Otautahi Creative Spaces started the group, known as "Room 5", to give people a chance to improve their well-being through creativity and social connection. It is based at the Phillipstown Community Hub.
Kerry who has been attending Room 5 since it opened says that social isolation and depression have been central to his life, with a troubled childhood which was compounded by becoming the primary caregiver for his Mother and a marriage breakdown.
“I have a critical, cynical way of looking at things – Room 5 has helped me to not only socialise, but also given me the tools to express what’s on the inside and bring it to the outside world.”
Kerry has always loved art but says when he came to the programme he was anti-social and it took a while to build the trust necessary to allow him to express himself. “Every human being has the ability to create things but to really expose yourself through your art you need to feel a sense of belonging, to feel like you fit in and that is what you get at Room 5.”
These days Kerry is creating new-comic style characters, taking his inspiration from the idea of a superhero. He believes the greatest thing is to do something for other people because you care, with little thought of return. It is thinking which has made Otautahi Creative Spaces such a success and a sanctuary for Kerry.
The kaupapa (principle or belief) of Ōtautahi Creative Spaces Trust is “Building wellbeing and social connection through creativity”. It caters for all skill levels and aspirations, and focuses on creativity rather than on mental illness and distress.
“We provide the space, experienced arts workers and quality art materials,” Manager Kim Morton says. “But the artists really shape the space and create a welcoming, inclusive and inspiring environment."
“People can bring support workers or whānau. We work in small groups with a high ratio of tutors to participants.”