“Community engagement at Whitecliffe is all about moving beyond the traditional boundaries of the classroom and creating a collaborative, impactful and valuable project with others,” says Foundation Programme Leader Lynnemaree Patterson.
In 2014, twenty Whitecliffe Year One students, a Whitecliffe MA in Arts Therapy student, sponsors Resene Paints, along with Principal Alan Lyth, staff and fifty students of Bairds Mainfreight Primary School in Otara, worked together for three months to create three large murals at the school.
Last year, Whitecliffe introduced a new Community Engagement elective in the undergraduate programme. In the course, students collaborate, plan and manage a project with a range of stakeholders.
For this project, the students were tasked with creating a contemporary work that celebrated the cultural diversity and dynamism of the school and the area. Working in groups with a range of stakeholders and sponsors in a location far from Whitecliffe, working with the weather and time constraints, understanding children and dealing with other school commitments was complex. But the energy and talent of the Mainfreight pupils was wonderful for the Whitecliffe students to experience.
The murals are a credit to all involved. The relationships formed and the on-the-spot resolutions and problem solving were key to the whole project,” says Lynnemaree.
Whitecliffe student Clare Merrill was involved with the project and adds, “we were placed in a very welcoming, yet contrasting environment. Many of us had never worked with children, let alone painted with them. Being able to work alongside pupils, some as young as 6, was an experience that I'm sure none of us will ever forget. Much of our learning was done on the spot. The knowledge of the Whitecliffe MA in Arts Therapy student was also invaluable in developing strategies to work with the children and build relationships. As a group of artists, we've made many little artist friends. This elective required students to learn about the cultural diversity of Otara. A large demographic of Otara is made up of Polynesian and Maori, which made for artistic incorporation of traditional patterns and designs such as the Koru, Moko and Taniwha. We also researched tales from the past, detailing stories of Papatuanuku and Te Moana, elements that are Taonga not only to the students and school, but to everyone in Aotearoa, New Zealand.”
Whitecliffe, Lynnemaree and all students would like to thank Wendy Thomas, the teacher who masterminded the project, Principal Alan Lyth, the caretaker, staff and students of Bairds Mainfreight Primary School and project sponsors Resene Paints for a successful and collaborative project. And for the thunderous “thank-you” the primary school students gave them last week.
For recent images of the project, please visit our Facebook page.