'InsideOut 6' Prison Art exhibition
25 May 2015
This year the Mairangi Arts Centre, on Auckland’s North Shore, hosted the "InsideOut 6" art exhibition, which opened on Saturday 11 April.
The sixth year running, this annual exhibition is the result of a partnership between Mairangi Arts Centre and the Department of Corrections.
Through the 'Art in Prisons Programme’ prisoners from Northland Region Corrections Facility, Auckland Prison, Mt Eden Corrections Facility and Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility, produced works for the month long exhibition.
The five elements
Christine Currey, acting manager of Mairangi Arts Centre, says the InsideOut exhibitions have become one of their major events for the year, in terms of sales and numbers of people visiting the gallery.
“The public enquire about the exhibition well in advance. The reason it’s so popular is the quality of the artwork. The standard is very high. The people that come to the gallery are stunned by the work the offenders do” Ms Currey says.
She says it is a symbiotic relationship between the offenders, the public, Department of Corrections and Mairangi Arts Centre.
“The offenders get an opportunity to display their work, people can buy the art and the money goes to charity. At the same time you’re building other paths for these offenders. The men gain self-esteem when they become aware of their talent and it’s recognized on the outside. Hopefully it’s a road to a better life, later on,” Ms Currey says.
A portion of the money raised from the exhibition will go to the Top Energy Rescue Helicopter for the essential service they provide to the Northland community.
The theme for the exhibition this year was “the five elements” - Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (space).
The artworks in the exhibition is an exploration of ‘self through art’, produced by artists participating in a multi-disciplinary arts programme designed to unlock potential and creativity, encouraging each artist to find their ‘niche’. Artworks range from painting and printmaking to creative writing.
The lead up
Beth Hill, art tutor and distance education facilitator at the Northland Region Corrections Facility, is part of the team who organised the exhibition.
Beth takes over from art tutor, Sandra Harvey, who won the Arts Access Prison Arts Leadership Award last year.
The two art teachers worked together on the arts programme up until November last year.
“It was important to carry on the vision for the arts programme and build on Sandra’s passion for what we do here. Art opens doors for many of the men in prison. Many of them didn’t succeed in the education system when they were younger. So when they join the arts programme and start channelling their creativity and their confidence grows, it could lead them to other education programmes. They often end up with a broader education than when they started here,” Beth says.
This year’s exhibition also includes works from students studying at National certificate and NCEA level. Many of the exhibiting artists have been involved in other exhibitions and awards including the inaugural Outsider Art fair in Auckland and the Adam Portrait Award.
Beth says by including students’ artworks, it shows the exhibition is not only about selling art but also about sharing the art programme’s commitment to providing the men with an opportunity to learn and build their confidence.
“The lead up to the exhibition is such hard work especially the week of setting up beforehand is exhausting. But it’s a great opportunity for the prisoners to see the processes involved when dealing with a gallery and putting on an exhibition. From cataloguing the artworks, to packaging, transportation and working to a deadline. It shows a lot of commitment from them,” she says.
A special installation
The works were displayed along with an installation Sandra started specifically for the exhibition. She wanted the installation to represent the men from Northland Region Correction Facility. Created from wood cut outs, the installation was finished by the prisoners, in honour of Sandra’s work in the arts programme.
“They make all the work but aren’t present at the exhibition, so it was meaningful to have the installation there, representing the men. It’s hard for the men not to be there or to see their work on display. Some of the family members came to the opening, it was great to meet them and talk to them about their partners’ work,” Beth says.
A wonderful collaboration
Karen Webster, a board member of Arts Access Aotearoa, has attended two of the InsideOut exhibitions.
“These exhibitions are astounding – not just for the quality of the work but for the transformation that the artistic process brings about for the artists. It’s the result of a wonderful collaboration between the Department of Corrections, the Mairangi Arts Centre and the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board of Auckland Council,” she says.
For a look at some of the artwork at the ‘InsideOut 6’ exhibition, watch this video here