Heading

This is some text inside of a div block.

Art and minds: The case for art as prescription medicine

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Zulfirman Syah found it hard to sleep after the 2019 terror attack at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque. 

“I was wracked with guilt about having taken my son to the mosque with me that day,” he says. 

Both Syah and his little boy were injured, and it took months for Syah to be able to get out of bed unaided. Long after the gunshot wounds healed, the Indonesian New Zealand artist struggled with anxiety, depression and fear. 

“I think I nearly reached rock bottom. I felt terrified to go out in public, cried a lot at night.” 

But reconnecting with his art helped release Syah from the anguish that hounded him daily.

“The process of creating art became a way for me to escape the trauma, and my troubled mental state.”

Creative expression can provide these things for everyone, he says - it’s an adaptable experience.

“I think the overall process of creativity, regardless of the medium, can promote an improved mental state and improve emotional regulation.”

Syah’s perspective is both incredibly specific to the challenges he faced after March 15, and emblematic of a broader, and deepening understanding of the ability of creative practice to positively benefit the wellbeing of people who engage with it. New studies are revealing that engagement with art and cultural practice has tangible benefits not only for mental health, but for general mood and quality of life. 

These practices may become increasingly necessary in the future. Globally, the deterioration of mental health is on the rise. Medical journal The Lancet reports a considerable increase in mental distress since 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic. For many of us, day-to-day life has changed immeasurably in ways that are difficult to cope with.

Arts may be the answer. The United Kingdom-based What Works Centre for Wellbeing reported in April 2022 that a University of London study found engagement in art, culture and community had a positive impact on wellbeing in many ways, and moreover, those participating in arts activities more than once a week experienced greater life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress. 

In order to harness these benefits, programmes such as the non-profit Arts on Prescription - a growing global movement - are demonstrating how engaging with art and creativity - whether it’s taking classes, visiting galleries and theatres, or writing and reading poetry - has a positive impact on quality of life. Not unlike ‘green prescriptions’ for general health, art on prescription looks at supplementary creative stimuli that may help an individual to feel better. 

In New Zealand, communities and organisations putting art and culture as a central tenet for wellbeing are growing. Nowhere is that more evident than Ōtautahi, Christchurch. The city is still dealing with the aftermath of the 2011-2012 earthquakes that claimed many lives and took a long-term toll on mental health and wellbeing. The 2019 terror attack on the city’s Muslim population compounded that trauma, deepening the strain on a city still finding its feet. The fallout from these two events profoundly impacted communities and the city as a whole.

Kim Morton founded Ōtautahi Creative Spaces as an answering call to the unhappiness and distress she felt around her city, post-earthquakes. The centre focuses on helping people improve their mental health and wellbeing through engagement with regular art practice, tutoring, exhibitions, and via connection to a supportive community. 

Kim Morton wearing whakapapa quilt by Ron Te Kawa and artists at OCS. Photo / Ana Craw

Morton’s voice feels like a comforting hot drink as she describes what she observes on a regular basis at OCS.

“Many of the artists that we work with say, this is more helpful than counselling, this is more helpful than medication. Our mental health system relies heavily on medication and talking therapies, and we know that that's not enough. It's got an important place, obviously, but it's not enough for people to thrive.” 

Morton, who has received the Winston Churchill Fellowship for her work and is a member of Te Ora Auaha, a national creative wellbeing network, has researched how the international arts on prescription model could work here in Aotearoa. Unsurprisingly, and in keeping with the struggle for validity that the arts and culture sector faces in Aotearoa, the government does not significantly support such a model. 

Not yet, anyway. Ōtautahi is exactly the right place to create an arts on prescription prototype to work alongside mainstream medical practice. Morton mentions a new initiative called Te Tumu Waiora (‘to head towards wellness’) that places ‘health improvement practitioners’ in GP clinics across Aotearoa to assist with holistic wellbeing. 

In the meantime, she is hopeful that more organisations like OCS will spring up around the country, so art-based prescriptions can be part of the alternative healing modalities on offer in the health system, available for everyone.

Artist Catherine Brougham has been working with OCS for three years now. 

“I was feeling very alone and lost because of a result of what happened to Christchurch and to daily life after the earthquakes” she says. 

A multi-disciplinary artist, Brougham says OCS has given her a sense of value and worth. 

When the pandemic hit, she found it triggered the same worries and depression as the earthquakes had. 

“The anxiety and uncertainty of what’s happened…what’s going to happen next?” 

Weekly OCS classes and check-ins, even through Zoom, helped her to manage the country’s lockdowns. In art she has found profound relief from her mental distress - so much so, she says with a hint of surprise and laughter in her voice, that she no longer really considers herself to have anxiety. 

Life's Voyage by Catherine Brougham

Another art practitioner and performer who’s found relief through her practice is Audrey Baldwin, a familiar face in the Ōtautahi arts scene. Her work has a long history of connectivity, exploring the intimacy and vulnerability of the human spirit. 

Her 2021 project Art Chemist was a literal pop-up pharmacy in Ōtautahi where she and other artists dispensed arts-based prescriptions to anyone who walked in off the street. The dispensary was consciously created to provide a space where visitors could decompress: “The physicality of it's quite important; we've got the mink blankets, we've got the salt lamps, this kind of low light, I've got nice aromatherapy scents in the space… it's all contributing to something that's going to calm down your nervous system,” she says. “And just take a moment.”

People enjoyed the opportunity to receive an over-the-counter prescription, or to engage in a consultation and have a tailored script made especially for them.

“Anyone that engaged with it pretty much always wanted the full consultation,” she says. It was a unique concoction for every patron. 

“I would think about it as a chemist; you're adding different ingredients. So I'd usually make about two or three different artworks, or communities or events that might tie in with it.” 

The Art Chemist. Photo / Audrey Baldwin

Baldwin’s art pharmacy stretched across all art forms, from poetry to performance to visual art. It worked so well that she took the apothecary to Wellington, where the city’s inhabitants benefitted from Baldwin’s repeated sharing of artworks like the commemorative mural for the 2019 terror attack, Weaving Hope.

