Our history

The College of Creative Arts dates back to 1886, when pioneering educationalist and founder Arthur Riley set up the first School of Design. Technical education was a positive response to the needs of a fledgling nation, and was visionary in its recognition of the connection art and design had with economic and cultural advance. By 1962 the School of Design was part of the Wellington Polytechnic, continuing a tradition of offering evening classes for adults and daytime practical courses for youth.

Four decades of growth and development followed until 1999, when the Wellington Polytechnic merged with Massey University. The College of Design, Fine Art and Music was established to offer degree programmes in fine art, photography, design, and also music from the Conservatorium of Music.

Over the next decade the College expanded to include Toi Atea: Māori art and design, visual and material culture and for a short time offered a selection of programmes on the Albany campus.

In 2014 the NZSM was transferred to Victoria University and Massey had the opportunity to develop a new programme focused on popular music practice, technology and industry. Also, in response to changing trends in the media and entertainment industries, the College developed a new degree in creative media production.

In 2015 Māori visual arts undergraduate and postgraduate programmes were transferred to the College of Creative Arts. Massey University's Māori visual arts programme has 20 years of history, and has made a significant contribution to the landscape of contemporary Māori art and nurtured some of the country’s leading Māori artists; Kelcy Taratoa, Nigel Borell, Huhana Smith, Ngataiharuru Taepa, Saffronn Te Ratana, Ngahina Hohaia to name a few.

Today the College offers a comprehensive suite of art, design, music and creative media production subjects that are connected and supportive of today’s creative industries and economic drivers. Courses are delivered by research-led and well networked professionals through Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Ngā Pae Māhutonga - the School of Design, and Te Rewa O Puanga - the School of Creative Media Production, to more than 1800 students per year.

  • Toi Rauwharangi

    Together the names Ngā Pae Māhutonga, Whiti o Rehua and Te Rewa O Puanga build on themes already established through the College of Creative Arts name, Toi Rauwharangi and the new creative arts building, Te Ara Hihiko that opened in 2012. The prominent themes refer to journeying and ascension.

    Conceptually the schools act as markers by which to navigate and explore the vastness of creativity. To honour Mana Whenua traditions well-known celestial names were selected for their universal relevance and symbolic meaning.

  • Ngā Pae Māhutonga - The School of Design

    The name Ngā Pae Māhutonga highlights the proud history of the School of Design, stretching back over one and a quarter centuries. Today’s future focused design thinking guides current development in this long established school.

    Māhutonga is a significant celestial navigation aid used to traverse Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa in safety. Māhutonga is an important feature in the southern night sky, which is celebrated as the star group that guided our ancestors to this land.

    'Ngā Pae Māhutonga' symbolises the quintessential vistas, a constant reminder of our origins. Through such reckoning an understanding about our place in the world is developed in order to create a pathway into the future. 

    Ngā - the many (alludes to the many dimensions and specialisms in design)

    Pae - horizon, rest, perch, supports in a canoe (a position from which to launch and follow individual dreams and aspirations, but also a place to return)

    Māhutonga - the Southern Cross.

  • Whiti o Rehua School of Art

    Whiti o Rehua School of Art is a newly formed entity in the College, combining the previous Schools of Fine Arts and Visual and Material Culture. The use of Rehua in the name emphasises the major attributes of this new school. 

    Rehua is considered to be one of the brightest of all stars. Sometimes courageous mortals aspire to visit Rehua, who is located in the highest realm, Rangi-tuarea. As one of the brightest stars, Rehua is a shining beacon, an inspiration and a model example.

    ‘Whiti o Rehua’ symbolises the ability to be courageous and take risks - to aspire, navigate and explore the furthermost points of the universe in search of the fruits of creativity.

    Whiti - to shine brightly

    Rehua - (Antares in Scorpius) an important atua associated with kindness, enjoyment and entertainment.

  • Te Rewa O Puanga - The School of Music and Creative Media Production

    The name Te Rewa O Puanga makes reference to the celestial realm, which follows the kaupapa used for naming the two existing Schools in the College of Creative Arts - Toi Rauwharangi. Conceptually, Te Rewa O Puanga is the element by which to ascend the strands of creativity. In respect of mana whenua traditions this name has been selected to signify widespread relevance and symbolic meaning. 

    For west coast iwi it is the rising of Puanga that announces the New Year in late May or early June. This is a time for reflection, for looking forwards and preparing for the future. In relation to connecting with the land and the sea it is a time for wananga, for entertainment and for celebration.

    Te Rewa o - The rising (alludes to a time of new developments and the creation of a new school).

    Puanga - Rigel, part of Orion’s Belt and is seen in the northeastern sky.

  • Puke Ahu

    Puke Ahu is the hillside on which the Wellington campus is located and where Te Ara Hihiko the new creative arts teaching facility, and Tokomaru the former New Zealand Gallery known as the Dominion Museum Building, are built. In ancient times it was occupied by Te Akatarewa Pā, built by the Ngāi Tara people. Puke Ahu was an important location for ngākainga or gardens.