Oamaru stone sculptures, whakairo, large murals and art, all created by men and women in prisons across New Zealand, are on permanent display throughout Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections’ recently refurbished national office, Mayfair House.
As well as showcasing the prisoners’ creative skills and talent, the 11 taonga serve as examples to visitors of the work Corrections does to rehabilitate prisoners.
Sharon Hall, who has been managing the prison art and creativity programme at The Learning Connexion for the past 16 years, was contracted by Ara Poutama Aotearoa in October 2020 to commission the pieces and also set up an exhibition space in the reception area.
“It was incredible to be a part of such an authentic process from the projects’ inception and creation to the handover, installation and subsequent unveiling,” Sharon says.
“The commitment from the artists was outstanding and they had an obvious passion to create something that will stand the test of time. They were also meticulous in their craftsmanship. The taonga came with a rich narrative that enhances the office space for both staff and visitors to the building.”
There’s also a rotational exhibition space in the reception area, featuring 20 works by men in Whanganui Prison who attend weaving workshops led by tutor Juanita Davis. The exhibition will continue until August 2022.