Kia ora, Hi, *Waves*,
My name is Eryn and I’m the founder and director of Opportunity Arts. I’m a bit of a scruffy punk, a people person with “mad aroha” for inclusion, art, community, conversation and laughter.
The seed for Opportunity Arts started by accident back in 2010 when I was at art school, heeding the advice of my tutor (shout out - Aaron Frater!) to go and check out Vincent’s Art Workshop in Wellington. Something you’ll hear most Vincents artists say is “it changed my life” and it really did change mine! At Vincent’s Art Workshop anyone with an interest in creating art is welcome to the free central Wellington art studio. At the time, I didn’t really know what ‘the philosophy of inclusion’ was, all I knew was that I had found a new home. I began wagging art school to hang out making art at Vincent’s and I wound up being a (very part-time) relieving tutor for a number of years until a role came up at at Alpha Studio and Gallery - a vocational centre and art studio for adults with intellectual disability run through Idea Services. The seed starting sprouting.
At Alpha, I was lucky to work alongside some amazing people full of passion and dedication to their work of empowering and supporting artists, promoting their work and advocating for their inclusion within contemporary art practice. The artists we supported humbled me with the lessons they taught me and honored me with the friendships and mutual respect that grew over those five years. My eyes got to regularly feast on colourful, unselfconscious, bold works.
Being support workers first and foremost - our hours and roles were restricted by MSD contracts and ensuring that the artists unique needs were looked after. These needs always came before any of the art stuff. We worked like Trojans for our artists, but often there were barriers to inclusion in the contemporary art scene such as finances, access or stigmatization. Sometimes it felt as if we weren’t wanted, or if we were it came with a ‘disability’ tag. We knew our art was good - let us get in the door and show you! Sometimes we’d have to get a bit punk rock about it and kick that door down, sneaking into competitions and shows making no reference to disability - because it wasn’t relevant and the work clearly stood on its own merit.
Alpha Studio and Gallery has since sadly closed down (RIP 2017) but I just couldn’t keep away and some of the awesome artists of Alpha are now on a new journey with Opportunity Arts.
Out of this past supporting brilliant artists to have more access in the art world, Opportunity Arts was born. The vision for Opportunity Arts is varied - it’s a large tree with firm roots and many branches. I’ve got some big dreams for it, checking out our missions and vision should give you a good idea of the scope and scale! I’m most excited about working with talented and emerging artists who are dedicated to their practice. I see the public and commercial appeal to their work and know it’s deserving of a larger audience. I’m focused on ability, not disability - and want to see the artists we work with showcased alongside their contemporaries. I aim to influence the NZ contemporary art scene so that it reflects the diverse voices of New Zealand. Opportunity arts intends to move to a social enterprise model, and ya know what? We wanna make money! But not in that greedy way, we want to be a “business for good” where all profits go back into furthering our social outcomes. We want you to join us!