Arthur Riley

Arthur Riley

Founder, Wellington School of Design

In 2011 the College celebrated the 125 year heritage of the Wellington School of Design and honoured its founding director Arthur Dewhurst Riley (1860-1929).

Born in Lancashire, England, Arthur attended the National Art Training School in London (later the Royal College of Art) before immigrating to Australia to teach art in 1882. Arthur was appointed as drawing master at New Zealand's first, brand new, School of Design on Brandon Street in 1886, which proved to be a huge success.

He championed planned technical education, and strongly advocated the need for vocational training so that New Zealand could compete with other countries. He urged the government to set up technical colleges throughout New Zealand, recommended better funding systems for technical education and encouraged the teaching of applied design as well as fine art and many other inspired reforms.

In 1903 Arthur left education to establish his own engineering business, and he died in 1929. His legacy has continued through many governments and policy changes as the School of Design transformed and responded to the needs of a developing nation.

Although 125 years have passed, Arthur’s desire to offer an integrated education that enables the useful application of art and design to the world continues today. The relationships between the college and creative industries around the world have never been valued more highly and New Zealand owes a great deal to the extraordinary foresight and energy of Arthur Riley.