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Bursting with pride . . . Delighted at the display of the Artsenta Waitaki Creative Wellbeing project pieces are (from left) Artsenta director Paul Smith, peer support worker Toni Huls and Waitaki artist Natalie Carpenter. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Vibrant and meaningful art pieces created as part of a pilot programme are now on display for the community to enjoy.

Art created as part of the Artsenta Waitaki Creative Wellbeing project has been on display at the Oamaru Public Library since Tuesday,. Artists celebrated the launch with an afternoon tea.

The pilot project aimed to provide wellbeing support for people through art, and displaying their artwork was the final step in the creative process.

Waitaki artist Natalie Carpenter and peer support worker Toni Huls have hosted art sessions over the past six months, and were over the moon to see the work on display.

Mrs Carpenter framed the pieces from a variety of media, including pastel work, paper quilling, foam stamping, embroidery, dream catchers, flax weaving, and polymer clay.

The sessions had been inspiring and provided benefits to not only the participants, but also the hosts, Mrs Carpenter said.

“It’s mutually getting joy – I get all tingly watching them create art,” she said.

The sessions had been held weekly in Oamaru, Palmerston and Kurow, with more than 60 people attending. Mrs Carpenter and Ms Huls both came from a rural background, and knew how important it was for those communities to be catered for.

Ms Huls said watching Mrs Carpenter demonstrate the art techniques, and seeing the participants realise they could do it too, had been incredibly gratifying.

“It’s like a light goes on,” Ms Huls said.

Ms Huls spent time talking to the participants about their lives, and enjoyed watching participants bond.

“It’s normalising that we all go through things in our lives. One of the last things they created were notebooks and everybody passed them around at the end, and shared phone numbers to stay in touch.”

The project was originally contracted for six months, and was funded by the Southern District Health Board, Otago Community Trust, and the Waitaki District Council’s Covid-19 resilience fund.

However, Artsenta director Paul Smith, who travelled from Dunedin for the display opening, said the organisation was committed to running the programme until at least the end of the year, with or without funding.

The project had been a major success and there was a loyal group who found their place at the sessions, Mr Smith said.

“it’s a supportive framework for people in a safe space. They’re a really supportive group … and that comes from the way it’s run – it’s really thoughtfully done,” he said.

He hoped it could be replicated in other communities.

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