Colourful creations . . . Peer support worker Toni Huls (left) and artist Natalie Carpenter are looking forward to sharing a cup of coffee and creating at with a new Artsenta project launching in Waitaki this month. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

It has been proved creating art and crafts can help heal the soul.

And to help those in the Waitaki district, Artsenta is launching a pilot project this month to provide wellbeing support for those who need it most.

The project is funded through the Waitaki District Council’s Covid-19 resilience fund, the Southern District Health Board and the Community Trust of Otago.

Three weekly sessions would be held in Palmerston, Kurow and Oamaru, and would cover a range of different art mediums to get people creative, while interacting with other members of the community.

Waitaki artist Natalie Carpenter would provide the artistic element of the programme, while peer support worker Toni Huls, who also had an art and crafts background, would bring a mental health perspective to the work.

Mrs Carpenter and Ms Huls spent time training with Artsenta’s Dunedin team, and described the sessions as “inspiring”.

“We are really trying to imagine the different people that will be coming in and the art and crafts [chosen] really reflect that,” Ms Carpenter said.

The classes would be valuable for participants from all walks to life to enjoy themselves, and focus on something outside of their day-to-day lives.

“I find that creating art myself just is my way to relax. It really does improve my wellbeing, so the chance to sort of aid other people and just facilitate some creative ideas [is great].”

There was something “quite cool” that happened when people connected and created art together, she said.

Ms Huls previously took Artsenta classes to help with mental distress, and was delighted to be able to support others through the new project.

“For me, it comes from a very personal reason having lived experience … I moved here from Christchurch and I didn’t know many people at all. I was overwhelmed at the thought of being able to do art and I realised when I was going along to the Artsenta sessions that that time was really just the vehicle and I would go home and carry on doing those things at home,” Ms Huls said.

She found art could be tool to help release thoughts about the rest of her life, and the new sessions were a “snapshot” of what people could do with their lives.

“This is about communities, it’s about anybody.

“Since Covid, life has changed for many people, from all walks of life, and so some of it is moving away and just normalising what the need from everyone is.”

The classes were free, open to everybody, and there would be the opportunity for discussions afterwards, she said.


What: Art sessions designed to support people’s wellbeing

Where: Palmerston Community Centre, Kurow Memorial Hall and Oamaru’s Ara Campus

When: Palmerston 10, Oamaru Kurow sessions run each week for six months, from 12.30pm to 3pm.

Contact: Natalie Carpenter 021 203-7833, Toni Huls 021 184-8470, or email