Big public canvas for therapeutic art project

By Kristin Macfarlane

Art is a lot more than creating pretty pictures - it can also be therapeutic and engaging for those doing it.

Diversional therapists Paul Mc Cann and Gavin Wallace started a project called Art for Recovery a couple of years ago, providing access to art for those in Rotorua Hospital.

Yesterday, the pair took their work to Rotorua's Art in the Park at the Government Gardens. Jaz Te Pairi, 11, was one of the many people who tried the art form at the Art for Recovery stall at Art in the Park and enjoyed it.

As part of the project, Mr Mc Cann draws outlines of art templates on boards, paper or canvas for patients to colour in as they wish.

He said it was similar to painting by numbers, without the numbers. Mr Mc Cann said it was particularly helpful and therapeutic for mental health patients.

"It's providing a space for people to have time for themselves," Mr Mc Cann said.

He said the project was about engaging inpatient unit patients by introducing them to the art works - some of which have become communal with several patients painting on one artwork.

Over the last couple of years the project has seen a lot of positive results. Some of the results include increased opportunities for nurse-client interactions, clients were more conscious of being involved in giving through donating of artworks, patients were more involved in the arts in the community, and all community mental health buildings now had art work from the project.

They also organised an art sale and $2800 was raised, with the proceeds going towards the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

Mr Mc Cann said the project was self-sufficient because money raised from paintings went back into it to buy more art supplies such as paint and canvas.

The artworks were priced from $20-$250 and were displayed around different spaces in the community.

Mr Mc Cann and Mr Wallace said the project also involved gifting artworks to the Lakes District Health Board departments.

Eventually, Mr Mc Cann and Mr Wallace would like the project to be introduced at all district health boards around the country.

If anyone would like to donate paint or money to the Art for Recovery project, they can contact Paul Mc Cann by phoning him on (022) 0501721 or emailing; alternatively contact Gavin Wallace, phone 027 748 3220 or email

- Rotorua Daily Post

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