Take 320 boys, 40 staff, one Artist in Residence, a desire to ‘give back’, and a community of supportive whānau, and you get ‘a whole lot of Wellesley Magic’.
Held in the last week of Term 3, every second year, Wellesley’s Residency & Student Art exhibition showcases and sells artworks produced during ‘ARTWEEK’ by students and the ‘Artist in Residence’. This year, artist Natchez Hudson spent three weeks creating and mentoring boys of all year groups.
‘ARTWEEK’ is the culmination of the biennial ARTBOURNE ‘Artist in Residence’ Programme, run by Wellesley, to raise Scholarship funds for the school’s foundation to support boys who would not otherwise be able to attend the school. This has obvious added benefits for all students who can see a professional artist create their work alongside our boys in the Wellesley Art Room.
Mr. Brendan Pitman, Principal at Wellesley, says “it was an honour having our 2019 Artist in Residence, Natchez Hudson, work his magic with our boys. Seeing an artist of his calibre, who can sit beside the boys, talk, create and show the pathway of an artist, is inspiring. Programmes like these offer our boys access to their creative side and give opportunities to take risks in their learning. They allow boys to see the Arts as a viable career pathway to be considered in the future.”
The theme for ARTWEEK this year was ‘Collections and Connections’, and the focus for the boys was ‘Create for a Cause’, an initiative led by Mr. Glen Jorna, Head of Arts at Wellesley, and a successful exhibiting artist in his own right, and whose art has flourished in recent years. This is a testament to the school’s philosophy of supporting staff and boys to follow their passions.
“Service to others is a key aspect of our value system at Wellesley. We wanted the boys to have a focus, something outside of themselves, for the week and to enjoy the positive aspect that art-making has on wellbeing and the brain. We chose to donate a percentage of the sale proceeds from the Art Exhibition to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, an organisation that supports people with anxiety and depression. Our aim is to raise $3000.”- Glen Jorna
Student mental health is an important topic in schools right now, and Wellesley believes in laying down the foundations for wellbeing and resilience from the very early years to help boys develop in mind, body and spirit.
In addition to its ‘Wellesley Wellbeing Programme’, the school holds regular “Insights Evenings” aimed at educating parents and the wider community about issues affecting boys. During her talk on ‘Enhancing Emotional Resilience’, educational psychologist, Kathryn Berkett from ENGAGE, outlined the latest research in neuroscience and its impact on wellbeing and resilience. A visit by White Ribbon ambassador, Richie Hardcore, addressed the pressures that technology places on boys and how to help them form healthy relationships and become good, caring men.
“In this age of digital ubiquity, mental and physical wellbeing must be central to how we approach education,” says Mr. Pitman.
“Latest Mental Health Foundation statistics show one in five young Kiwis will be affected by depression or anxiety by the age of 19. Teaching boys how to understand themselves and others and giving them strategies to cope with setbacks and their emotions, is critical to their educational foundation.”
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand believes that initiatives such as Wellesley’s Wellbeing Programme are essential to reducing mental health stigma and discrimination. Fundraising Administrator Tia Reweti-Saunders said, on behalf of Foundation:
“Being able to provide young men with the tools they need to address their mental health is not only critical, but an excellent example of exploring one’s way to wellbeing. This was the main theme of the Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week Campaign for 2019. “
Wellesley aims to weave wellbeing into every area of the curriculum, and as such, provides every opportunity for boys to be involved in the Arts and express their emotions through the process of art-making:
“It’s important to give boys the opportunity to have mindful and creative moments. For example, I make the art room available during lunchtimes and a high percentage of boys in all year groups come in to “get some headspace” during the lunch hour”, says Mr. Jorna.
He has begun incorporating short periods of silence in his lessons to allow boys to “centre themselves and access right-brain creativity that helps with collaboration, problem-solving and resilience”. The boys’ response has been very positive:
“In a world of noise, chatter and business, these moments of silence are crucial for wellbeing, mental health and creativity”, he says.
Access to and participation in the Arts has also been recognized by the Government as part of their latest ‘Wellbeing budget’ with $7.15 Million earmarked towards the “Creatives in Schools” initiative. Schools can now apply for grants to host an artist in residence to “enhance students’ well-being, improve their core competencies in communication, collaboration and creative thinking, and inspire students to be aware of careers in the arts and creative sectors.”
Wellesley has a long legacy of fostering the Arts as part its enhanced primary school curriculum, and students have access to a specialist Art teacher and extension opportunities from year 1, fostering curiosity and the love of learning from a young age.
This year’s ‘Artist in Residence’ programme was the school’s fifth in a row, and the initiative ‘Create for a Cause’ gave boys the opportunity to engage in creativity, while connecting to the wider community.
“We give thanks to all who participated and contributed to the success of Wellesley’s ARTWEEK. The benefits of this initiative will transcend beyond the bounds of a simple school art project and provide these young men with tools they can use for the rest of their lives, thus leading to a New Zealand where all people are able to flourish. We look forward to having the opportunity to work alongside Wellesley School for boys again in the future!”- Ms Reweti-Saunders
Wellesley is an independent primary school for boys from years 1-8, located in a unique setting between the hills and the sea in Days Bay, Eastbourne. To find out more about Wellesley’s enriched curriculum or enrolment opportunities, contact our firstname.lastname@example.org
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