A Good Wee Cause

A Good Wee Cause

Walk into the Dunedin Community Gallery this week and you will be confronted by a large and odd assortment of some quite frankly wacky and eccentric items. Miniature glass pieces soldered together to create a curving spiral-like form constitutes one original sculpture by the window; a portrait of a ferocious wolf faces; a pop art-esque comic book rendering of a young woman with billows of yellow hair; several more realistic still-lifes decorate the very back wall of the gallery; and all the while a basket that contains several mysteriously leafy and long-stemmed plants holds court in the centre of the room. To the casual passersby (and the friend that actually informed me about this exhibition), the first impression to pop into your head would probably be a mix of surprise and confusion, followed perhaps by a quick dismissal. Hopefully this article will persuade you otherwise, because art, like so much else, is something you really can’t afford to judge by its “cover” (there you go, your eye just swerved upward involuntarily, didn’t it?).

Arranged by the Artsenta organisation, the exhibition is a group one, which at least accounts for the large variety of styles and pieces. But what explains the curious diversity of the artworks even better is the fact that each one was created by an artist who is mentally impaired, with the help of resources and guidance offered by Artsenta. The organization describes itself as “a shared art studio for people within the mental health community”, where anyone who uses mental health services and is over the age of 17 can book a time to drop by the studio and discuss what kind of creative venture they may be interested in. Not only are they flexible, catering for both group activities and individual efforts, but going to Artsenta is completely free of charge.

The Dunedin Community Gallery exhibition, following on from the previous Artsenta one at the Dunedin Railway Station, displays the aforementioned larger artworks and sculptures, which are all for sale at ridiculously reasonable prices. But what makes the exhibition particularly unique is its interactive aspect, perfect for those just dropping in to those who want to get more involved and find out more about how Artsenta works. Each of the Artsenta artists have been invited to create a CD cover-sized piece specifically for the exhibition, and anyone who would like to own one simply needs to create their own artwork on the spot to exchange for the one they take. There’s no pressure to make some fantastic masterpiece but it’s a pretty sweet way of getting involved in the art scene without too much commitment, and giving back to Artsenta for the clearly incredible work they’re doing. Personally I’m a fan of anything that follows the old school barter and trade system that, oh my God, doesn’t actually involve me debilitating my already-financially-crippled bank account any further! Yay!

Pop along and see if there’s anything that takes your fancy; chances are there will be, thanks to the large range of artworks and styles on display, with anything from hanging mobiles to miniature sculptures to surrealist paintings and drawings. Not gonna lie, there’s a gorgeous faded pastel fabric hanging I’m probably going to snap up once my bank account recovers in a couple of days … why thank you, Studylink! 

Artsenta Group Exhibition
Dunedin Community Gallery, Princes Street
April 24-May 4, weekdays
This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2012.
Posted 12:51am Monday 7th May 2012 by Beaurey Chan.