Vincents Art Workshop to open more hours
8 July 2019
By Penny Griffith
Vincents Arts Workshop in downtown Wellington will soon be opening its doors for another eight hours a week, including on Saturdays, thanks to additional funding from Wellington City Council.
A delighted Glen McDonald, the Coordinator at Vincents Art Workshop, welcomes the funding to help meet the growing demand for its services. More than 600 people were registered at Vincents with an active art plan between July 2018 and June 2019, compared to 480 people over the previous financial year.
The Ministry of Social Development provides funding for a target of 80 artists with a disability. However, there’s been no increase in funding even though the number of artists with a disability has more than doubled to 200.
Like Vincents Art Workshop, most creative spaces around the country have experienced an increase in the number of client artists attending its spaces over the past year, according to findings in a survey conducted by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Demand outstrips capacity
Findings show that 64% of creative spaces around New Zealand have increased numbers attending their service. However, demand outstrips their capacity for providing services because of insufficient funding.
The report, Understanding the value of creative spaces, states that creative spaces face common challenges in funding their ambitions. “Many would like to be able to offer more services and programmes, extending their activities to more and different target groups and locations, opening for longer hours and employing more staff so they can meet an unfilled need for these types of activities and services that they observe.”
A recent visit to Vincents Art Workshop, the longest-running creative space in New Zealand, shows that it’s packed to the gunnels and buzzing with activity. Slap bang in the centre of Willis Street, Vincents’ large gallery features a new exhibition, and several people are discussing the works and taking photographs.
The pottery room has six people plunging their hands into clay making funky artistic shapes: pots, cups, figurines. In the crowded art room, tutors make their way around the 25 or so people working on their paintings; oils, watercolours, acrylic.
The rooms are full of vibrancy, colour and chatter as people work and compare their thoughts and their news. The only indication that anyone is disabled here is a wheelchair.
Vincents is open to anyone and an average of 35 people a day use it.
“There’s been a huge increase,” Glen declares. “Especially since we moved into this venue four years ago. Being on the ground floor is a great advantage and the foot traffic outside is constant. Many people come in for a look or try their hand at some art.
“Another reason for growth in numbers is the closure of Wellington Central Library for earthquake strengthening; quite a few of our artists used to go there.
“At the last count, we had more than 600 people who were registered with us over 12 months. We have 207 people with disabilities and the rest are other Wellingtonians, tourists, students … anyone. Vincents is one of the earliest models of the philosophy of inclusion. It’s how the world should be.
“It was becoming too full-on for the tutors and everyone really, so an increase in last year’s three-year funding grant from Wellington City Council meant we could increase the hours of some tutors and put all of our permanent staff on the living wage.
“Yes, we do have a space problem; the potting room is so popular that we limit it to 10 people at any one time. If people turn up and there is no room, they go off and come back later.”
Glen says that some people have suggested that Vincents should charge non-disabled people but that doesn’t fit with Vincents’ set of values.
“We have 33 Friends of Vincents, which brings in about $13,000 a year and I’m doing funding applications all the time: in fact, for the past 20 years. Somehow we get through.
“Wellington City Council has been very supportive and we also have a lot of support from the local community.”
Glen points to a painting by Victor Bright that has pride of place on a wall in her office. “Victor grew up in institutions and when he first came here he had very little spoken communication. Within the year he blossomed. He started communicating and used complex sentences and made jokes.
“Victor produces wonderful art and he has turned his whole life around. That’s what Vincents is all about and the more numbers we can cope with, the better!”
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