Raglan artist Yaniv Janson has been awarded the Arts Access Pak'n'Save Artistic Achievement Award 2019 for his outstanding artistic achievements in both New Zealand and internationally, along with his commitment to using art to engage people in social and environmental issues.

He was one of those honoured at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2019, presented in Wellington by Arts Access Aotearoa on Wednesday evening and hosted by Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni.

The annual awards are the key national awards in New Zealand celebrating the achievements of individuals and organisations providing opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts as artists and audience members. They also recognise the achievements of an artist with a disability, sensory impairment or lived experience of mental illness.

Executive director of Arts Access Aotearoa, Richard Benge, said that one in four people in New Zealand — more than one million — live with a disability or impairment.

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"That's a lot of people, who all have the right to enjoy the arts as artists, participants, audience members and gallery visitors," he said. "Tonight, we celebrate the achievements and contributions of people and communities who make Aotearoa New Zealand a rich, diverse and creative country."

Yaniv has exhibited in more than 40 galleries in New Zealand, France, Montenegro, Canada, Israel and the United States.

He has sold more than 160 paintings, won 20 awards and is the youngest guest artist invited to exhibit at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington. Five of his works are in the Wallace Arts Trust collection.

His artworks have also been made into several books.

Yaniv has autism and epilepsy but says he doesn't let either dictate who he is. He likes to paint on a large canvas, using vibrant colours to draw people into his work.

Yaniv has been painting since 2007. Throughout his creative journey, a central theme has remained constant: to empower individuals to use expression, outreach, and education as a tool for social change.

In 2018, his exhibition Please Do Touch featured in the United Nations headquarters in New York, coinciding with the annual UN meeting of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The idea of Please Do Touch came from his desire to enable people to experience art through different senses, and to challenge what is done and not done in the art world. Before the paintings were exhibited at the UN, Yaniv exhibited them in Montenegro and Paris.

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"The thing I'm most proud of is how the Please Do Touch idea has travelled around the world.

The paintings have not yet been exhibited in New Zealand but will feature at ArtsPost, the gallery of the Waikato Museum in Hamilton, in January and February 2020.

Yaniv would like to take Please Do Touch to all schools in New Zealand.

He's put together a sustainable goals journal for students, inviting them to express their creativity on its pages and motivating them to take action on environmental issues.

The journal and a pilot project were launched at Te Uku School, near Raglan and aims to result in 130 positive actions in the Raglan-Te Uku community.