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