Art exhibition focuses on inclusion and aiding recovery


Peter De Roo, clinical nurse manager at Stanford House, and Marie White, the exhibition organiser.

19 February 2021  


A rather special art exhibition opened in Whanganui on Tuesday.


The Stanford House Mahi Toi exhibition -- launched at the Community Arts Centre on Taupo Quay – features the work of clients of the medium secure forensic unit at Whanganui Hospital.


The more than 40 artworks in the exhibition include photography, flax weaving, drawings, paintings, graphic art, and carving, including a carved table. The exhibition will run until 27 February.


The exhibition has been organised by Marie White, a registered nurse and creative therapist, who has worked at Whanganui District Health Board for 20 years in the Stanford House facility.


“The clients love what they are doing, and they have been very excited looking forward to the opening of the exhibition,” she said.


“It is important for them to move out beyond Stanford House, beyond the hospital grounds.


“This sort of project helps with their recovery. It is about being included, and sharing their experiences with their families and friends.


“They can say ‘We did it – please come and see it’.”


Marie has staged other exhibitions of clients’ work but this is the most ambitious and professional show so far.


She said much of the inspiration had come after a walking group was set up at Stanford House last year.


Visitors at Tuesday morning’s launch.

“The idea was to improve mental and physical health through exercise, but then we acquired a camera and soon taking photos became the most popular part of the walks.”


A former secondary school art teacher, Marie also has experience as an art tutor to prison inmates.


She is delighted with the way the exhibition has turned out --- “Their love of Whanganui comes through in so many of the photos, and there is a lot of emotional content in the artwork.


“They are extremely proud of their work … and also extremely humbled.”


Marie will choose a handful of the artworks to submit to the upcoming pattillo Arts Review, Whanganui’s biggest arts competition, and there are feedback forms at the entrance to the exhibition where visitors can vote for their favourite piece.


Among the works on display are a series of pieces representing the values of Stanford House which include working collaboratively and positively with others, and working together to achieve shared goals, emphasising trust and relationships. The Stanford House vision is of “a safe place where people live, learn and grow in the wider community.”


Tuesday’s opening was blessed by Stanford House cultural adviser Royce Ponga, and attended by chief executive Russell Simpson who said the exhibition exemplified the DHB’s  values, “with both staff and tangata whaiora/clients ensuring it will be a success”. 


“The photos, artwork, weaving and carvings are of high quality and depict the community in which the residents reside,” Mr Simpson said.


The exhibition was supported by Whanganui District Council’s Creative Communities funding which covered the cost of framing and the two-week hire of the Community Arts Centre.