Creative outlet . . . Waitaki artist Natalie Carpenter displays some of the art work she has been teaching at the Artsenta sessions in Oamaru, Kurow and Palmerston. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

A pair of art angels are spreading their wings to fuel the creative souls of Waitaki residents.

The Artsenta pilot project began in February to provide wellbeing support for members of the community through art, and had been tremendously popular in Oamaru. The Oamaru sessions were at capacity with 10 to 15 people attending the weekly sessions, but there were still spaces in Kurow and Palmerston.

Waitaki artist Natalie Carpenter and peer support worker Toni Huls host the free sessions together, funded by the Southern District Health Board, Otago Community Trust, and the Waitaki District Council’s Covid-19 resilience fund.

Dunback resident Liz Moir relished attending the Palmerston sessions, and called Mrs Carpenter and Ms Huls her “art angels”.

“I enjoy the fact you get the ability to try all different art forms. You come along, and every week there’s a new creative experience,” Mrs Moir said.

Meeting new people was part of the sessions, and it involved connecting on a personal level that was not intrusive.

Several art mediums had been taught including leather tooling, canvas image transfers, gouache, paper quilling, foam stamping and rock painting.

Mrs Carpenter, who won a merit art award at the Cleveland National Awards last week, said people did not have to be artists to join the sessions – people from all different walks of life took part.

The sessions helped people connect on a deeper level, and others were working on art outside the sessions, using the tools they learnt.

“The one thing that I love is that people are sharing now, whether it’s photos of what they make at home, and I think the connection that that creates is just amazing, and then there’s a skill share as well,” Mrs Carpenter said.

The sessions were also a good escape for Mrs Carpenter as she dealt with the loss of a good friend.

“It’s been just really great for me, too – a place I’ve been able to come as well. I can just focus on creating something, and connecting with other people.”

The project was the first time Artsenta paired an artist and peer support worker together and it had been very effective, Artsenta director Paul Smith said.

The response from the community had been impressive and passionate, Mr Smith said.

“They’ve left me in no doubt that it is valuable to them and that they want the programme to continue,” he said.

The programme would run for another three months, and he was searching for more funding to continue it.

“As an organisation we are really behind the project but we do need to attract further [funding] to make it sustainable.”

The sessions take place every Monday in Kurow at the Kurow Community Hall, and Tuesday in Palmerston at the Palmerston Community Centre. All sessions run from 12.30pm to 3pm.

For more information, contact Toni Huls on 021 184-8470, or send a message to the Waitaki Creative Wellbeing Facebook page.