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Exhibition marks anniversary of art space

An exhibition showcasing the work of Room 5 artists will open on Monday 12 June, coinciding with the second anniversary of the art studio based at the Phillipstown Community Hub in Christchurch.

Room 5’s first group exhibition, Wharenui celebrates the studio as a place in the community where artists with experience of mental illness can explore their creative world in the company of like-minded people. It features sculpture, printmaking, painting, drawing and mixed media.

Founder and Manager of Ōtautahi Creative Spaces, Kim Morton, attributes the success of the programme to the courage and leadership shown by the Room 5 artists.

“We’ve been struck by the bravery and generosity of the artists, and the way they inspire and encourage each other,” she says. “Our role is to hold the space – provide technical help where that’s needed, and help create opportunities. It’s driven by the artists themselves and what they aspire to. The sky’s the limit as to what they can achieve.”

Recent highlights include a collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Art (CoCA), where Room 5 artists created work inspired by UK artist David Shrigley. These works will be included in Wharenui.

A contemporary carving project is also underway, led by Caine Tauwhare from Whakaraupo Carving Centre, to create a waharoa (gateway) at the entrance to Room 5.

With funding from Creative New Zealand, Ōtautahi Creative Spaces has led a pilot programme mentoring individual artists. It has recently expanded this programme to cater for a group of artists with experience of mental illness who already have a well-developed creative practice and advanced tertiary arts qualifications.

Room 5 artist Carmen Brown has received mentoring to support tertiary study at The Learning Connexion. “It made me think I’m capable of doing more things than I thought I was,” says Carmen Brown. Brown’s work was exhibited at the 2016 Outsider Art Fair in Auckland.

Morton says the past two years have been a roller-coaster ride with uncertainty of funding. “We’ve not only survived; we’ve expanded against the odds.”

However, she says, Ōtautahi Creative Spaces’ programmes will be at risk when one-off funding from Red Cross and the Ministry of Social Development expires at the end of this year.

“Despite unprecedented levels of mental illness and distress in Christchurch, similar programmes in other parts of the country are better funded through contracts with district health boards and government departments.

“We need to embrace innovative solutions to the mental health crisis in Canterbury. Creativity is a proven catalyst for community recovery and resilience.

“The artists have transformed their lives. They tell us this has been possible because of the feelings they have of belonging, acceptance and connection to others. But the common thread is creativity. One Room 5 artist summed it up really nicely when she said, ‘When I come here I forget that I’ve got a mental illness’.”

Wharenui: A Collection of Recent Works is on from 12 to 27 June, Eastside Gallery, Linwood. The exhibition opening is on Monday 12 June 5.30 to 7pm.

Updated on 9th June 2017