A new art programme designed to enrich creativity, and enhance self-esteem and problem-solving skills, is underway in Invercargill Prison.
Thinkit is a five-week, ten-session programme that aims to help participants build skills and develop strategies to help them navigate everyday life.
“We know that art is often a gateway to improving people’s learning,” says Bronwen McKay, Invercargill Prison Interventions Coordinator. “It helps the men gain confidence and learn new ways to communicate and express themselves.”
Thinkit founder and tutor Kiri Scott says Thinkit is an enriching and dynamic art programme where participants develop their thinking and cognitive skills while they create their art. It is her first time delivering the programme in a prison environment and the programme has been 50 per cent funded by the Invercargill City Council Creative Arts Fund.
Learning how to learn
“The programme is a fusion of creativity and cognitive enhancement, with a taste of the Feuerstein principles*,” Kiri says. “This means we also focus on developing the skill of ‘learning how to learn’ and tapping into an individual’s latent intellectual capabilities.
“Our goal is to help enhance self-esteem, enrich creative ideas, develop individuals’ ability to problem solve and, most of all, to enjoy the love of creating.”
The prison participants were identified in consultation with its education team and Bronwen says that although Kiri specialises in working with students with dyslexia, participants don’t have to be dyslexic to attend.
“There are real benefits for participants with diverse learning needs in the programme,” she says.
Bronwen says the participants are really enjoying the new programme and what it offers.
“Comments I received at the end of the first day were to the effect that the men involved really enjoyed the session. One man even used the word ‘amazing’. There were certainly plenty of enthusiastic sounds emanating from the programmes room and a lot of laughter.
“Looking in on several occasions, I saw that everyone was fully engaged, and some of the artwork created in the first session was impressive. The first session involved creating an initial sketch that revolved around a central theme. Kiri introduced the initial context with a series of pictures and images with many different ideas of how the subject could be interpreted in different ways.”
Exploring tactile mediums
Through the programme, the six participants are exploring tactile mediums through drawing and mixed media.
Kiri runs two art programmes, and says Thinkit is ideal for all individuals, especially people with learning differences. Kiri says she hopes, if all goes well with the Thinkit programme, the prison will consider running the longer and more in-depth, Thinkit art-Feuerstein programme next or alongside Thinkit.
“I am looking forward to seeing how this fascinating programme will develop over the next five weeks and am excited to see what the men will produce by the end of the course,” Bronwen says.
* The Feuerstein Method is a process-based unique educational technique developed by world-renowned psychologist Reuven Feuerstein.