Whanganui Creative Space artists

Whanganui Creative Space will open its doors an extra day a week and employ its art tutors for more hours a week, thanks to funding it received through the Government’s three-year Creative Spaces Initiative.

ExplorArtz bannerDelivered by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage in partnership with Arts Access Aotearoa, the Creative Spaces Initiative is supporting 54 community creative spaces with funding over three years.

Whanganui Creative Space will receive $102,804 over three years. It’s a community studio for disabled people and people experiencing mental ill-health. It provides a safe, supportive free space with daily numbers ranging from 20 to 33.

Its studio is called ExplorArtz and activities include painting, puppetry, mosaic-making and sewing. Pottery will soon be added to this list. There’s also a music session called The Other Orchestra.

Promoting inclusion and removing barriers

The space was started in 2010 by an occupational therapist and some local artists, and is run by a charitable trust. Its mission statement is to “Promote inclusive communities and barrier-free opportunities for creative expression.” Its focus is on including disabled people and tailoring its services to what the participants would like to do.

The Trust’s Secretary and Acting Treasurer Linda Keith says the funding means the creative space will be able to continue offering a free studio for its artists. It also means it will increase tutor and studio hours.

“I was quite overwhelmed to get the Creative Spaces Initiative funding,” Linda says. “I have been the fundraiser for two years and COVID-19 has made our funds sourced from gaming operations rather precarious.

“We will be opening an extra day and using that day for more focused studio time for people who find our busy studio overwhelming. We will advertise among our artists with experience of mental health distress and reach out to groups we’re not currently working with.”

Support and solutions

In January, Arts Access Aotearoa employed Hannah Dahlke and Benedict Reid as Creative Spaces Funding Advisors. Initially, their roles were focused on supporting applicants with the application process. Now, they are focused on working alongside the recipients as they develop and deliver their outreach programmes.

Whanganui Creative Space workshop“It’s great that this funding has been able to reach smaller organisations outside the main centres, such as Whanganui Creative Space,” Benedict says. “Linda’s comment on feeling financially precarious was a recurring message we had heard from creative spaces, and it feels great that Arts Access Aotearoa is able to be part of the solution to that issue.”

Looking to the future, Linda says, “Our plans for the next year include getting the extra day running smoothly and adding workshops. Our art tutor is very keen for our artists to have their work recognised in the community. They have been very successful at the previous two exhibitions where many of the artworks were sold, with the proceeds going directly to the artists. In addition, two of our artists were finalists in the IHC Art Awards.”

She says feedback from participants show they most value being in a secure, supportive place and having companionship. Many say that painting is their favourite activity.

One of the artists commented: “As a person who struggles with bi-polar disorder Whanganui Creative Space is great therapy. I was highly medicated, barely spoke, and in a really bad way when I began to attend here. Being around good and encouraging people and doing what I love has been an incredible help to me.”

Whanganui Creative Space is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 2pm. You can visit its Facebook page.

Whanganui Creative Space funding boosts hours and staff


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