The whole Arts Access Aotearoa community sends a big “congratulations” to June Nixey and Janet Forbes, the community volunteers and two members of the Shut-in Stitchers who have just won the Community Service Award in The Wellys (Wellingtonian of the Year Awards). Community volunteers sharing their knowledge and skills with prisoners play a vital role in supporting Corrections’ goal of reducing recidivism by 25 per cent by 2017.
Their achievements were first recognised in 2013 when the group was Highly Commended in the Arts Access Prison Arts Community Award. Then in January this year, June and Janet were recognised with Queen's Service Medals for their services to prisoner rehabilitation in the New Year Honours.
For an extraordinary 21 years, this volunteer quilting group has been teaching quilting to women in Arohata Prison every Saturday morning. June, who was one of the three original women who went into Arohata Prison to take a six-week course in 1993, said at the awards ceremony: “We’re not do-gooders. We just love making quilts – and that’s how it all started.” You can read more about the Shut-in Stitchers.
Working with Corrections staff and community organisations
Arts Access Aotearoa works with individuals and organisations to increase access to the arts, particularly for people who face barriers to access. We’re also committed to working with Corrections staff and community organisations so the arts – visual arts, creative writing, theatre, music, dance – can support the rehabilitative process of prisoners.
A key role of Jacqui Moyes, our Prison Arts Advisor, is to advise Corrections staff and volunteers on designing and delivering effective arts programmes, activities and events in prisons.
For example, Jacqui has provided a sounding board to Sally Jory, art tutor at Otago Corrections Facility, and connected her with other tutors working in other prisons around New Zealand. You can read about Sally’s experiences in the story Rewards and challenges of teaching art in prison.
An important part of Jacqui’s job is to keep up-to-date with relevant research and information, both here and internationally. In May this year, she organised the three-day visit of UK writer Michael Crowley to Wellington, where he conducted creative writing workshops – one with writers interested in teaching in prisons, the other with prisoners in Arohata Prison.
Michael has been teaching creative writing to offenders and people at risk for the past 15 years. It was an excellent opportunity to learn from an expert in the field.
An evaluation report of Write to be Heard, a creative writing programme delivered in 28 UK prisons, adds further weight to Michael’s views on the benefits of creative writing in prisons. You can read about the programme and download the evaluation report here.
For Jacqui, the opportunity to investigate international practice in the delivery of arts programmes in correctional facilities was too good to miss when she was recently on annual leave in San Francisco.
In her story Research on California's arts in corrections, Jacqui reflects on her visit to the California Arts Council to talk about its Arts in Corrections Programme, and discusses the importance of research, evaluation and documentation of arts projects.
This reminded me of Waikeria Prison art tutor Ann Byford and the project she undertook with the New Zealand Police to work with a group of men in Waikeria Prison’s Karaka Special Treatment Unit to produce 12 paintings.
Throughout the project, Ann documented the men’s progress with weekly reports and photographs of the works’ development. Then, when the project was completed, she presented each prisoner with a photo album capturing the project’s development.
It’s great, therefore, to see that the 12 paintings produced by the men in Waikeria Prison have been part of an exhibition called Beyond Violence, an interactive exhibition in Huntly until Friday 28 November showcasing the art of students from seven schools in north Waikato.
This is an example of how arts projects, built on sound processes, can be extended beyond the prison walls to engage and benefit the local community.
Award recognises leadership in prison arts
It’s no surprise that Ann Byford was the recipient of Arts Access Aotearoa’s Prison Arts Leadership Award in 2013. It’s this professional, extra-mile leadership that she shares with other recipients of this award.
Another event that will build bridges between offenders and the community will take place in Christchurch in January. Artwork by prisoners will be presented alongside work by a range of Canterbury artists in an exhibition called Outside In at the Canterbury Museum. It will include artists with intellectual disability working from community-based creative spaces around Christchurch; artists with lived experience of mental ill-health; fine art students; and local practising artists and art tutors.
This is the final Prison Arts New Zealand update for the year. There have been many achievements and successes by Corrections’ art tutors, staff and volunteers. With this is mind, please think about who you would like to nominate for next year’s Arts Access Awards as we will be calling for your nominations in early 2015. The Arts Access Prison Arts Leadership Award is for an individual while the Arts Access Prison Arts Community Award in for a group achievement.
Do get in touch with me (E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 04 498 0749) if you have any questions or feedback.