That piece inspires unity and inclusion, concepts Baldwin returned to again and again in the capital city: the Art Chemist was operating during the occupation of Parliamentary grounds in February this year, when tensions in the city were incredibly high. 

“For me, that work talks about how often, when humanity has horrible things happen, that's when we actually come out, at our most beautiful, and the community really comes forward. And the beauty of humanity shines.” 

Baldwin said the restless and agitated psyche of the city during that unsettled period was palpable, but the dispensary doled out prescriptions for hundreds of people in the time it was open, and she found the mood around the work incredibly uplifting. Baldwin says that rather than feel diminished or drained by what was happening outside, she and the other practitioners were buoyant. It is not just those on the receiving end of artistic endeavours who experience an improvement in wellbeing.

Nor is it only the traumatised who benefit from connecting with their creativity. Arts and culture is uplifting for everyone. Kim Morton and I talk about the colouring-in craze for adults that swept the world a few years ago, and how, when given permission, adults everywhere happily engaged in colouring, finding it joyful and relaxing. The positive benefits for mental health were even outlined in a University of Otago study. They’re also seen as having a powerful impact on our wellbeing in Creative New Zealand’s New Zealanders and The Arts research. Art is an important part of the school curriculum until it becomes an elective in college: so why do we throw away the opportunity to play and create as adults?

Artists at Otautahi Creative Spaces. Photo / Ana Craw

“So many people we work with say ‘I used to love art at school, and then I stopped," says Morton. 

“Sometimes it becomes about unleashing the creativity that we used to love. At what age does it stop? Kids playing is accepted, but as adults we don’t play, really. There is an invisible line, and once you cross it… social value is placed on other things. What we want to do is shift those attitudes so that social value and social investment is made in access to creativity.”

With the pandemic continuing, and the world gripped by problems ranging from runaway economic inflation to war, creativity is something we can return to not just individually, but in which we can participate as a collective. Space 22, a bold new six-part Australian documentary series, explores the impact art and creativity can have on mental health. 

New Zealand practitioners linking diverse forms of creative expression to better mental health are part of a global movement benefitting all humanity - one that will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in times to come.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

No items found.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Zulfirman Syah found it hard to sleep after the 2019 terror attack at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque. 

“I was wracked with guilt about having taken my son to the mosque with me that day,” he says. 

Both Syah and his little boy were injured, and it took months for Syah to be able to get out of bed unaided. Long after the gunshot wounds healed, the Indonesian New Zealand artist struggled with anxiety, depression and fear. 

“I think I nearly reached rock bottom. I felt terrified to go out in public, cried a lot at night.” 

But reconnecting with his art helped release Syah from the anguish that hounded him daily.

“The process of creating art became a way for me to escape the trauma, and my troubled mental state.”

Creative expression can provide these things for everyone, he says - it’s an adaptable experience.

“I think the overall process of creativity, regardless of the medium, can promote an improved mental state and improve emotional regulation.”

Syah’s perspective is both incredibly specific to the challenges he faced after March 15, and emblematic of a broader, and deepening understanding of the ability of creative practice to positively benefit the wellbeing of people who engage with it. New studies are revealing that engagement with art and cultural practice has tangible benefits not only for mental health, but for general mood and quality of life. 

These practices may become increasingly necessary in the future. Globally, the deterioration of mental health is on the rise. Medical journal The Lancet reports a considerable increase in mental distress since 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic. For many of us, day-to-day life has changed immeasurably in ways that are difficult to cope with.

Arts may be the answer. The United Kingdom-based What Works Centre for Wellbeing reported in April 2022 that a University of London study found engagement in art, culture and community had a positive impact on wellbeing in many ways, and moreover, those participating in arts activities more than once a week experienced greater life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress. 

In order to harness these benefits, programmes such as the non-profit Arts on Prescription - a growing global movement - are demonstrating how engaging with art and creativity - whether it’s taking classes, visiting galleries and theatres, or writing and reading poetry - has a positive impact on quality of life. Not unlike ‘green prescriptions’ for general health, art on prescription looks at supplementary creative stimuli that may help an individual to feel better. 

In New Zealand, communities and organisations putting art and culture as a central tenet for wellbeing are growing. Nowhere is that more evident than Ōtautahi, Christchurch. The city is still dealing with the aftermath of the 2011-2012 earthquakes that claimed many lives and took a long-term toll on mental health and wellbeing. The 2019 terror attack on the city’s Muslim population compounded that trauma, deepening the strain on a city still finding its feet. The fallout from these two events profoundly impacted communities and the city as a whole.

Kim Morton founded Ōtautahi Creative Spaces as an answering call to the unhappiness and distress she felt around her city, post-earthquakes. The centre focuses on helping people improve their mental health and wellbeing through engagement with regular art practice, tutoring, exhibitions, and via connection to a supportive community. 

Kim Morton wearing whakapapa quilt by Ron Te Kawa and artists at OCS. Photo / Ana Craw

Morton’s voice feels like a comforting hot drink as she describes what she observes on a regular basis at OCS.

“Many of the artists that we work with say, this is more helpful than counselling, this is more helpful than medication. Our mental health system relies heavily on medication and talking therapies, and we know that that's not enough. It's got an important place, obviously, but it's not enough for people to thrive.” 

Morton, who has received the Winston Churchill Fellowship for her work and is a member of Te Ora Auaha, a national creative wellbeing network, has researched how the international arts on prescription model could work here in Aotearoa. Unsurprisingly, and in keeping with the struggle for validity that the arts and culture sector faces in Aotearoa, the government does not significantly support such a model. 

Not yet, anyway. Ōtautahi is exactly the right place to create an arts on prescription prototype to work alongside mainstream medical practice. Morton mentions a new initiative called Te Tumu Waiora (‘to head towards wellness’) that places ‘health improvement practitioners’ in GP clinics across Aotearoa to assist with holistic wellbeing. 

In the meantime, she is hopeful that more organisations like OCS will spring up around the country, so art-based prescriptions can be part of the alternative healing modalities on offer in the health system, available for everyone.

Artist Catherine Brougham has been working with OCS for three years now. 

“I was feeling very alone and lost because of a result of what happened to Christchurch and to daily life after the earthquakes” she says. 

