Art opens world

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

THE CAFE cul­ture of Pon­sonby Rd is a far cry from the south side for the kids of Nga Ran­gatahi Toa.

But it takes lit­tle more than a few days be­fore they are set­tled right in, the pro­gramme’s cre­ative di­rec­tor Sarah Longbottom says.

‘‘Our kids wig out when they first get to Pon­sonby Rd be­cause they’ve never seen any­thing like it but by the end of the week they are rul­ing this build­ing and go­ing down the road for a hot choco­late.’’

The arts-men­tor­ing and tran­si­tion pro­gramme con­nects young peo­ple from South and Cen­tral Auck­land who are in alternative ed­u­ca­tion with Kiwi artists, mu­si­cians and ac­tors.

Ms Longbottom started the trust in 2009 in South Auck­land to fill a ‘‘mas­sive gap­ing hole’’ she saw in the alternative ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

‘‘As soon as a kid is ex­cluded from main­stream ed­u­ca­tion they lose ac­cess to spe­cialised teach­ers – art, drama, mu­sic, dance.

‘‘They func­tion on a very re­stricted cur­ricu­lum which is very short-sighted be­cause for a lot of th­ese kids the first aca­demic success they will ex­pe­ri­ence will be in the cre­ative arts cur­ricu­lum.’’

Just eight young peo­ple were in­volved when it first be­gan but now that num­ber has grown to more than 130 a year from across Auck­land.

The trust now calls the cen­tral city sub­urb home with stu­dents work­ing from Pon­sonby’s Art­sta­tion.

Ms Longbottom has just re­ceived a grant as part of the Voda­fone World of Dif­fer­ence pro­gramme which aims to sup­port and pro­mote peo­ple who work with youth.

The fund­ing will al­low the Pon­sonby-based former teacher to fo­cus full­time on the pro­gramme this year.

Bas­ing the trust in the heart of Pon­sonby dur­ing Auck­land’s tran­si­tion to a su­per-city was a con­scious de­ci­sion, she says.

‘‘My the­ory was, yes you may come from Man­gere but you live in Auck­land. This is your city so you should feel as com­fort­able walking down Pon­sonby Rd as you do in Man­gere town cen­tre.’’

They may have been a bit ahead of the eight-ball on that de­ci­sion back in 2010 but af­ter three years the kids are feel­ing more than at home in the pro­gramme’s new hub, she says.

It is even more sig­nif­i­cant as most of the stu­dents’ par­ents and grand­par­ents grew up in the area.

Ex­hi­bi­tions of the stu­dent’s work give cen­tral res­i­dents a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence what it’s like to grow up in South Auck­land.

‘‘Per­son­ally I think we pathol­o­gise in our so­ci­ety. Ev­ery­thing that’s wrong is blamed on youth and it is par­tic­u­larly blamed on marginalised youth.’’

Th­ese pro­grammes give the gen­eral pub­lic an op­por­tu­nity to lay those myths to rest, she says.

‘‘With the events that we’ve held here at Art­sta­tion it’s amaz­ing to see the Pon­sonby pub­lic turn up and meet our kids and they’re as freaked out of our kids as our kids are freaked out of them but as soon as peo­ple start talk­ing it’s quite an ex­cep­tional thing to wit­ness.’’

The pro­gramme con­tin­ues to go from strength to strength but fund­ing is al­ways the main strug­gle.

Men­tors would ide­ally like to work on a one-to-one ba­sis with each stu­dent to help them reach their full po­ten­tial.

‘‘It pains me that the only rea­son we’re not do­ing that right the way through the year with all alternative ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents is sim­ply fund­ing,’’ she says.

Stu­dents will ex­hibit their first in­ter-arts project in June with as­pects of vis­ual arts, the­atre and mu­sic in Cen­tral Auck­land.


Cre­ative edge: Nga Ran­gatahi Toa cre­ative di­rec­tor Sarah Longbottom says the pro­gramme’s stu­dents are set­tling in to its new home on Pon­sonby Rd.

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