A highly valued award presented at Parliament’s Grand Hall last night was a fitting send off for a woman credited with changing the attitudes of prisoners through art.
Robyn Hughes, an art tutor from Auckland Prison in Paremoremo, received the Big ‘A’ Prison Arts Leadership Award from Arts Access Aotearoa. It was presented to her by Corrections General Manager Rehabilitation and Reintegration, Alison Thom.
Robyn spent 17 years tutoring hundreds of prisoners in art groups and programmes run inside the jail, and was the driving force behind several major exhibitions of prisoner art. Robyn is also credited with organising the Auckland Children’s Hospital Art Project in 2004 and a second project in the City Hospital in 2006 which saw prisoners complete artworks which still brighten the corridors of both hospitals.
“The “Big A” Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations working to enhance the artistic lives of people who have been marginalised by the mainstream,” says Arts Access Aotearoa Executive Director, Marianne Taylor.
“The awards pay tribute to the often unsung heroes who provide artistic opportunity to people who have limited access. It also gives us the chance to showcase the artistic achievements of the sectors we work with, which include refugees, mental health consumers and senior citizens, among others.”
Programmes Manager for Auckland Prison, Mark Lynds, says that Robyn’s work had a very clear impact on the prisoners who she taught.
“Art teaches more than just artistic skills, and Robyn used the opportunity to challenge the men to work in groups, and communicate, to solve problems using logic and work towards achieving the goals they had set. Art is confidence building and Robyn helped the men to gain insight into their own lives and how they relate to others.
“While Robyn has officially ended her work at the prison, her legacy will live on in the murals and artwork around the prison, and through the talent shown by the prisoners she mentored.
“She was greatly respected by staff at the prison, as well as prisoners who described her as ‘just awesome’. Everyone is really proud of her and she’s going to be missed hugely.”
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