Art space a respite from pressures

Kelly New, of South Dunedin, shows a mosaic she created from broken teapots and saucers at...
Kelly New, of South Dunedin, shows a mosaic she created from broken teapots and saucers at Artsenta. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
A Dunedin organisation has for 35 years helped people find peace in creativity.

Shared art studio space Artsenta is celebrating this milestone with an exhibition of selected works at the Otago Art Society.

Run by not-for-profit organisation the Creative Arts Trust, Artsenta’s studio in Princes St provides a sanctuary for people using mental health and addiction services, with materials and facilities for creative expression.

It is funded by the Southern District Health Board with additional funding from the Ministry of Social Development and local organisations.

Director Paul Smith  said there was no formal referral process for people wishing to participate.

"People can self-refer, but because we are funded through the health system we do ask that people have had some contact with mental health or addiction services which can include a GP or counsellor." 

Kelly New, of South Dunedin, has been coming to the studio for about three months.

Ms New was a survivor from rape and experienced post traumatic stress disorder and major anxiety.

"So getting out in the community is very difficult." Coming to Artsenta had been a way to get out of the house, and she had found the experience "incredible".

"Some days when you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to talk, you can just come in and get stuck in ."

On other days she had found it helpful to talk with other people at the studio who had been through similar experiences.

Mr Smith said artists were guided by a team of about six art workers who were available for help and advice.

The art worker role included a mix of creative skills and an understanding of mental health and wellbeing support, he said.

The art studio was a chance to set aside issues and diagnoses for a while.

"In some respects we are a respite from constantly focusing on what is wrong."

There was opportunity for social discussion and support from others who had experienced similar mental health or addiction issues, he said.

"That is important because I think when you are going through tough times you can feel very alone."

The space provided areas for working quietly on a project or making noise in a soundproofed music studio.

"Just being in a space where you are not going to be judged and it is safe for everyone," Mr Smith said.

• 35 for 35 - An exhibition showcasing a selection of 35 works from 35 years of Artsenta starts with an opening night from 5.35pm on July 13 and runs till July 23 at the Otago Art Society, upstairs at the Dunedin Railway Station.

Where to get help in NZ

Rape Crisis: 0800883-300

Women’s Refuge: 0800 REFUGE or 0800733-843

Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800787-797

The Depression Helpline: 0800111-757

Shine:  9am-11pm every day 0508744-633

Shakti: for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children 0800742-584

General mental health inquiries: 080044-33-66

Healthline: 0800611-116





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