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Supporting rugby players with brain injury is the aim of a pilot programme between Auckland creative space Connect the Dots and the Papatoetoe Rugby Club. 

Running from May to September this year, rugby players will join Connect the Dot’s Make Moments programme. The pilot will then gather feedback from the community and evaluate the benefits, says Andrea Gaskin, founder and Director of Connect the Dots,   

The Make Moments programme is an artmaking and art conversation programme that supports participants to explore themes in art that are relevant and meaningful to them. 

"What we love about this pilot is that it was initiated by the rugby community, who see an urgent need to support players struggling with brain injury,” Andrea says. “They had observed our work with Dementia Auckland and saw firsthand the positive impact on participants." 

More than 3000 participants

Founded in 2014 in Auckland, Connect the Dots has grown significantly over the past ten years, with more than 3000 participants currently engaging in its artmaking programmes. 

Connect the Dots started out with a much broader demographic but then began to focus on creating art programmes for older people and people living with dementia.  

"Art obviously works for all people but we soon decided to focus our attention on people living with dementia and older people because art programmes for this demographic were lacking,” Andrea says. 

The creative space is focused on quality delivery of programmes, Andrea says. "It’s imperative for our team that the artmaking experiences are high quality with regard to the professionalism of our tutors, the quality of the materials and the 'stretch' that they demand of the participants in terms of the processes and themes we explore."  

Connect the Dots values inclusion, social connections and creative expression for participants, Andrea says. And its programmes foster a place where participants can explore creatively alongside other people.  

Longterm funding is its biggest challenge

A small creative team delivers the art workshops. Like many other small charities and creative spaces, securing longterm funding is its biggest challenge. 

Connect the Dots is one of 54 creative spaces to receive three-year through Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s CARE Fund. With the funding, it’s been able to expand its Make Moments programme and move into a new studio in Onehunga. 

The Manatū Taonga funding ends in June and Andrea says the loss of funding will have an impact on the number of workshops it can offer and on job stability for the creative space’s small team. 

"This is the reality of short-term grants and of the current economic climate,” Andrea says. “Now we have the challenge of finding additional funding so we don’t have to lose staff or turn people away from our workshops."  

 A family member of one of the participants comments, "The sessions for Kole have been beyond amazing. The impact they have on his week is unmeasurable. Seeing Kole build relationships with the others at the sessions has been icing in the cake so to speak!" 

Andrea hopes Connect the Dots will be able to continue meeting the needs of the 3000 participants currently taking part in its art programmes. 

 This year, Connect the Dots is celebrating its ten-year anniversary. "Celebrating our ten-year anniversary shows we have something really valuable to offer. Despite our small size of our team, we are improving so many lives through art – something that remains our mission to this day." 


Improving lives through art


Ministry for Culture and Heritage link

Arts Access Aotearoa link

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