A multi-disciplinary artist, Brougham says OCS has given her a sense of value and worth. 

When the pandemic hit, she found it triggered the same worries and depression as the earthquakes had. 

“The anxiety and uncertainty of what’s happened…what’s going to happen next?” 

Weekly OCS classes and check-ins, even through Zoom, helped her to manage the country’s lockdowns. In art she has found profound relief from her mental distress - so much so, she says with a hint of surprise and laughter in her voice, that she no longer really considers herself to have anxiety. 

Life's Voyage by Catherine Brougham

Another art practitioner and performer who’s found relief through her practice is Audrey Baldwin, a familiar face in the Ōtautahi arts scene. Her work has a long history of connectivity, exploring the intimacy and vulnerability of the human spirit. 

Her 2021 project Art Chemist was a literal pop-up pharmacy in Ōtautahi where she and other artists dispensed arts-based prescriptions to anyone who walked in off the street. The dispensary was consciously created to provide a space where visitors could decompress: “The physicality of it's quite important; we've got the mink blankets, we've got the salt lamps, this kind of low light, I've got nice aromatherapy scents in the space… it's all contributing to something that's going to calm down your nervous system,” she says. “And just take a moment.”

People enjoyed the opportunity to receive an over-the-counter prescription, or to engage in a consultation and have a tailored script made especially for them.

“Anyone that engaged with it pretty much always wanted the full consultation,” she says. It was a unique concoction for every patron. 

“I would think about it as a chemist; you're adding different ingredients. So I'd usually make about two or three different artworks, or communities or events that might tie in with it.” 

The Art Chemist. Photo / Audrey Baldwin

Baldwin’s art pharmacy stretched across all art forms, from poetry to performance to visual art. It worked so well that she took the apothecary to Wellington, where the city’s inhabitants benefitted from Baldwin’s repeated sharing of artworks like the commemorative mural for the 2019 terror attack, Weaving Hope.

That piece inspires unity and inclusion, concepts Baldwin returned to again and again in the capital city: the Art Chemist was operating during the occupation of Parliamentary grounds in February this year, when tensions in the city were incredibly high. 

“For me, that work talks about how often, when humanity has horrible things happen, that's when we actually come out, at our most beautiful, and the community really comes forward. And the beauty of humanity shines.” 

Baldwin said the restless and agitated psyche of the city during that unsettled period was palpable, but the dispensary doled out prescriptions for hundreds of people in the time it was open, and she found the mood around the work incredibly uplifting. Baldwin says that rather than feel diminished or drained by what was happening outside, she and the other practitioners were buoyant. It is not just those on the receiving end of artistic endeavours who experience an improvement in wellbeing.

Nor is it only the traumatised who benefit from connecting with their creativity. Arts and culture is uplifting for everyone. Kim Morton and I talk about the colouring-in craze for adults that swept the world a few years ago, and how, when given permission, adults everywhere happily engaged in colouring, finding it joyful and relaxing. The positive benefits for mental health were even outlined in a University of Otago study. They’re also seen as having a powerful impact on our wellbeing in Creative New Zealand’s New Zealanders and The Arts research. Art is an important part of the school curriculum until it becomes an elective in college: so why do we throw away the opportunity to play and create as adults?

Artists at Otautahi Creative Spaces. Photo / Ana Craw

“So many people we work with say ‘I used to love art at school, and then I stopped," says Morton. 

“Sometimes it becomes about unleashing the creativity that we used to love. At what age does it stop? Kids playing is accepted, but as adults we don’t play, really. There is an invisible line, and once you cross it… social value is placed on other things. What we want to do is shift those attitudes so that social value and social investment is made in access to creativity.”

With the pandemic continuing, and the world gripped by problems ranging from runaway economic inflation to war, creativity is something we can return to not just individually, but in which we can participate as a collective. Space 22, a bold new six-part Australian documentary series, explores the impact art and creativity can have on mental health. 

New Zealand practitioners linking diverse forms of creative expression to better mental health are part of a global movement benefitting all humanity - one that will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in times to come.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.

Art and minds: The case for art as prescription medicine

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Zulfirman Syah found it hard to sleep after the 2019 terror attack at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque. 

“I was wracked with guilt about having taken my son to the mosque with me that day,” he says. 

Both Syah and his little boy were injured, and it took months for Syah to be able to get out of bed unaided. Long after the gunshot wounds healed, the Indonesian New Zealand artist struggled with anxiety, depression and fear. 

“I think I nearly reached rock bottom. I felt terrified to go out in public, cried a lot at night.” 

But reconnecting with his art helped release Syah from the anguish that hounded him daily.

“The process of creating art became a way for me to escape the trauma, and my troubled mental state.”

Creative expression can provide these things for everyone, he says - it’s an adaptable experience.

“I think the overall process of creativity, regardless of the medium, can promote an improved mental state and improve emotional regulation.”

Syah’s perspective is both incredibly specific to the challenges he faced after March 15, and emblematic of a broader, and deepening understanding of the ability of creative practice to positively benefit the wellbeing of people who engage with it. New studies are revealing that engagement with art and cultural practice has tangible benefits not only for mental health, but for general mood and quality of life. 

These practices may become increasingly necessary in the future. Globally, the deterioration of mental health is on the rise. Medical journal The Lancet reports a considerable increase in mental distress since 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic. For many of us, day-to-day life has changed immeasurably in ways that are difficult to cope with.

Arts may be the answer. The United Kingdom-based What Works Centre for Wellbeing reported in April 2022 that a University of London study found engagement in art, culture and community had a positive impact on wellbeing in many ways, and moreover, those participating in arts activities more than once a week experienced greater life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress. 

In order to harness these benefits, programmes such as the non-profit Arts on Prescription - a growing global movement - are demonstrating how engaging with art and creativity - whether it’s taking classes, visiting galleries and theatres, or writing and reading poetry - has a positive impact on quality of life. Not unlike ‘green prescriptions’ for general health, art on prescription looks at supplementary creative stimuli that may help an individual to feel better. 

