In the short time I’ve been Arts in Corrections Advisor at Arts Access Aotearoa, this community has shared so much with me. The taonga of knowledge you keep gifting me will support me to deliver all that this role entails. Please feel free to reach out, provide feedback and share your insights. I welcome them.
I took up the role in September and have been asked by many people outside the Arts in Corrections community about my “why”. I can articulate my own response to the “why” but was keen to learn why other members of the Arts in Corrections Network are involved in this area.
On 22 November at the Arts in Corrections Northern Network hui, I asked the question of both arts providers and Ara Poutama Aotearoa staff about their “why”. Why do you do what you do?
Their responses not only reveal the motivations behind their commitment but also provide valuable lessons for our community. The following is a summary of what they shared.
Fostering connection and healing
The recurring theme in the community's responses is a commitment to support; to create an environment where personal expression through the arts can thrive. It's about building a bridge between those in prison and the potential healing found in art.
The joy of sharing artistry
Going beyond the transfer of skills, Arts in Corrections members find satisfaction in the joy inherent in every artform. Whether educators, prison staff, artists or supporters, their shared passion for creativity acts as a catalyst. It rekindles the joy of creation and the uncovering of hidden talents.
A lifeline through art
Personal experiences shape the commitment of some Arts in Corrections members who have seen firsthand the life-changing impact of art. For them, art has served as their own lifeline. Offering it to others provides a means to navigate emotional complexities, and a path to self-discovery.
Promoting diversity and inclusion
The Arts in Corrections community underscores the importance of promoting inclusion. In a setting where expressing diversity can be challenging, exploring the arts together becomes an opportunity to create a space where individuals from various backgrounds can safely express themselves and find common ground through the universal language of artistic expression.
Beyond monetary gains
Fulfilment is derived from witnessing the rewards of personal transformation and growth. Financial recompense, where possible, is important but it takes a back seat to a commitment rooted in the enrichment of lives through the unrestrained language of art.
Creating positive change
The overarching goal, as articulated by the Arts in Corrections community, is to be agents of positive change. Through a range of creative mediums, community members strive to reshape narratives, offering a path toward rehabilitation and contributing to a more compassionate society. It's a journey of making a positive difference, one artistic expression at a time.
These insights help clarify and resolve the collective “why” of our community. It’s more than an arts education for prisoners. It’s a collective mission fuelled by firsthand experience, evidence of transformation, empathy, and a shared belief in the potential for positive change through artistic expression.
Your collective “why” cements this community’s commitment to societal transformation. It contributes to a brighter future within and beyond the prison system.
These insights are just a small sample of the body of knowledge you all hold. I invite you all to share your “whys” to add to the collective understanding. We will continue to ask this question at our upcoming regional huis in the new year but we also welcome your “Here’s my why” emails (E: firstname.lastname@example.org).
This ongoing dialogue will deepen our understanding of what motivates our community to work in this space. By exploring and understanding our mutual motivations, we will clarify our collective commitment to unlocking the potential of artistic expression, both within the Corrections system and beyond.