Prisoners’ art enhances Hibiscus Coast community
30 July 2014
A visit to Auckland Prison to see the artwork and carvings created by prisoners has inspired a host of projects beautifying the public spaces, schools and buildings on the Hibiscus Coast, north of Auckland.
Julia Parfitt, Chair of Auckland Council’s Hibiscus and Bays Local Board, remembers visiting Auckland Prison with other community representatives back in 2008 to see the art that prisoners were making.
“When the local kaumātua in our group saw what the men were doing, he said he wanted to see two pou inside the North Shore District Court – one representing good, the other evil,” Julia says. “That was our first project and it all grew from there.”
Six years later, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board has received the Arts Access Prison Arts Community Award 2014 for its outstanding contribution in working with the Department of Corrections and using the arts as a tool supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners.
Walking on the journey
“Corrections – in particular, Des Ripi, Jeanette Burns and Mark Lynds – have walked on this journey with us to beautify our community’s public spaces, at the same time providing hope, pride and possibilities for the men and women in prison.”
The award judging panel described the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board as “a fine model for other local councils”. It also said the process of carving and gifting the work to the community was a “transformative experience” for the carvers at Auckland Prison and Northland Region Corrections Facility.
Since that first project, the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board has sponsored and guided community projects where the prisoners’ carvings have been gifted to schools, civic buildings and parks.
Julia is the broker behind nearly all of these projects, which include:
- carvings for the North Shore District Court at Albany
- a donation of artworks to the Auckland Starship Children’s Hospital
- six carved seats in Orewa’s Te Ara Tahuna walkway/cycleway
- waharoa at Northcross Intermediate School (2009) and Whangaparoa College (2014)
- two carving projects at Albany Junior High School
- a signage project in Orewa, Mairangi Bay and Murrays Bay (in progress)
- carvings for the Hibiscus Coast Busway Station (in progress)
The local board also supports the annual InsideOut exhibitions at Mairangi Arts Centre with funding. In a speech at the opening of one InsideOut exhibition, Julia said: “Prisons are in our community and we should work together to build better futures for all in our community.”
Many visits to Auckland Prison
As part of the local board’s commitment to its partnership with the Department of Corrections, board members have visited Auckland Prison many times over the years.
“I’ve often witnessed huge personal growth among the prisoner carvers and painters, and a new sense of direction and enthusiasm,” Julia says. “I believe the prisons’ art programmes have been truly life-changing for many of the men.”
The benefits to the local board, its community and to the prisoners are mutual.
“We’ve gained some beautiful and enduring artworks and our schools have also benefited,” Julia says. “It gives the men and their whānau something to be proud of when they can see their works in public spaces.
“The wider community also benefits when the prisoners return to their community focused on a positive new direction. The annual art exhibition in Mairangi has struck a chord with local people. They realise that prisoners can create beautiful works and can make a new beginning.
“The skills and work ethic gained through their involvement in the arts programmes should stand the prisoners in good stead when they transition back into society.”