In New Zealand, communities and organisations putting art and culture as a central tenet for wellbeing are growing. Nowhere is that more evident than Ōtautahi, Christchurch. The city is still dealing with the aftermath of the 2011-2012 earthquakes that claimed many lives and took a long-term toll on mental health and wellbeing. The 2019 terror attack on the city’s Muslim population compounded that trauma, deepening the strain on a city still finding its feet. The fallout from these two events profoundly impacted communities and the city as a whole.

Kim Morton founded Ōtautahi Creative Spaces as an answering call to the unhappiness and distress she felt around her city, post-earthquakes. The centre focuses on helping people improve their mental health and wellbeing through engagement with regular art practice, tutoring, exhibitions, and via connection to a supportive community. 

Kim Morton wearing whakapapa quilt by Ron Te Kawa and artists at OCS. Photo / Ana Craw

Morton’s voice feels like a comforting hot drink as she describes what she observes on a regular basis at OCS.

“Many of the artists that we work with say, this is more helpful than counselling, this is more helpful than medication. Our mental health system relies heavily on medication and talking therapies, and we know that that's not enough. It's got an important place, obviously, but it's not enough for people to thrive.” 

Morton, who has received the Winston Churchill Fellowship for her work and is a member of Te Ora Auaha, a national creative wellbeing network, has researched how the international arts on prescription model could work here in Aotearoa. Unsurprisingly, and in keeping with the struggle for validity that the arts and culture sector faces in Aotearoa, the government does not significantly support such a model. 

Not yet, anyway. Ōtautahi is exactly the right place to create an arts on prescription prototype to work alongside mainstream medical practice. Morton mentions a new initiative called Te Tumu Waiora (‘to head towards wellness’) that places ‘health improvement practitioners’ in GP clinics across Aotearoa to assist with holistic wellbeing. 

In the meantime, she is hopeful that more organisations like OCS will spring up around the country, so art-based prescriptions can be part of the alternative healing modalities on offer in the health system, available for everyone.

Artist Catherine Brougham has been working with OCS for three years now. 

“I was feeling very alone and lost because of a result of what happened to Christchurch and to daily life after the earthquakes” she says. 

A multi-disciplinary artist, Brougham says OCS has given her a sense of value and worth. 

When the pandemic hit, she found it triggered the same worries and depression as the earthquakes had. 

“The anxiety and uncertainty of what’s happened…what’s going to happen next?” 

Weekly OCS classes and check-ins, even through Zoom, helped her to manage the country’s lockdowns. In art she has found profound relief from her mental distress - so much so, she says with a hint of surprise and laughter in her voice, that she no longer really considers herself to have anxiety. 

Life's Voyage by Catherine Brougham

Another art practitioner and performer who’s found relief through her practice is Audrey Baldwin, a familiar face in the Ōtautahi arts scene. Her work has a long history of connectivity, exploring the intimacy and vulnerability of the human spirit. 

Her 2021 project Art Chemist was a literal pop-up pharmacy in Ōtautahi where she and other artists dispensed arts-based prescriptions to anyone who walked in off the street. The dispensary was consciously created to provide a space where visitors could decompress: “The physicality of it's quite important; we've got the mink blankets, we've got the salt lamps, this kind of low light, I've got nice aromatherapy scents in the space… it's all contributing to something that's going to calm down your nervous system,” she says. “And just take a moment.”

People enjoyed the opportunity to receive an over-the-counter prescription, or to engage in a consultation and have a tailored script made especially for them.

“Anyone that engaged with it pretty much always wanted the full consultation,” she says. It was a unique concoction for every patron. 

“I would think about it as a chemist; you're adding different ingredients. So I'd usually make about two or three different artworks, or communities or events that might tie in with it.” 

The Art Chemist. Photo / Audrey Baldwin

Baldwin’s art pharmacy stretched across all art forms, from poetry to performance to visual art. It worked so well that she took the apothecary to Wellington, where the city’s inhabitants benefitted from Baldwin’s repeated sharing of artworks like the commemorative mural for the 2019 terror attack, Weaving Hope.

That piece inspires unity and inclusion, concepts Baldwin returned to again and again in the capital city: the Art Chemist was operating during the occupation of Parliamentary grounds in February this year, when tensions in the city were incredibly high. 

“For me, that work talks about how often, when humanity has horrible things happen, that's when we actually come out, at our most beautiful, and the community really comes forward. And the beauty of humanity shines.” 

Baldwin said the restless and agitated psyche of the city during that unsettled period was palpable, but the dispensary doled out prescriptions for hundreds of people in the time it was open, and she found the mood around the work incredibly uplifting. Baldwin says that rather than feel diminished or drained by what was happening outside, she and the other practitioners were buoyant. It is not just those on the receiving end of artistic endeavours who experience an improvement in wellbeing.

Nor is it only the traumatised who benefit from connecting with their creativity. Arts and culture is uplifting for everyone. Kim Morton and I talk about the colouring-in craze for adults that swept the world a few years ago, and how, when given permission, adults everywhere happily engaged in colouring, finding it joyful and relaxing. The positive benefits for mental health were even outlined in a University of Otago study. They’re also seen as having a powerful impact on our wellbeing in Creative New Zealand’s New Zealanders and The Arts research. Art is an important part of the school curriculum until it becomes an elective in college: so why do we throw away the opportunity to play and create as adults?

Artists at Otautahi Creative Spaces. Photo / Ana Craw

“So many people we work with say ‘I used to love art at school, and then I stopped," says Morton. 

“Sometimes it becomes about unleashing the creativity that we used to love. At what age does it stop? Kids playing is accepted, but as adults we don’t play, really. There is an invisible line, and once you cross it… social value is placed on other things. What we want to do is shift those attitudes so that social value and social investment is made in access to creativity.”

With the pandemic continuing, and the world gripped by problems ranging from runaway economic inflation to war, creativity is something we can return to not just individually, but in which we can participate as a collective. Space 22, a bold new six-part Australian documentary series, explores the impact art and creativity can have on mental health. 

New Zealand practitioners linking diverse forms of creative expression to better mental health are part of a global movement benefitting all humanity - one that will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in times to come.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

No items found.
Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program

Art and minds: The case for art as prescription medicine

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Zulfirman Syah found it hard to sleep after the 2019 terror attack at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque. 

