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You Can Tour New Zealand's Coastal Art Trail in this Campervan Filled With Works From Local Artists

The best way to see a whole bunch of art galleries? In a moving one, of course.
By Sarah Templeton
August 22, 2022
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By Sarah Templeton
August 22, 2022
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Usually when moseying around Aotearoa in a campervan, tourists and locals alike are more transfixed by the spectacle out the window than the mode of transport itself. But art curator Aimee Ralfini has questioned why you can't have both and curated a whimsical art gallery-inspired campervan to help road-trippers have the ultimate immersive sightseeing experience through New Zealand's Coastal Arts Trail.

If you haven't ventured along the Coastal Arts Trail, this art-lover's journey through the Manawatū, Whanganui and Taranaki regions is a must-do this summer. After five years of development, the trail was finished thanks to a funding boost from the government to help communities affected by the loss of tourism during COVID. The easy self-drive route allows drivers to hit over 50 stops along the lower west coast of the North Island, from well-known art institutions to hidden small-town gems off the beaten track.

If that sounds like a bit of you, this van-art-gallery hybrid — or "Vallery" as she's affectionately named – is a great way to tackle it. The van itself is a moving gallery of over 50 eclectic works from 26 different artists, collected from the region's galleries and featuring commissions from local artists.

Those that stay in the van will get to sleep under a glowing night sky thanks to a ceiling commission from Taranaki artist Gabrielle Belz. The drop-down curtains are embellished with a stunning landscape from Manawatū artist Vonnie Sterritt, meaning even at night or on misty travels you'll be surrounded by greenery. Go on a little exploration around the van and you'll find lots of smaller artworks and sculptures s from galleries along the trail, hidden in drawers and mounted in lightboxes.

Even the van's groovy exterior is a work of art. Whanganui ceramic artist Ivan Vostina was commissioned to create a ceramic base made with local beach sand, which was then dipped in an ocean-inspired glaze and photographed to be the outer. It gives the van the look of being a handmade ceramic and is sure to elicit grins from other drivers – maybe when they're passing you, if we're honest. And yes, there are all the creature comforts you'd want in a campervan: comfy bench seats that convert into a bed, a small kitchen, a self-contained water system and solar panels on the roof.

Ralfini is the artistic curator of 'Vallery', and says that when she was first approached about the project, she questioned if the two worlds of "fine art meets road trip" could coexist.

"In the end, my curiosity got the better of me, and I absolutely love a challenge, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to make it work —  I love it when art connects with people outside a traditional white box space," she said.

"Vallery is a completely immersive art experience: travellers can sleep under art, dine with art and recline on art, and it's all integrated in a comfortable and practical way. We have carefully sealed and protected works, and we have translated art onto hard-wearing surfaces and fabrics so people can just relax and have fun."

Vallery is an automatic, diesel van available to hire now from Quirky Campers NZ.

Published on August 22, 2022 by Sarah Templeton
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