Alpha Art Studio and Gallery offers a bright, inviting space in central Wellington, where a group of creative adults can meet in an accessible and safe environment to practise their art. The individuals, all with Intellectual Disabilities or Sensory Impairment, are able to participate in a wide range of workshops including, scrap-booking, jewellery and print making and 3D. Eryn, the co-ordinator at Alpha, explained how experiencing a variety of different art-making mediums enables each person to explore their own creativity and learn new skills.
Voluntary work is part of the ethos at Alpha and the artists volunteer for a variety of organizations including, Wellington City Mission and Meals on Wheels. To be active in the community Alpha gets involved with a whole range of groups and projects, not least Wellington Timebank. So how does this work out in practice?
Alpha, as an organisation, is a Timebank member, which means all of the artists can offer their services and also benefit from trading exchanges. The creative working relationship between the two means that the artists at Alpha can get involved in a huge amount of meaningful community activity, that might not otherwise present itself. For example, says Eryn, ‘We can all go for a walk because we enjoy it, but going for a walk whilst delivering pamphlets is still enjoyable, but has an added purpose.’
Jamie and David enjoying their art work
She added, ‘Money, being an abstract concept, can be one that the artists struggle to understand, but doing a favour and getting one in return makes sense and gives worth.’ And the time-credits give the artists a sense of being valued for the work they have been involved in.
Timebank also has benefits for the staff at Alpha. As Alpha’s funding provides for Monday to Friday 9-4pm, this can present something of a challenge. It is difficult to continually ask hard-working staff to volunteer their time, unpaid, to attend the organization’s many successful weekend and evening events. This is where Timebank has almost become another staff-member, helping to support projects and individuals by providing one-off volunteers for after-hours activities. Eryn appreciates this very real contribution, saying, ‘Timebankers are community-minded and in our experience are always lovely human beings.’ Additionally, Alpha’s staff, being Timebankers themselves, can always be ‘paid’ in time-credits.
Alpha’s most active Timebanker, Matthew, photographed with the chair he re-vamped, has helped people move house, delivered flyers for Newtown Community Centre, assisted with recycling and dump missions and worked in a number of gardens. I am also reliably informed that he is great with DIY around the studio.
Some of their more recent notable trades include felting and card-making workshops, help hanging the exhibits, having the computer ‘fixed’ and receiving professional light and sound expertise for one of their art shows.
Alpha has had Christmas Markets for the last two years now, the first being heARTS and crafts and the second, ho ho homemade. Timebank uses this venue for its Christmas No S*** Giftshop, paying for the hire with time-credits and volunteers who ran the gift-wrapping station. These events have been hugely successful, generating publicity, interest and bringing lots of people to the studio and gallery who had never visited before.
The gallery, as well as being available for hire by the wider arts community, is used to actively promote the work of the artists practising here: seeking to share with the public both the pride and the happiness experienced whilst creating.
I was certainly aware of the sense of creativity and celebration on my recent visit, and also recognised the mutual benefit these organisations derive from such collaboration.
Story by Sue Jenkins