“I was wracked with guilt about having taken my son to the mosque with me that day,” he says. 

Both Syah and his little boy were injured, and it took months for Syah to be able to get out of bed unaided. Long after the gunshot wounds healed, the Indonesian New Zealand artist struggled with anxiety, depression and fear. 

“I think I nearly reached rock bottom. I felt terrified to go out in public, cried a lot at night.” 

But reconnecting with his art helped release Syah from the anguish that hounded him daily.

“The process of creating art became a way for me to escape the trauma, and my troubled mental state.”

Creative expression can provide these things for everyone, he says - it’s an adaptable experience.

“I think the overall process of creativity, regardless of the medium, can promote an improved mental state and improve emotional regulation.”

Syah’s perspective is both incredibly specific to the challenges he faced after March 15, and emblematic of a broader, and deepening understanding of the ability of creative practice to positively benefit the wellbeing of people who engage with it. New studies are revealing that engagement with art and cultural practice has tangible benefits not only for mental health, but for general mood and quality of life. 

These practices may become increasingly necessary in the future. Globally, the deterioration of mental health is on the rise. Medical journal The Lancet reports a considerable increase in mental distress since 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic. For many of us, day-to-day life has changed immeasurably in ways that are difficult to cope with.

Arts may be the answer. The United Kingdom-based What Works Centre for Wellbeing reported in April 2022 that a University of London study found engagement in art, culture and community had a positive impact on wellbeing in many ways, and moreover, those participating in arts activities more than once a week experienced greater life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress. 

In order to harness these benefits, programmes such as the non-profit Arts on Prescription - a growing global movement - are demonstrating how engaging with art and creativity - whether it’s taking classes, visiting galleries and theatres, or writing and reading poetry - has a positive impact on quality of life. Not unlike ‘green prescriptions’ for general health, art on prescription looks at supplementary creative stimuli that may help an individual to feel better. 

In New Zealand, communities and organisations putting art and culture as a central tenet for wellbeing are growing. Nowhere is that more evident than Ōtautahi, Christchurch. The city is still dealing with the aftermath of the 2011-2012 earthquakes that claimed many lives and took a long-term toll on mental health and wellbeing. The 2019 terror attack on the city’s Muslim population compounded that trauma, deepening the strain on a city still finding its feet. The fallout from these two events profoundly impacted communities and the city as a whole.

Kim Morton founded Ōtautahi Creative Spaces as an answering call to the unhappiness and distress she felt around her city, post-earthquakes. The centre focuses on helping people improve their mental health and wellbeing through engagement with regular art practice, tutoring, exhibitions, and via connection to a supportive community. 

Kim Morton wearing whakapapa quilt by Ron Te Kawa and artists at OCS. Photo / Ana Craw

Morton’s voice feels like a comforting hot drink as she describes what she observes on a regular basis at OCS.

“Many of the artists that we work with say, this is more helpful than counselling, this is more helpful than medication. Our mental health system relies heavily on medication and talking therapies, and we know that that's not enough. It's got an important place, obviously, but it's not enough for people to thrive.” 

Morton, who has received the Winston Churchill Fellowship for her work and is a member of Te Ora Auaha, a national creative wellbeing network, has researched how the international arts on prescription model could work here in Aotearoa. Unsurprisingly, and in keeping with the struggle for validity that the arts and culture sector faces in Aotearoa, the government does not significantly support such a model. 

Not yet, anyway. Ōtautahi is exactly the right place to create an arts on prescription prototype to work alongside mainstream medical practice. Morton mentions a new initiative called Te Tumu Waiora (‘to head towards wellness’) that places ‘health improvement practitioners’ in GP clinics across Aotearoa to assist with holistic wellbeing. 

In the meantime, she is hopeful that more organisations like OCS will spring up around the country, so art-based prescriptions can be part of the alternative healing modalities on offer in the health system, available for everyone.

Artist Catherine Brougham has been working with OCS for three years now. 

“I was feeling very alone and lost because of a result of what happened to Christchurch and to daily life after the earthquakes” she says. 

A multi-disciplinary artist, Brougham says OCS has given her a sense of value and worth. 

When the pandemic hit, she found it triggered the same worries and depression as the earthquakes had. 

“The anxiety and uncertainty of what’s happened…what’s going to happen next?” 

Weekly OCS classes and check-ins, even through Zoom, helped her to manage the country’s lockdowns. In art she has found profound relief from her mental distress - so much so, she says with a hint of surprise and laughter in her voice, that she no longer really considers herself to have anxiety. 

Life's Voyage by Catherine Brougham

Another art practitioner and performer who’s found relief through her practice is Audrey Baldwin, a familiar face in the Ōtautahi arts scene. Her work has a long history of connectivity, exploring the intimacy and vulnerability of the human spirit. 

Her 2021 project Art Chemist was a literal pop-up pharmacy in Ōtautahi where she and other artists dispensed arts-based prescriptions to anyone who walked in off the street. The dispensary was consciously created to provide a space where visitors could decompress: “The physicality of it's quite important; we've got the mink blankets, we've got the salt lamps, this kind of low light, I've got nice aromatherapy scents in the space… it's all contributing to something that's going to calm down your nervous system,” she says. “And just take a moment.”

People enjoyed the opportunity to receive an over-the-counter prescription, or to engage in a consultation and have a tailored script made especially for them.

“Anyone that engaged with it pretty much always wanted the full consultation,” she says. It was a unique concoction for every patron. 

“I would think about it as a chemist; you're adding different ingredients. So I'd usually make about two or three different artworks, or communities or events that might tie in with it.” 

The Art Chemist. Photo / Audrey Baldwin

Baldwin’s art pharmacy stretched across all art forms, from poetry to performance to visual art. It worked so well that she took the apothecary to Wellington, where the city’s inhabitants benefitted from Baldwin’s repeated sharing of artworks like the commemorative mural for the 2019 terror attack, Weaving Hope.

That piece inspires unity and inclusion, concepts Baldwin returned to again and again in the capital city: the Art Chemist was operating during the occupation of Parliamentary grounds in February this year, when tensions in the city were incredibly high. 

