As a student at high school, Emma Patmore struggled to express herself.
A teenage wallflower, she was “shy and quiet” in most of her classes except art. Through her work in art class, Patmore could be loud as.
So loud, in fact, when her art teacher encouraged her to submit her work to The Creators’ Room annual scholarship awards in 2019, she won.
“I realised that I enjoyed expressing my ideas and views through art,” she says, ahead of The Creators’ Room 2020 exhibition, Art Stars.
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“I wanted to explore the Japanese culture that I wasn’t brought up with. And I wanted to express my personality through my Japanese culture as well as Kiwi culture.
“There are people who do that through writing or speaking, but I personally like to do it just by painting.”
The Creators’ Room gave her an opportunity to share her unique perspective with a much wider audience than her art teacher and the NCEA assessors.
Created by artists and art enthusiasts Sophie Paterson and Charlotte Sherratt, the Creators’ Room is dedicated to saving secondary school art from the skip.
Featuring the best work of Canterbury schools’ year 11 to 13 senior visual artists, an annual exhibition offers aspiring young creatives a leg up into the often difficult to access art world.
Money raised from sales of their work goes to help them pursue a career in the arts – so far the shows’ contributors have received $85,000 from the sale of their work.
On top of that, The Creators’ Room offers a $3000 scholarship, judged by an independent panel of artists and art experts, and an online marketplace where they can continue to sell art prints.
After being professionally framed, Patmore’s work Ki-Se-Ki appeared in the 2018 Creators’ Room exhibition where it won the scholarship before being sold.
It was later turned into limited edition prints, which are still available to purchase.
For photographer Sophie Sutherland, whose moody, Fiona Pardington-inspired floral images appeared in the 2019 exhibition, taking part was a massive creative confidence booster.
“I was surprised how well-received it was,” she says.
“I can actually create art and it’s something that people want to see.”
While selling her first piece of art was “overwhelming”, it inspired Sutherland to keep working on her craft while studying at university. She would now encourage anyone to take part in the exhibition.
“I would tell them to be proud of their work and give it a chance. You never know where the opportunity is going to take you.”
Patmore, who is now in her first year studying graphic design at Ara Institute of Canterbury, is similarly inspired to keep working.
The Creators’ Room Scholarship “meant a lot, to be honest”.
“Before I won, I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed art. Winning made me realise that I actually did want to have a career in this creative industry.
“I originally wanted to be a graphic designer, because I thought it was the only way [to be an artist and] make money. But then I realised that I wanted to do more illustration and be more of an artist in the future.”
Opening night for the next Creators’ Room exhibition, Art Stars, is August 28.
It showcases 100 works shortlisted from more than 2000 submissions from 24 Canterbury secondary schools alongside the work of established Ōtautahi guest artists.
Tickets for the opening night event are $30, from The Creators’ Room website.
While the team at Creators’ Room are hoping Christchurch will be at level 1 by then, they have a staggered viewing system in place, which will allow groups of 100 through the exhibition at a time.
For more information, keep an eye on their website.
The Creators’ Room’s Art Stars exhibition will be held from August 29 to September 10, at The Welder, 20 Welles St, Christchurch. It’s open 9am-4pm daily, and entry is free.