Organisers ‘stoked’ creative wellbeing programme growing

Artsenta director Paul Smith admires the ‘‘Creative Keys’’ exhibition at the art studio, in...
Artsenta director Paul Smith. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON

An innovative creative wellbeing pilot programme in Waitaki is being extended to Central Otago.

Run by Dunedin creative space Artsenta, the programme is aimed at supporting anyone over 18 struggling with their wellbeing.

It was trialled in Waitaki over the past nine months, with sessions in Palmerston, Kurow and Oamaru, and funded by the Waitaki District Council’s Covid-19 resilience fund and the Otago Community Trust.

Artsenta has now received Ministry for Culture and Heritage funding to continue the scheme for the next three years, adding another session in Oamaru and extending it to Central Otago.

Artsenta director Paul Smith was ‘‘really excited’’ to be able to continue and extend the programme, after a successful trial.

‘‘I’m really grateful for the support we got to trial it, because I think that really helped us secure the additional funding and create a model that we know is going to work ...

‘‘It’s set us up really well and we’ve learnt a hell of a lot from what we’ve done over the past six to nine months. We’re really stoked that this programme has been supported and that we can extend it to more people.’’

Mr Smith said regional and rural communities were often poorly served by mental health services; the creative wellbeing programme filled a gap to help people be creative and connect with others in a similar situation.

In Waitaki, Oamaru artist Natalie Carpenter and peer support worker Toni Huls had been presenting the creative sessions with new activities every week.

The combination of creativity and peer support was key to the scheme’s success, Mr Smith said.

‘‘We know it works as the feedback from the Waitaki pilot has been overwhelmingly positive,’’ he said.

‘‘And the skills and the knowledge that the team up there have built up will really help in terms of taking it to Central Otago.’’

Across Waitaki, there were more than 50 people registered, and a second session was being added in Oamaru due to demand.

Some people attended religiously, while others dipped in and out. Mr Smith wanted the programme to be accessible and flexible — there was no cost, no referral, and no diagnosis required.

‘‘If someone’s struggling with feelings of isolation, anxiety or depression, we’d love to support them to be creative and to connect with others in a similar situation.’’

Recruitment was under way to find staff for the Central Otago programme, which was expected to start in late January next year.


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