Nelson's visual arts heritage is on display in the region's public art museum, located next to the picturesque Queen's Gardens. The Suter has a café with wonderful views.
Other exceptional features include more than 40 watercolours by John Gully and more than 100 drawings and watercolours by Nelson artist Sir M Tosswill Woollaston, one of New Zealand's leading modernist painters. The Suter showcases national artists as well as work by local organisations such as the Nelson Potters' Association. A well-stocked craft shop also showcases artists of the region.
The 159-seat cinema/theatre hosts regular film screenings and local theatrical events. The cinema and other facilities are available for hire.
Many visitors to this art gallery ask: "What is The Suter?" While the answer is simple, it is also a longer story that is worth telling.
The simple story is that The Suter Art Gallery Te Aratoi o Whakatu is a memorial to the second bishop of Nelson, Andrew Burn Suter (1830-1895). Bishop Suter and his wife Amelia travelled to Nelson in 1867 and soon became leading figures in Nelson's early cultural life.
It was the Bishop's 'long cherished' wish to present an art gallery to the people of Nelson. But in 1890, he suffered a stroke and later died in 1895. Immediately after, Amelia took steps to realise her husband's dream. She gifted some land, money and Bishop Suter's art collection as the founding donation. Herself unwell, Amelia then returned to England and died barely a year after her husband.
Amelia left the building of a gallery in the hands of the founding Board of Trustees, comprising leading figures in Nelson society. In 1899 the 'Bishop Suter Art Gallery' was opening on this site and for more than a century, the people of the Nelson Tasman region and visitors to this place, have enjoyed the experience of art - just as Bishop Andrew and Amelia desired.