By Jodi Bryant

A Whangarei art teacher is hoping to use her 'unforgettable' birthday experience of meeting the rapper Savage to benefit kids in Whangarei Hospital.
In August, Julia Tapp was gifted a ticket to the Savage concert from her husband Jason. However, at the last minute, she had an idea and, in just two hours, the talented artist and owner of Northland Arts Centre 'busted out two of the fastest portraits I have ever done'.
"I came up with the idea of the Kits for Kids just before the concert and it was like a penny-drop moment and I knew in my heart it was right," Julia explains. "I have always done celebrity portraits and auctioned them for charity. The last one was for St John after our son passed away. This is the first time we are doing it for the hospital."
Julia took the portraits along to the concert and showed the staff at the event in the hope Savage would autograph one. She describes the concert as 'an amazing night filled with middle-aged dancing and fist-pumping' when, one of the organisers approached her and asked if she was the lady who painted Savage, before inviting them backstage.
"I was ecstatic. I used to clear his tables when I was a waitress in my teens when he was starting out. He doesn't remember me from then, of course!
"I was really honoured that they allowed us backstage to meet him and his amazing crew and support acts… I explained what we are fundraising for and told him about our angel charities.
"He was really interested in our cause which was amazing because he was due onstage in 15 minutes and took the time to sign it and let us get photos."
Kits for Kids entails providing art supplies to children in hospital over the Christmas period. While Julia gifted one of the portraits to Savage, the matching signed one will go up for auction with the proceeds going towards compiling the art kits.
"Although the concert was a birthday present, I have decided that spreading joy and love and creativity is money better spent because it creates a flow-on effect. When we do something for others, it often comes back in one way or another – sometimes that warm feeling of knowing you brought a smile is enough. We wanted to share the love and art even more and extend that gift to the children who need it most but are unable to leave hospital.

"The hospital has around 25 beds in the children's ward and many children end up there from the emergency department with little warning. I am at operation number 10 and my husband was in Starship for a while as a child so we know a few things about hospital stays," she adds.

Julia says there are no limits to art and creativity and cites the recent completion of an airbrushing mural by a special needs student who started at the arts centre in June.
"He has managed to complete huge feats in the three months he has trained with us. We like to smash boundaries and limitations. If you can dream it, then you can make it a reality. Sometimes we just need it explained in a different way which is where being a teacher definitely helps."


Art supply donations towards the art kits have already begun and Julia is hoping the proceeds from the auction will allow them to provide the remainder.

"We were incredibly lucky to meet Savage and even luckier that he was willing to sign our portrait of him but we need help spreading the word, not only about the auction, but also looking for donations of art equipment, stickers, paper etc to put into these Kits for Kids."
The autographed painting will go up for auction on Trade Me (with phone-in bids an option) in November with the kits delivered to the hospital the week before Christmas. Julia is also hoping to provide art tuition to the children.

"The concert was a bonus but this portrait could go to better causes than sitting on my wall and I know the kits will make their Christmas a little brighter and more joyful."
Progress updates will be posted to the Northland Arts Centre Facebook page and Kits for Kids donations can be dropped off at Northland Arts Centre 1/10 John St, Whangarei.