Working with ability, having fun!

Kevin Widdowson with Rainy Dayz

Francis Ritchie New Vision

The title is the by-line for the Arts & Activities Programme run by Pauline Denton for L’Arche Mount Tabor Trust. Pauline was invited to set up the programme over ten years ago as the Trust’s Community Leaders saw a need for it. Then, as now, there is no funding for this but there was a need to create worthwhile activities for people to engage in. Now, ten years later, that programme includes a ‘Music & Sing-a-long’ session, a choir, drama, painting and craft sessions, table games and a day-time disco. All of these sessions are open for people outside of the Trust to attend. As the property the art side of the programme is run from has been sold, new premises are being sought from early April. Preferably a large, accessible paint-friendly room with a sink, an accessible toilet and small room to store resources in at a reasonably low rent.
Many artists have emerged from the programme, including the late blind artist Francis Ritchie, who had displayed no interest in art prior to loosing his sight. “Working with someone who couldn’t see what they were doing was, to put it mildly, problematic” says Pauline “but I came up with the idea of working on black canvases and getting Francis, who had a good colour memory, to pour colours of his choosing onto the canvas. I would then describe the amount of paint to him and he would move it around the canvas using a whisk or other kitchen item as a bit of a fun reference to Francis weight. It was an absolute privilege to watch the paintings take shape, especially as I knew Francis would never be able to see them. He seemed to instinctively know when to stop spreading the paint, except for one time when I remember telling him that his piece could sell for a couple of hundred dollars as he kept working on it and it began to resemble scrambled eggs”. Francis was very proud to hold a solo exhibition entitled ‘New Vision’ before, sadly, passing away but some of his art will be included in the new exhibition.
Other artists have also emerged, including Kevin Widdowson, who was a finalist in the IHC Art Awards with his ‘Rainey Dayz’ painting, visually impaired photographer Rachael Clarke, and Thomas Hogan. If anyone has met Thomas they may have experienced him bounding towards them saying “Hello la la” (lady) or “Hello man”, a simple “Hello Tom” is all that is required back. Thomas state of anxiety is dispelled when he paints and is replaced with a very meditative state as he creates his works. Thomas is a member of Art Kaipara and won first place in their one and only art competition, judged by the then head of the Art Department at Kaipara College, Leah Wilson.
An exhibition entitled ‘Landscapes of the Soul’ will showcase the paintings of Thomas and his fellow artists from February 27th until March 27th at the Helensville Art Centre. Funding for the exhibition was received through the Creative Communities Scheme. All are invited to attend the exhibition opening on Friday February 26th from 3-5pm. The exhibition will be run as a ‘Cash & Carry’ so you are advised to get in early if you want to pick up a bargain. The exhibition is open 10-4.30 Wednesday-Friday and 10-2 on Saturdays. Basement of the War Memorial Hall, 49 Commercial Road, accessible parking and entry via Porter Crescent.
L’Arche Mount Tabor is an ‘intentional community’ where non disabled and disabled adults share life together. For more information about us or the ‘Arts & Activities Programme’ contact Silke Carter or Karen Herbert or pop into the office at 21a Garfield Road.

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