton. The sign saying Toi Te Karoro has a matching colour theme on one side and a red and black touch if you’re approaching from the opposite end of the street.

Toi Te Karoro Studio. PHOTOS: James MacTaggart.

They are strong colours for a Kiwi or Cantabrian.

A creaky set of stairs and the smell of fresh paint lead to a diversity of scenes depending on the day. Tuesday evening is “Creative Night” at the studio where artists from many walks of life swing by for a chat and a space to work. Every second Saturday is for kids to turn up and out-paint their parents.

Then there are the big draw cards – the “Paint N Drink” or “Dancing in the Dark” events where a casual wine, dim lighting and a chilled-out atmosphere can help people “get their creative on”.

Regardless of the event, you’re likely to find Bridget Allen at the studio where she helps to organise the various group functions and work on her own print making art. This solo mother of four young children opens the studio every second Saturday to help teach children printmaking. Then she usually takes the afternoon to work on her own art.

Bridget says she has always loved art ever since she was a young child. She did a lot of printmaking at high school, before studying sculpture at Canterbury University. Taking time off from her art was difficult.

Bridget Allen: are tutor and artist.

“The only time I really stopped was when the kids were really little. I just realised that it made me really unhappy not doing something creative so I needed to be involved in something artistic again.”

Toi Te Karoro studio has enabled Bridget to continue her art and extend that same creative experience to the New Brighton community.

It was founded by artist Kim Lowe as a studio for her printmaking work. It has been running for just over a year with the help of funding from the Creative New Zealand Earthquake Recovery Grant, koha (offerings) from the various events and the hard work of everyone involved.


Being busy is part of the job with Toi Te Karoro. Kim is a practising printmaker and painter as well as a part-time tutor at Christchurch Polytechnic. She has had work displayed at two international exhibitions this year – the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair and the Impact9 International Print Conference in Hangzhou, China.

“Community spaces have become really important after the earthquake. There are a lot of artists out at New Brighton, and I would like fine arts and good quality art to be available for everyone to experience. It’s about facilitating other people’s learning and creativity,” Kim says.

Toi Te Karoro is gradually finding its feet and discovering what works, she says. The plan for the studio is long-term but the biggest limiting factor for both Bridget and Kim is time.

Bridget stresses the importance of Toi Te Karoro’s community focus and talks about having to move seven times after the Christchurch Earthquakes before ending up in New Brighton.

“It was instant community, just taking the kids to school and everyone was there to help. Everyone is just relaxed about who you are so you can totally be a complete ‘munter’, or run a business. There’s a great mix and that’s what Toi Te Karoro is all about,” Bridget says.


With workshops, events and Creative Nights planned over the next few months, Bridget hopes word of mouth and networking will help get some publicity for the studio.

“A lot of people want to do printmaking or painting but they just don’t have the space at home. This way we can have people turn up and it’s a great way to hang out and brainstorm ideas.”

Bridget and Kim are determined to not let time limit them or their work at Toi Te Karoro.

_By James MacTaggart