“For me, that work talks about how often, when humanity has horrible things happen, that's when we actually come out, at our most beautiful, and the community really comes forward. And the beauty of humanity shines.” 

Baldwin said the restless and agitated psyche of the city during that unsettled period was palpable, but the dispensary doled out prescriptions for hundreds of people in the time it was open, and she found the mood around the work incredibly uplifting. Baldwin says that rather than feel diminished or drained by what was happening outside, she and the other practitioners were buoyant. It is not just those on the receiving end of artistic endeavours who experience an improvement in wellbeing.

Nor is it only the traumatised who benefit from connecting with their creativity. Arts and culture is uplifting for everyone. Kim Morton and I talk about the colouring-in craze for adults that swept the world a few years ago, and how, when given permission, adults everywhere happily engaged in colouring, finding it joyful and relaxing. The positive benefits for mental health were even outlined in a University of Otago study. They’re also seen as having a powerful impact on our wellbeing in Creative New Zealand’s New Zealanders and The Arts research. Art is an important part of the school curriculum until it becomes an elective in college: so why do we throw away the opportunity to play and create as adults?

Artists at Otautahi Creative Spaces. Photo / Ana Craw

“So many people we work with say ‘I used to love art at school, and then I stopped," says Morton. 

“Sometimes it becomes about unleashing the creativity that we used to love. At what age does it stop? Kids playing is accepted, but as adults we don’t play, really. There is an invisible line, and once you cross it… social value is placed on other things. What we want to do is shift those attitudes so that social value and social investment is made in access to creativity.”

With the pandemic continuing, and the world gripped by problems ranging from runaway economic inflation to war, creativity is something we can return to not just individually, but in which we can participate as a collective. Space 22, a bold new six-part Australian documentary series, explores the impact art and creativity can have on mental health. 

New Zealand practitioners linking diverse forms of creative expression to better mental health are part of a global movement benefitting all humanity - one that will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in times to come.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Zulfirman Syah found it hard to sleep after the 2019 terror attack at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque. 

“I was wracked with guilt about having taken my son to the mosque with me that day,” he says. 

Both Syah and his little boy were injured, and it took months for Syah to be able to get out of bed unaided. Long after the gunshot wounds healed, the Indonesian New Zealand artist struggled with anxiety, depression and fear. 

“I think I nearly reached rock bottom. I felt terrified to go out in public, cried a lot at night.” 

But reconnecting with his art helped release Syah from the anguish that hounded him daily.

“The process of creating art became a way for me to escape the trauma, and my troubled mental state.”

Creative expression can provide these things for everyone, he says - it’s an adaptable experience.

“I think the overall process of creativity, regardless of the medium, can promote an improved mental state and improve emotional regulation.”

Syah’s perspective is both incredibly specific to the challenges he faced after March 15, and emblematic of a broader, and deepening understanding of the ability of creative practice to positively benefit the wellbeing of people who engage with it. New studies are revealing that engagement with art and cultural practice has tangible benefits not only for mental health, but for general mood and quality of life. 

These practices may become increasingly necessary in the future. Globally, the deterioration of mental health is on the rise. Medical journal The Lancet reports a considerable increase in mental distress since 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic. For many of us, day-to-day life has changed immeasurably in ways that are difficult to cope with.

Arts may be the answer. The United Kingdom-based What Works Centre for Wellbeing reported in April 2022 that a University of London study found engagement in art, culture and community had a positive impact on wellbeing in many ways, and moreover, those participating in arts activities more than once a week experienced greater life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress. 

In order to harness these benefits, programmes such as the non-profit Arts on Prescription - a growing global movement - are demonstrating how engaging with art and creativity - whether it’s taking classes, visiting galleries and theatres, or writing and reading poetry - has a positive impact on quality of life. Not unlike ‘green prescriptions’ for general health, art on prescription looks at supplementary creative stimuli that may help an individual to feel better. 

In New Zealand, communities and organisations putting art and culture as a central tenet for wellbeing are growing. Nowhere is that more evident than Ōtautahi, Christchurch. The city is still dealing with the aftermath of the 2011-2012 earthquakes that claimed many lives and took a long-term toll on mental health and wellbeing. The 2019 terror attack on the city’s Muslim population compounded that trauma, deepening the strain on a city still finding its feet. The fallout from these two events profoundly impacted communities and the city as a whole.

Kim Morton founded Ōtautahi Creative Spaces as an answering call to the unhappiness and distress she felt around her city, post-earthquakes. The centre focuses on helping people improve their mental health and wellbeing through engagement with regular art practice, tutoring, exhibitions, and via connection to a supportive community. 

Kim Morton wearing whakapapa quilt by Ron Te Kawa and artists at OCS. Photo / Ana Craw

Morton’s voice feels like a comforting hot drink as she describes what she observes on a regular basis at OCS.

“Many of the artists that we work with say, this is more helpful than counselling, this is more helpful than medication. Our mental health system relies heavily on medication and talking therapies, and we know that that's not enough. It's got an important place, obviously, but it's not enough for people to thrive.” 

Morton, who has received the Winston Churchill Fellowship for her work and is a member of Te Ora Auaha, a national creative wellbeing network, has researched how the international arts on prescription model could work here in Aotearoa. Unsurprisingly, and in keeping with the struggle for validity that the arts and culture sector faces in Aotearoa, the government does not significantly support such a model. 

Not yet, anyway. Ōtautahi is exactly the right place to create an arts on prescription prototype to work alongside mainstream medical practice. Morton mentions a new initiative called Te Tumu Waiora (‘to head towards wellness’) that places ‘health improvement practitioners’ in GP clinics across Aotearoa to assist with holistic wellbeing. 

In the meantime, she is hopeful that more organisations like OCS will spring up around the country, so art-based prescriptions can be part of the alternative healing modalities on offer in the health system, available for everyone.

Artist Catherine Brougham has been working with OCS for three years now. 

“I was feeling very alone and lost because of a result of what happened to Christchurch and to daily life after the earthquakes” she says. 

A multi-disciplinary artist, Brougham says OCS has given her a sense of value and worth. 

When the pandemic hit, she found it triggered the same worries and depression as the earthquakes had. 

