A blue canvas with a striking image of a butterfly behind bars is featuring in the capital's first exhibition dedicated to prisoner artwork.

The striking painting is one of 20 pieces that make up From The Inside, an exhibition that opens today at Expressions Whirinaki and runs throughout October.

Flora and fauna are the common themes throughout the paintings, however a number of artworks also explore their own connection to the outside world.

Volunteer art tutors Karina Fraser and Matt Weavers have been working with Expressions Whirinaki director Leanne Wickham and Arts Access Aotearoa to make the project a reality.


Fraser, who has spent the last 20 years volunteering in Rimutaka Prison and the last five as an art tutor, said the exhibition was a chance for prisoners to have a voice in the outside world.

"We do remember the victim, and we do honour the journey of the inmate," Fraser said.

"[Prisoners] having a forum like this, especially to give back to the community, is something they want to do.

"From my perspective, that is also part of the rehabilitation process as well."

The project started after a number of diners at Rimutaka Prison's Plate to Gate event wanted to buy the artwork on display.

A number of the exhibition artworks will be available to purchase, with all proceeds going to Women's Refuge.

Fraser said picking up the paintbrushes has also helped the prisoners to explore themselves in a way they had not done before.

"What they are asked to do can be quite hard and so art is a really good therapy for them."

Each piece will have a brief description of the artist, but will not reveal their names for privacy reasons.

Rimutaka Prison's volunteer co-ordinator, Julie Clifton said the exhibition is also a chance for the community to view the prisoners in a different light.

"They have done pretty awful things to be in there, but they are not totally that crime, so this exhibition is other parts of their humanity," Clifon said.

"The volunteers are providing a real social interaction with the guys as well, so it's not just the art. They are expanding their social skills and some form of connection to the outside world."

Weavers said the exhibition, which runs until the end of October, has opened the door to a new perspective for the inmates, and the community.

"The idea is to give the guys a voice, and open their eyes to the opportunities that may exist for them post rehabilitation.

"If this contributes to a reduction to any re-offending rate, then that's good for everyone."