It is an exciting time for Rotorua artist Barbara Bew as she sees the vision for her art come to fruition and raises awareness of topics close to her heart.

Last year Bew raised awareness by having an exhibition, with the proceeds of the art sold going to Women's Refuge, which paid for paint to redecorate the three safe houses here in Rotorua, she said.

She said as a result of this exhibition her art had been seen and she had now been invited to send works to New York and the United Kingdom next year.

Bew was invited by SAFE Inc chief executive Jasmine Joseph Oritz to send works to New York as part of a gala fundraiser in January.


SAFE Inc highlights the plight of women trapped in human trafficking and provides a safe haven for women recovering from sex slavery so they can rebuild their lives.

She has also been invited to send art to the United Kingdom for the exhibition Veritas Justice at the end of this month to raise awareness about stalking.

She will also travel to New York late next year for a solo exhibition to raise awareness about human trafficking and the exploitation of women.

"For me personally, it's about how the human spirit rises above adversity and goes on to achieve, and that I'm not defined by one horrific event.

"If my art touches one life and their freedom, then that's why I speak out."

Being an artist who paints for humanitarian causes is important to Bew because of her own experience.

Bew said she was once violently assaulted. She has also faced a number of other trials in her life including falling and breaking her leg, being in a car crash, having a big flood in the house, her two dogs getting sick and dying and then losing a close friend.

She said at that point she stepped away from her nursing career to take care of herself and ACC deemed she would benefit from a psychologist.


Bew said she worked with a psychologist for a year, dealing with the trauma of the assault.

She explored her emotions through art, and art therapy helped her recover, she said.

She said she started to do canvas work three years ago when she created one for her baptism and to thank God that she had survived.

"I emerged as an artist. As I recovered I became more and more aware of how domestic violence can affect a person's life.

"I wanted to speak out about what happened to me."

She said she was now seeing the vision for her art coming to fruition.

Bew plans to turn Agape, her art business, into a charitable trust where money can be given to causes that benefit survivors of domestic violence.