The end of the year is fast approaching.

But around this time I usually carve out some time to do a painting to go on the front of my Christmas cards. It's just that I'm not too sure what it will be for 2016. I'm fortunate to live in a province with lots of scenic opportunities, so although I am spoilt for choice, I am hoping that inspiration will strike soon. But thinking about painting has got me thinking about how art and having it as a hobby has added to my life over the years.

Any sort of experience through a wide range of arts reflects upon our own being. It can both challenge us and enrich us and I can attest to that personally. Often we are challenged in unexpected ways. Think about visiting an art gallery. Sometimes I return to an artwork several times and I see something new in each viewing.

We have examples of passion for the arts locally. Citizen's Award winner in 2014 and new elected councillor Gloria Webby overflows with enthusiasm for the arts and the opportunities available in Stratford. I think her enthusiasm is well-placed - art adds to the life of the community and keeps us in touch with the soul aspect of our humanity. Hobbies are good for a balanced life. There's research showing the soothing effects of activities like knitting or other handcrafts. When we get engrossed in our work and our daily lives we all need something that nourishes the other side of our brain. It can relax and refresh us so that when the time comes to head to work, we are ready.


The Taranaki Patchworkers and Quilters Guild Quilt Show was a blaze of creative colour and the In Stitches Challenge attracted a record number of entries this time. Craft enthusiasts of all ages and stages will return in a couple of years' time to enjoy another 200 pieces, no doubt.

The Village Art Gallery is a wonderful community initiative in Eltham and Percy Thomson Gallery is a gallery of national significance. Rhonda, the very knowledgeable curator, will happily chat and point out interesting details. What a wonderful place to enhance your children's or grandchildren's appreciation of art.

The Stratford Art Society Members Exhibition coming soon is a true testament to the dynamic local art scene, so make sure you check it out from November 11 until December 4. If you walk down the main street of Stratford you will find craft shops full of supplies and inspiration such as In Stitches and The Beadhold and you could do a workshop at Verdigris Studio. If the dramatic arts like acting, dancing or modelling are your 'thing', then Studio 2 or Stratford-on-Stage is your place. That's just for starters - there's bound to be other groups I don't know about.

Recently, Estella Van Der Lee, a Year 12 student at Stratford High School, was selected to travel to London and Stratford-Upon-Avon next July to be part of the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand Young Shakespeare Company. This is a great opportunity of how participation in the arts adds to life: in Estella's case a fantastic once in a lifetime overseas trip and a chance to work with other like-minded people. So as the days get longer and the weather turns warmer how about trying out a new hobby, visiting a gallery or taking a moment to have a gentle ramble in the refreshingly peaceful atmosphere of the park at Hollard Gardens. It's all just a matter of taking part and enjoying it really. As for me, I can hear my studio beckoning.

Chester's Stratford office is based in the Stratford Community House on Juliet St.

Phone 06 765 8464 or email