Creative items made by women participating in the Sewing, Quilts, and Crafts programme at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF), and displayed at a recent exhibition, will be donated to Starship Children’s Hospital.
“The Sewing, Quilts, and Crafts programme is run by volunteers and the display included an array of objects, such as colourful quilts, soft toys, knitted baby clothing, artwork, and greeting cards,” says ARWCF Regional Volunteer Co-ordinator Stephen Jones.
“The women also made a quilt and knitted honey bees, including a queen and king, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform’s work with people in prison and in the community.”
Howard League volunteers teach beekeeping, as well as ESOL, basic literacy and numeracy, and learner driver programmes at ARWCF.
Also on display was a painting of a golden retriever pup from the Mobility Dogs Charitable Trust training programme that is run at ARWCF. The artist is one of the dog trainers in prison.
“Our Sewing, Quilts, and Crafts programme gives women the chance to explore their creativity, learn new skills, find purpose in their day, and give back to the community,” says Stephen.
“The women will keep some of their work for themselves or gift to their children and/or family members, while other pieces will be displayed around the prison site. The remaining quilts, soft toys, baby clothing, and knitted honey bees will be donated to Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland, courtesy of the women who created these beautiful items.”
Volunteer lead of the Sewing, Quilts, and Crafts programme, Robyn Bickers, shared some of the women’s feedback on their participation in the programme.
I feel inner peace while at sewing class, relaxed and at my best.
I am relaxed and learning something new.
I enjoy being in class. It is interesting for me. I have been learning a lot of skills in here.
Being here, allows me to create and explore. It relaxes my mind and it is soothing.
Also visiting the Sewing, Quilts, and Crafts exhibition were Arts Access Aotearoa representatives, Arts in Corrections Adviser Neil Wallace and Arts Activator Andy Glanville.
“We are so fortunate that we could combine a hui in Te Tai Tokerau with Northland Region Corrections Facility [NRCF] staff involved in creative programmes and other Arts in Corrections providers with this visit to ARWCF to take in the display of the women’s mahi,” says Neil.
“Overall, the standard of the work produced by the men and women at both NRCF and ARWCF, has blown us away, and some of the pieces would sit well in any gallery in Aotearoa.”
On the importance of art programmes in prisons, Neil says: “Art is essentially a form of communication. It allows the artist to speak their mind, speak their heart, speak about things they can’t say verbally or share with another, and draw things that are on a soul level. Without the arts, people would really suffer. I see the arts as a pathway for people to re-engage with their whakapapa, to revisit who they are as people.”