“The anxiety and uncertainty of what’s happened…what’s going to happen next?” 

Weekly OCS classes and check-ins, even through Zoom, helped her to manage the country’s lockdowns. In art she has found profound relief from her mental distress - so much so, she says with a hint of surprise and laughter in her voice, that she no longer really considers herself to have anxiety. 

Life's Voyage by Catherine Brougham

Another art practitioner and performer who’s found relief through her practice is Audrey Baldwin, a familiar face in the Ōtautahi arts scene. Her work has a long history of connectivity, exploring the intimacy and vulnerability of the human spirit. 

Her 2021 project Art Chemist was a literal pop-up pharmacy in Ōtautahi where she and other artists dispensed arts-based prescriptions to anyone who walked in off the street. The dispensary was consciously created to provide a space where visitors could decompress: “The physicality of it's quite important; we've got the mink blankets, we've got the salt lamps, this kind of low light, I've got nice aromatherapy scents in the space… it's all contributing to something that's going to calm down your nervous system,” she says. “And just take a moment.”

People enjoyed the opportunity to receive an over-the-counter prescription, or to engage in a consultation and have a tailored script made especially for them.

“Anyone that engaged with it pretty much always wanted the full consultation,” she says. It was a unique concoction for every patron. 

“I would think about it as a chemist; you're adding different ingredients. So I'd usually make about two or three different artworks, or communities or events that might tie in with it.” 

The Art Chemist. Photo / Audrey Baldwin

Baldwin’s art pharmacy stretched across all art forms, from poetry to performance to visual art. It worked so well that she took the apothecary to Wellington, where the city’s inhabitants benefitted from Baldwin’s repeated sharing of artworks like the commemorative mural for the 2019 terror attack, Weaving Hope.

That piece inspires unity and inclusion, concepts Baldwin returned to again and again in the capital city: the Art Chemist was operating during the occupation of Parliamentary grounds in February this year, when tensions in the city were incredibly high. 

“For me, that work talks about how often, when humanity has horrible things happen, that's when we actually come out, at our most beautiful, and the community really comes forward. And the beauty of humanity shines.” 

Baldwin said the restless and agitated psyche of the city during that unsettled period was palpable, but the dispensary doled out prescriptions for hundreds of people in the time it was open, and she found the mood around the work incredibly uplifting. Baldwin says that rather than feel diminished or drained by what was happening outside, she and the other practitioners were buoyant. It is not just those on the receiving end of artistic endeavours who experience an improvement in wellbeing.

Nor is it only the traumatised who benefit from connecting with their creativity. Arts and culture is uplifting for everyone. Kim Morton and I talk about the colouring-in craze for adults that swept the world a few years ago, and how, when given permission, adults everywhere happily engaged in colouring, finding it joyful and relaxing. The positive benefits for mental health were even outlined in a University of Otago study. They’re also seen as having a powerful impact on our wellbeing in Creative New Zealand’s New Zealanders and The Arts research. Art is an important part of the school curriculum until it becomes an elective in college: so why do we throw away the opportunity to play and create as adults?

Artists at Otautahi Creative Spaces. Photo / Ana Craw

“So many people we work with say ‘I used to love art at school, and then I stopped," says Morton. 

“Sometimes it becomes about unleashing the creativity that we used to love. At what age does it stop? Kids playing is accepted, but as adults we don’t play, really. There is an invisible line, and once you cross it… social value is placed on other things. What we want to do is shift those attitudes so that social value and social investment is made in access to creativity.”

With the pandemic continuing, and the world gripped by problems ranging from runaway economic inflation to war, creativity is something we can return to not just individually, but in which we can participate as a collective. Space 22, a bold new six-part Australian documentary series, explores the impact art and creativity can have on mental health. 

New Zealand practitioners linking diverse forms of creative expression to better mental health are part of a global movement benefitting all humanity - one that will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in times to come.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

No items found.
Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program

Art and minds: The case for art as prescription medicine

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Zulfirman Syah found it hard to sleep after the 2019 terror attack at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque. 

“I was wracked with guilt about having taken my son to the mosque with me that day,” he says. 

Both Syah and his little boy were injured, and it took months for Syah to be able to get out of bed unaided. Long after the gunshot wounds healed, the Indonesian New Zealand artist struggled with anxiety, depression and fear. 

“I think I nearly reached rock bottom. I felt terrified to go out in public, cried a lot at night.” 

But reconnecting with his art helped release Syah from the anguish that hounded him daily.

“The process of creating art became a way for me to escape the trauma, and my troubled mental state.”

Creative expression can provide these things for everyone, he says - it’s an adaptable experience.

“I think the overall process of creativity, regardless of the medium, can promote an improved mental state and improve emotional regulation.”

Syah’s perspective is both incredibly specific to the challenges he faced after March 15, and emblematic of a broader, and deepening understanding of the ability of creative practice to positively benefit the wellbeing of people who engage with it. New studies are revealing that engagement with art and cultural practice has tangible benefits not only for mental health, but for general mood and quality of life. 

These practices may become increasingly necessary in the future. Globally, the deterioration of mental health is on the rise. Medical journal The Lancet reports a considerable increase in mental distress since 2020 and the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic. For many of us, day-to-day life has changed immeasurably in ways that are difficult to cope with.

Arts may be the answer. The United Kingdom-based What Works Centre for Wellbeing reported in April 2022 that a University of London study found engagement in art, culture and community had a positive impact on wellbeing in many ways, and moreover, those participating in arts activities more than once a week experienced greater life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress. 

In order to harness these benefits, programmes such as the non-profit Arts on Prescription - a growing global movement - are demonstrating how engaging with art and creativity - whether it’s taking classes, visiting galleries and theatres, or writing and reading poetry - has a positive impact on quality of life. Not unlike ‘green prescriptions’ for general health, art on prescription looks at supplementary creative stimuli that may help an individual to feel better. 

In New Zealand, communities and organisations putting art and culture as a central tenet for wellbeing are growing. Nowhere is that more evident than Ōtautahi, Christchurch. The city is still dealing with the aftermath of the 2011-2012 earthquakes that claimed many lives and took a long-term toll on mental health and wellbeing. The 2019 terror attack on the city’s Muslim population compounded that trauma, deepening the strain on a city still finding its feet. The fallout from these two events profoundly impacted communities and the city as a whole.

