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Gallery in finals for second consecutive Museum Awards

For immediate Release

May 19, 2017

Sarjeant Gallery makes finals of Museum Awards for second consecutive year

An innovative project to raise awareness about the damage plastic bags are causing to the environment has won educators at Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua a place in the finals at this year’s Service IQ New Zealand Museum Awards.

The Tote Bag Project 2017, which kicked off in March last year involved 1103 students from 22 schools around the Whanganui region from Year 1 to Year 13. As well as learning about the impact plastic bag use is having on the environment, students also created their own silk-screened cotton tote bags at the gallery.

The project is one of four finalists in the Most Innovative Public Programme category of this year’s awards which are being announced on Tuesday night (May 23) at the annual Museums Aotearoa Conference in Palmerston North.

The Sarjeant Gallery last year took top honours in the Regional Art category of the awards for The Horses Stayed Behind by Cat Auburn, a former Tylee Cottage artist-in-residence at the Sarjeant Gallery.

Gallery educators Sietske Jansma and Andrea Gardner say the Tote Bag Project was inspired by the “shocking facts” about the damage plastic is doing to the environment. (New Zealanders use one billion single-use plastic bags every year that break down into tiny pieces but never biodegrade - amassing in landfills and oceans.)

The gallery educators developed a five page resource kit for participating schools with information on the effect of plastic bags on the environment and links to relevant films and websites. The students were also given information about examples of reusable shopping bags made from fabric and jute and shown silkscreen printing techniques. Participating students came up with their own designs which were printed on to a cotton bag during 90 minute sessions with educators at the Sarjeant Gallery. The bags were then taken to a local dry cleaner for heat setting.

The educators say working with such large classes of children in a short time span was challenging and rewarding. They say the finished bags were impressive with bold and unique imagery – giving students a positive art experience, helping build self-esteem and building environmental awareness.

The pair say feedback from the schools has been excellent and children have been seen out in the Whanganui community proudly using their tote bags.

The Tote Bag Project has also been offered as part of the gallery’s holiday programme. Some of the tote bags were included in an end of year student exhibition in December 2016. The tote bags have the Sarjeant Gallery logo printed on them which has also helped promote the gallery to the wider community.

Parents have expressed interest in participating in sessions for adults using larger stronger cotton bags and the gallery is continuing to get requests from schools wanting to participate in the project.

Gallery director Greg Anderson says the Museums Aotearoa awards attract high calibre entries and getting another Sarjeant Gallery project nominated for the finals is testament to a small team of dedicated staff members, with innovative ideas for raising awareness of the arts and encouraging public participation.


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