Putting the spark into art

Central Leader - - NEWS - By STRUAN PUR­DIE

Master­pieces are be­ing cre­ated and artists born at a unique art ther­apy cen­tre in St Lukes.

The Spark Cen­tre is a creative space of­fer­ing weekly vis­ual and arts ther­apy pro­grammes for those liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties, im­pair­ment or other so­cial or per­sonal needs.

Each week the cen­tre runs 12 dif­fer­ent pro­grammes tai­lored to peo­ple with a range of dis­abil­i­ties.

Al­though the cen­tre is mainly fo­cused on pro­vid­ing ther­apy it has also al­lowed those who at­tend the weekly classes a chance to de­velop their artis­tic skills.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple haven’t re­ally been in­volved with art much be­fore they come here but they do art ther­apy and ac­tu­ally want to carry on with art,’’ Spark fund­ing co­or­di­na­tor Donna Jaser says.

She says many peo­ple who come to Spark have had the chance to move be­yond their dis­abil­ity and find a new iden­tity as an artist.

One of those is Halina Janiszewska who started at Spark three years ago.

The 24-year-old has cere­bral palsy which means she re­lies on the as­sis­tance of a full-time carer.

Halina says she loves art be­cause it is com­pletely up to her what she paints. ‘‘I just like to be in­de­pen­dent – to make de­ci­sions for my­self.’’

Halina’s mother, Karen Janiszewska, says Halina will of­ten spend a lot of time plan­ning her work be­fore she gets to Spark each week.

She says art has be­come an im­por­tant part of life.

‘‘Be­cause she is to­tally de­pen­dent, art is some­thing she has com­plete ad­vo­cacy over.

‘‘It means she has a fin­ished prod­uct that she can give to peo­ple that fully rep­re­sents who she is.’’

Mrs Janiszewska says Halina has re­cently sold a num­ber of her paint­ings at auc­tion af­ter they ap­peared in var­i­ous exhibitions.

She is not the only per­son from Spark to gain recog­ni­tion for her art­work.

Sev­eral of the cen­tre’s artists made it to the fi­nals of the an­nual IHC art com­pe­ti­tion last year, while oth­ers have had their work hung in the Al­bert-Eden Lo­cal Board Of­fice.

Al­though Spark is pro­duc­ing some in­spir­ing artists Mrs Jaser says the cen­tre serves a more im­por­tant pur­pose.

‘‘It’s more than a place to come and do an art class – it turns into a fam­ily. Com- mu­nity is so huge here and it’s an im­por­tant part of who we are.’’

In the past, Spark has al­ways re­lied on out­side fund­ing. How­ever, times have been es­pe­cially tough for the cen­tre since the Govern­ment cut its com­mu­nity fund­ing in 2009. It now re­lies on in­di­vid­ual do­na­tions and grants to run its weekly pro­grammes.

Photo: STRUAN PUR­DIE

Creative spark: Halina Janiszewska, left, shows Donna Jaser her lat­est paint­ing at the Spark Cen­tre in St Lukes.

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