Kim Morton founded Ōtautahi Creative Spaces as an answering call to the unhappiness and distress she felt around her city, post-earthquakes. The centre focuses on helping people improve their mental health and wellbeing through engagement with regular art practice, tutoring, exhibitions, and via connection to a supportive community. 

Kim Morton wearing whakapapa quilt by Ron Te Kawa and artists at OCS. Photo / Ana Craw

Morton’s voice feels like a comforting hot drink as she describes what she observes on a regular basis at OCS.

“Many of the artists that we work with say, this is more helpful than counselling, this is more helpful than medication. Our mental health system relies heavily on medication and talking therapies, and we know that that's not enough. It's got an important place, obviously, but it's not enough for people to thrive.” 

Morton, who has received the Winston Churchill Fellowship for her work and is a member of Te Ora Auaha, a national creative wellbeing network, has researched how the international arts on prescription model could work here in Aotearoa. Unsurprisingly, and in keeping with the struggle for validity that the arts and culture sector faces in Aotearoa, the government does not significantly support such a model. 

Not yet, anyway. Ōtautahi is exactly the right place to create an arts on prescription prototype to work alongside mainstream medical practice. Morton mentions a new initiative called Te Tumu Waiora (‘to head towards wellness’) that places ‘health improvement practitioners’ in GP clinics across Aotearoa to assist with holistic wellbeing. 

In the meantime, she is hopeful that more organisations like OCS will spring up around the country, so art-based prescriptions can be part of the alternative healing modalities on offer in the health system, available for everyone.

Artist Catherine Brougham has been working with OCS for three years now. 

“I was feeling very alone and lost because of a result of what happened to Christchurch and to daily life after the earthquakes” she says. 

A multi-disciplinary artist, Brougham says OCS has given her a sense of value and worth. 

When the pandemic hit, she found it triggered the same worries and depression as the earthquakes had. 

“The anxiety and uncertainty of what’s happened…what’s going to happen next?” 

Weekly OCS classes and check-ins, even through Zoom, helped her to manage the country’s lockdowns. In art she has found profound relief from her mental distress - so much so, she says with a hint of surprise and laughter in her voice, that she no longer really considers herself to have anxiety. 

Life's Voyage by Catherine Brougham

Another art practitioner and performer who’s found relief through her practice is Audrey Baldwin, a familiar face in the Ōtautahi arts scene. Her work has a long history of connectivity, exploring the intimacy and vulnerability of the human spirit. 

Her 2021 project Art Chemist was a literal pop-up pharmacy in Ōtautahi where she and other artists dispensed arts-based prescriptions to anyone who walked in off the street. The dispensary was consciously created to provide a space where visitors could decompress: “The physicality of it's quite important; we've got the mink blankets, we've got the salt lamps, this kind of low light, I've got nice aromatherapy scents in the space… it's all contributing to something that's going to calm down your nervous system,” she says. “And just take a moment.”

People enjoyed the opportunity to receive an over-the-counter prescription, or to engage in a consultation and have a tailored script made especially for them.

“Anyone that engaged with it pretty much always wanted the full consultation,” she says. It was a unique concoction for every patron. 

“I would think about it as a chemist; you're adding different ingredients. So I'd usually make about two or three different artworks, or communities or events that might tie in with it.” 

The Art Chemist. Photo / Audrey Baldwin

Baldwin’s art pharmacy stretched across all art forms, from poetry to performance to visual art. It worked so well that she took the apothecary to Wellington, where the city’s inhabitants benefitted from Baldwin’s repeated sharing of artworks like the commemorative mural for the 2019 terror attack, Weaving Hope.

That piece inspires unity and inclusion, concepts Baldwin returned to again and again in the capital city: the Art Chemist was operating during the occupation of Parliamentary grounds in February this year, when tensions in the city were incredibly high. 

“For me, that work talks about how often, when humanity has horrible things happen, that's when we actually come out, at our most beautiful, and the community really comes forward. And the beauty of humanity shines.” 

Baldwin said the restless and agitated psyche of the city during that unsettled period was palpable, but the dispensary doled out prescriptions for hundreds of people in the time it was open, and she found the mood around the work incredibly uplifting. Baldwin says that rather than feel diminished or drained by what was happening outside, she and the other practitioners were buoyant. It is not just those on the receiving end of artistic endeavours who experience an improvement in wellbeing.

Nor is it only the traumatised who benefit from connecting with their creativity. Arts and culture is uplifting for everyone. Kim Morton and I talk about the colouring-in craze for adults that swept the world a few years ago, and how, when given permission, adults everywhere happily engaged in colouring, finding it joyful and relaxing. The positive benefits for mental health were even outlined in a University of Otago study. They’re also seen as having a powerful impact on our wellbeing in Creative New Zealand’s New Zealanders and The Arts research. Art is an important part of the school curriculum until it becomes an elective in college: so why do we throw away the opportunity to play and create as adults?

Artists at Otautahi Creative Spaces. Photo / Ana Craw

“So many people we work with say ‘I used to love art at school, and then I stopped," says Morton. 

“Sometimes it becomes about unleashing the creativity that we used to love. At what age does it stop? Kids playing is accepted, but as adults we don’t play, really. There is an invisible line, and once you cross it… social value is placed on other things. What we want to do is shift those attitudes so that social value and social investment is made in access to creativity.”

With the pandemic continuing, and the world gripped by problems ranging from runaway economic inflation to war, creativity is something we can return to not just individually, but in which we can participate as a collective. Space 22, a bold new six-part Australian documentary series, explores the impact art and creativity can have on mental health. 

New Zealand practitioners linking diverse forms of creative expression to better mental health are part of a global movement benefitting all humanity - one that will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in times to come.

This story is part of the Creative Wellbeing series, a partnership between Creative New Zealand and All Right? that shines a light on the transformative wellbeing and hauora benefits that arts, culture and creativity provide. You can read the whole series here.

Creativity, evocative visual storytelling and good journalism come at a price. Support our work and join the Ensemble membership program
No items found.