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About Ōtautahi Creative Spaces


We’re all about getting creative with mental health.  Our mission is transforming lives through creativity.



Carmen Brown at her exhibition ShapeshifterWe are an artist-centred creative wellbeing initiative. We support people with experience of mental distress to pursue their aspirations, and provide a shared space for bravery, risk taking and creative experimentation. People explore their creativity, in the art forms they choose, at their pace. We broker awesome opportunities for community connection and engagement with contemporary art. Artist leadership is actively supported.  

The foundation for the work is Te Whare Tapa Whā, with the four dimensions of health tinana (physical health), whānau (family health), hinengaro (mental health), and wairua (spiritual health) supported and in synergy. The core values which underpin practice include manaakitanga (hospitality), whakawhanaungatanga (relationships), auahatanga (creativity) and  kotahitana (unity).

A sense of belonging and identity as an artist is the catalyst for change – through being part of a creative community, people find they are more stable, more connected to other people, more involved in their community, and more able to cope with adversity.

Rebecca Yianakis with the artworkers of Room 5

We do this through:

  • Studio creativity groups

  • Artist mentoring

  • Brokering opportunities to engage in contemporary art

  • Exhibitions

  • Advocacy for arts and health



Ōtautahi Creative Spaces was set up in Christchurch in 2015 in response to the high levels of mental distress following the earthquakes. This followed a research phase funded by Creative New Zealand, which found that unlike other parts of the country, people in Christchurch had little access to creativity to support their wellbeing and there was a need for specialist creative wellbeing programmes which are tailored for this community.  

From the outset our core work has been studio sessions for artists with experience of distress.  Initially held in partnership with printmaking studio Toi Te Karoro, in mid 2015 we joined the emerging Phillipstown Community Hub, at the former Phillipstown School, establishing our studio Room 5 there. In 2016 and 2017, we trialled outreach delivery through Christchurch City Libraries and the Southern Health School. At the end of 2017, a reduction in funding led to the decision to consolidate creativity groups and artist mentoring work within our studio Room 5. Since that time, we have supported young people and adults, including running partnership programmes with Kakakura Health and Totara House CDHB, and have undertaken a number of collaborative art projects and exhibitions.  

A full evaluation of the project was completed in 2018 by Ihi Research which found profound impact of our programmes on artists wellbeing and general health. Read the report here.

In 2018 we were awarded the Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Holdsworth Creative Space Award.

Arts Access Aotearoa Awards 2018



Ihi Research

“The unique, creative art-based community approach provides an important and effective method to strengthening wellbeing and continuation of the programme is highly recommended.”

“Being engaged in individual and social art-making activities can have a profound impact on people’s mental health and can strengthen general wellbeing. We found that identity as an artist, rather than as a person with experience of distress, is the catalyst for change.”

Cath Savage, Director, Ihi Research


Totara House, Canterbury District Health Board

Totara House Art

"Creating a place of security and safety is fundamental and from our experience of observing what our young people need - not just to survive but to thrive - following trauma (whether that is from the earthquakes, other life experiences or the experience of psychosis itself). Room 5, and the artists and mentors, absolutely manage to create this space, and I continue to be very grateful to be part of it."

Eleanor Baggot Senior Clinical Psychologist, Tōtara House, Canterbury District Health Board.


Kakakura Health ServicesWhakaraupo Carving Centre Project

"It's about manaakitanga too. You guys restore the mana of each individual as well as the group - the collective group. You give them options on the table every week - sometimes they do that, sometimes they don't. It's about restoring what they want."

Ngaio Stewart, Kakakura Health Services


University of Canterbury Intern Programme

University of Canterbury Intern

“One student has returned to the United States and her experience with Ōtautahi Creative Spaces has influenced her future career direction, where she is developing a similar model in her home state and regularly keeps in contact with the artists and staff here.”

Stephen Hardman, University of Canterbury.



Laura Fergusson Trust

Laura Fergusson Trust Logo

"The Laura Fergusson Trust Canterbury is very proud to partner with Ōtautahi Creative Spaces Trust. The calm, positive, social environment that the art groups provide are beneficial for improving and maintaining our clients overall wellbeing, especially those with brain injuries."

Eleanor Jackson, Laura Fergusson Trust.


Our board

Sarah Campagnolo - Chairperson

Kate Griffiths - Treasurer

Beth Nobes

Rachael Welfare

Felicite Jardine


Our team

Kim Morton - Director

Hēmi Te Hēmi - Cultural and Youth Development Support 

Paola Mastria - Administrator and Finance Manager

Alexia Martin - Art Worker

Issy Wiersma - Art Worker 

Justine Balcar - Youth Art Worker

Rachel Zanders - Art worker 

Joseph Clarke - Relief Art Worker 

Pip - Wellbeing dog 


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Through her art,  Carmen Brown presents a unique way of seeing, offering to Christchurch a defiant sense of place, regeneration, recovery and hope. Thank you so much to the Rātā Foundation for this incredible film about Carmen's exhibition Shapeshifter.


Graham Adams talks about his life as an artist, being part of the studio Room 5 and preparing for his first solo exhibition. Thank you so much to the Laura Fergusson Trust for creating this film.

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