Tuesday 2 April, 2019

Gallery artist-educator helps children discover art and its healing potential


IMAGE: Harriet Bright encourages 11-year-old Aisha Weir (left) and 10-year-old Lucas Schofield (right) during a clay pinch-pot workshop at Mahara Gallery.)

In her new role as Mahara Gallery’s Education Support Coordinator, accomplished Paekakaariki artist Harriet Bright wants to help children discover the value of art as entertainment and celebration but also as a means of coping with tough times.

The 2010 winner of the New Zealand Portrait Gallery’s Adam Award for Portraiture - and several times a finalist in the New Zealand art show’s signature awards - accepted the position late last year and is working on a programme to involve young people in art and the Gallery.

“The education support role gives me the chance to work within the local arts community, and encourage greater involvement in the arts by as wide a range of people as possible” she says.

A large part of the job will involve facilitating workshops for children. Harriet is conscious this can start some of them on a lifetime of interest in and involvement in the arts. 

“Learning to feel at ease going into a gallery and discovering the joy of experimenting with words and images can lead to a discovery of the arts as self-expression, as a space to go to when things get tough, or a space to play and celebrate.

“Art can be a way to process your feelings, a refuge, a way to be absorbed in something you love.

“I have found the enduring value of art in my own life, and I would like to share this.”

Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly says bringing art to young people is an important part of the Gallery’s work.

She says she shares Harriet Bright’s view that art can help people cope with emotions that arise from troubling personal or public events.

“The tragedy in Christchurch has affected us all. Art is not necessarily going to help children make sense of it but it can help them come to terms with it.

“It can be a means of expressing and releasing painful emotions. Art has a long history of combatting tragedy with beauty.

“For eight years now, one of our most significant exhibitions has been a programme we develop and deliver in partnership with Nga Manu Nature Reserve and the generous support of the Philipp Family Foundation which encourages school children to create art around a particular environmental theme.

“We are excited to have an artist and teacher of Harriet’s calibre and experience to help us deliver our programmes for young people.”

Harriet Bright says she’s very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Mahara Gallery.

“It is a role where I feel I can contribute something of value, and also enjoy what I am doing. It is also a chance to stretch myself and find out about another aspect of the arts environment. 

“After many years as an exhibiting artist, it is good to learn about the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring an exhibition or workshop to the public.

“I think that Mahara Gallery offers exhibitions of extraordinary breadth and quality,” she says.

“It is a privilege to work there, and I want to have a part in bringing as wide a public as possible into the gallery.”