In 2004 Tina-Rae Carter was asked by architect Roger Shand to assist in enhancing the internal decorative features of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House auditorium. Tina had to come up with the auditorium design that would connect the old theatre with the new plaza. After eighteen months of deliberation, Tina used the influences from Austrian artist Gustav Glint (1862 – 1918), and she and four other artists completed the work in 2006.

Carter is an old girl of Wairarapa College, where her career as an artist began in earnest after she also attended a short course at Whitecliffe School of Fine Arts in Auckland. The mum of twins, and step-mum to an adult son, says art was her path to expression.

Carter started painting commissions in 1987, and left New Zealand in 1989, travelling throughout Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the USA.

She studied fine arts at The University of New Mexico for a summer semester and, after relocating to Melbourne, studied for four years at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She has exhibited in the USA and Australia, before returning to New Zealand in 2001.

Carter threw in with the Wairarapa art group MainARTery in 2007, a year after the group was founded, and her work has been exhibited at galleries throughout New Zealand.

Carter includes as her most notable commission her selection to design and paint the ceiling of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House.  This was completed over a two year period from 2004, extending to carpet design, and other finishes and effects throughout the auditorium.  She was commissioned to design and paint the interior of the grand old lady of Hawke’s Bay and by all accounts has created a masterpiece.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to have this as part of my life’s work. It makes my toes tingle. I guess it would be the pinnacle of my career so far,” she said. “It is something I will always hold dear in my heart that I was entrusted to do this.”

The detailing of the Art Nouveau motif represents the four colours and themes of the Opera House- community, dance, music, and drama. Tina designed the multi-faceted work using mixed media. Starting from photography to hand rendering, to computer design, to hand painting, she composed seamless frescos on the walls and ceiling panels. Some of which had to be painted on scaffolding up to 20 metres high.

“It was an absolutely inspiring project that seeps into all areas of your life. Because it’s for the enjoyment of so many people, you feel honoured just to be part of it,” said Tina.

The painting of the Hastings Opera House only took four weeks but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Ms Carter and the other artists. She remembers one night when they had to climb down twenty metres of scaffolding in the dark when their torches failed. They blamed the untimely failing of their equipment on the theatre ghost.

“Rather than be confronted by the ghost on the stairwell we climbed down the scaffolding in the pitch black,” she said.

Another way of warding off the ghost was by singing loudly songs from the musical Oklahoma!

The Hastings mayor, Lawrence Yule and other town officials at the time were said to be “pretty damned stoked” by the way the opera house turned out.