Art and a sense of community at Spark Centre
30 July 2013
For Auckland artist Pearl Schomburg, diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 23 years ago, Spark Centre of Creative Development offers more than art therapy. It’s given structure to her life, an outlet for her emotions and creativity, and a place to interact with like-minded people.
Pearl is one of approximately 125 artists who participate in the art programmes offered at Spark Centre, a creative space in St Lukes, Auckland presented Arts Access Aotearoa’s Big ‘A’ Creative Space Award 2013.
“I’m so supportive of the work they do here,” Pearl says. “For every class, the artists come through the door with big smiles on their faces. For some people, including me, it’s the highlight of their week.”
Adjusting to living with chronic pain was very difficult for Pearl and she eventually began exploring ways of expressing her frustrations. Three years ago, she realised that art was the release she had been searching for.
“Nothing hurts when I do art," she says. "I’m so submerged in my work that nothing else matters. When I get home the pain sets in but art gives me so much pleasure that it’s worth experiencing discomfort for.”
Fellow artist Dale Murcott, who had a mild stroke in 2011, echoes Pearl’s sentiments.
“Even though I wasn’t affected physically by the stroke, it affected me mentally. The whole Spark experience of finding art and painting again is like coming out of a huge tunnel. My confidence has improved and I have found enjoyment again. I am no longer in a tunnel. Art has introduced me to a whole new world.”
A sense of community
This year, Spark Centre is offering 12 art programmes for people of all ages with diverse disability and impairment. This includes people living with cerebral palsy, the effects of strokes, brain injury, deafness, impaired vision, autism and intellectual disability.
The programmes provide learning in art education, art practice and art therapy. Most importantly, they offer a sense of community and promote self-development through the vehicle of creative expression.
The judging panel described Spark Centre as “an innovative, inclusive creative space, which transformed itself to respond to the diverse needs of its community. As well as developing valuable partnerships and programmes, it also presents or participates in a series of exhibitions throughout the year.”
Suzanne Vesty, Director of Spark Centre, says its extensive exhibition calendar provides artists with the opportunity to present their work to the wider community.
"Motivation, meaning and purpose"
“For the artists, the goal of exhibiting their work provides them with motivation, meaning and purpose,” she says.
“Staff here are committed and passionate art enthusiasts. They are skillful, experienced and qualified in what they do. We all take great delight in witnessing the growth of people who attend our classes, both as individuals and as artists.
”Receiving the Big 'A' Creative Spaces Award is an acknowledgement of both the staff and our artists.”
Spark Centre recently initiated after-school art therapy and open studio programmes for children and teenagers with autism. For many children, this is their first experience of creating friendships with other children and being sociable and interactive within a group context.
"FUN with a capital F!"
Linda Busby, the mother of an eight-year-old boy diagnosed with autism at the age of three, says: “Spark Centre works so hard to give our children a safe environment with which to explore the world around them through colour, music, sculpting, words and imagination. And it’s all FUN with a capital F!”
Kieron Hubrick, Assistant Principal at Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy, says that Spark classes have enabled its students to further develop their self-expression and creativity as well as social awareness and communication skills.
“Spark is an organisation that values its ‘clients’ as individual artists with something creative to gift the world while also offering further education beyond school for people with disabilities.”