Making connections with the Arts in Corrections sector


Talofa lava. Over the past two months I’ve been meeting a range of people within the Arts in Corrections sector and I want to use this blog as a chance to reflect on my journey so far as the new Arts in Corrections Advisor at Arts Access Aotearoa.

Chris Ulutupu with Richard Benge, Executive Director, Arts Access AotearoaI started this role at the end of February, trying to figure out how I could be most useful. Many of us who have started new jobs will understand the intimidating task of wanting to help but not knowing the systems and processes in place.

Ultimately, though, I realised I just need to be open to asking questions and admitting that I don’t know everything. From that place, then, my work really began.

Starting with training sessions with my predecessor, Jacqui Moyes, throughout March, we went through the various spreadsheets, projects and people involved with the job.

Connecting with people I already know

During these sessions, Jacqui would always tell me that I shouldn’t try to be her; that I should make the role my own by developing my own way of working. Part of that means connecting with people I already know.

All these conversations have developed into four key areas of interest:

  • Promoting Pacific and heritage arts within Corrections, making sure prisoners/people in prison of Pacific ancestry have access to the arts from their culture.
  • Promoting Toi Māori within Corrections, making sure prisoners/ people in prison of Māori whakapapa have access to the arts from their culture.
  • Expanding Arts Access Aotearoa’s advisory service within Corrections to include initiatives happening in communities, especially the Community Corrections sector.
  • Advocating for the arts as an essential component of wellbeing and the important role they play in teaching prisoners skills that can help them take part in further rehabilitation programmes.

Arts in Corrections Northern Region Network meetingI travelled to Auckland for the first Arts in Corrections Network meeting at The University of Auckland, hosted by Dr Molly Mullen with an opening address by Professor Peter O’Connor. Eighteen people had responded to the invitation but 34 people turned up, which was amazing. We went around the room, introducing ourselves and our organisations, and presenting various arts projects that are helping deliver arts in prisons.

I planned to introduce who I was and what I would be contributing to the new role. But I quickly realised that what I’d planned wasn’t particularly beneficial. Instead, I showed my artwork and through my work, I was able to effectively demonstrate the skills I brought to the new role.

I presented my work Lelia and discussed how I made this video in collaboration with and support from a range of people. It highlighted collaborating with people in the arts industry and how my practice is about supporting them.

Meet and greets

  • In Auckland I caught up with Dr Rand Hazou and discussed his upcoming Performing Arts and Justice Symposium at Massey University on 5 and 6 September. We also discussed the progress of his documentary theatre project, devised by men at Auckland Prison. The same day I met Simon Chaplin, Assistant Director of the prison. Simon is a champion in promoting the value of arts programmes and projects in the prison. It was humbling to hear about the art therapy classes in one of the unit’s sensory gardens – a project spearheaded by Simon.
  • I talked with Lois Naera and Chris Molloy from PARS Auckland about its upcoming exhibition during Matariki 2019. This inaugural show will demonstrate a range of skills and interests from the PARS’ residents, a space where they are able to express themselves and work collaboratively with freelance artist Margaret-Mary Hollins. I think it will be a great show.
  • During a visit with The Learning Connexion in Hutt City, I met Sharon Hall and her team of art tutors. We discussed its planned exhibition of artwork by 40 prisoners to be exhibited alongside other well-known artists – including me! The exhibition will open on 20 September in Expressions Gallery in Upper Hutt. I’m looking forward to the opening and seeing all the talented artists.
  • This month, I attended the Volunteer Co-ordinators Training Workshop at the Corrections National Learning Centre in Wellington where we discussed the valuable role of volunteers at Corrections. You can read a story about the role of volunteer coordinators (link to story)

On my calendar

  • Northland trip (25 April): I headed  to Northland to meet Beth Hill, the Arts and Cultural Facilitator at Northland Region Corrections Facility, and attend an inspirational performance of the 28 Maori Battalion that the men have been devising. This was a good chance to learn about all the amazing initiatives happening there.
  • Auckland visit (2 May): I will be in Auckland for the Auckland Art Fair and hope to catch up with people and their projects.


Making connections with the Arts in Corrections sector


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