Highlighting the success of exhibition
20 February 2013
“I have been working in prisons most of my life and have seen firsthand how important the arts can be in the rehabilitation of prisoners,” Associate Minister of Corrections, Hon Dr Pita Sharples, told guests at a recent event to highlight the success of Arts Access Aotearoa’s exhibition of prison art in the foyer of Parliament House over December and January.
“Prison and Parliament is not always an easy mix and I’d like to thank the Parliamentary Arts Committee, especially Michelle Janse and Casimar Larkin, for allowing this exhibition to come here,” he said.
“And Arts Access Aotearoa, you amaze me all the time with your work in different communities, including our prisons. There is no doubt about the role the arts play in creating a person.”
In presenting the exhibition in Parliament, Arts Access Aotearoa’s aim was to educate the public about the role of art in the rehabilitative process, and to build bridges between prisons and the community.
The exhibition included 17 works representing art from different prisons and programmes around the country. For instance, there was work from the Māori Focus Unit at Rimutaka Prison and from the Vaka Fa’aola (Pacific Focus Unit) at Spring Hill Corrections Facility.
Focus on rehabilitation and reintegration
Dr Sharples commended the Department of Corrections’ focus on rehabilitation and reintegration. “If we measure our society only by the GDP [Gross Domestic Product] then we can count prisons as a success because they provide employment, products, materials and so on.
“But if we measure society by our GPI [Genuine Progress Indicator], then we have to ask if it is a negative or positive when we need another prison. The fewer prisons we have and the more rehabilitation that happens in communities has got to be good for all of us.”
Dr Sharples commented on the quality of the paintings, the weaving, the carvings and the quilting in the exhibition. Describing the Dresden Plate quilt on display as “beautiful work”, he told guests that he presented last year’s Big ‘A’ Prison Arts Community Award to the Quilt-Stitch Group, a group of women volunteering their time to pass on their quilting skills to prisoners in Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.
The Dresden Plate quilt was made by prisoners under the guidance of the Quilt-Stitch Group.
Dr Sharples also commended the quality and balance of the three taiaha on display, made by prisoners at the Maori Focus Unit at Rimutaka Prison.
“I’m here today to tell you how important the arts are in prisons. They can give people a talent, life skills and a reason for living. As well as producing good art, it also produces rehabilitation.
“I have also seen a lot of art – beautiful, massive carvings – gifted to schools and other parts of the community.”