The Hobart

LOCAL PERSON: Diane Reynoldson

by Peta Hen
LOCAL PERSON: Diane Reynoldson

Working with people serving time in prison takes compassion, understanding and a big heart. Occupational ther­apist and art therapy teacher, Diane Reynoldson, has these assets and more, helping inmates make positive change through art. We spoke with Di about her work for the Prison Fellowship and the upcoming art exhibition, Art from the Inside.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up on a farm in Northern Victoria near the Murray River surrounded by big old gum trees and a large family. Now I live in Hobart where I get to walk daily, either on the mountain (kunanyi) or down by the river. I’ve always lived close to open spaces and nature.

350 Chev by Cody S

Tell us a little about your work. I’m an occupational therapist and I also have a Diploma in Art Therapy. I work with people who for some reason (injury, aging, disability or disadvantage) need help to re-engage in life. My work involves adapting environments, teaching new skills for living and providing support to enable people to live the best lives they can.

What drew you to work for the Prison Fellowship (PF)? I was drawn to the fact that PF was concerned with the spiritual wellbeing of prisoners, their families and those people released from prison. I had been doing some voluntary art classes at a young women’s refuge and the detention centre when it was at Brighton and could see how art made a difference to those who had suffered trauma in their lives. When a person from PF asked me if I would be willing to take art sessions in the prison, I was very interested to see if art in prison could become a vehicle for positive life change.

What are the benefits of tutoring art in prison? I have learnt so much by tutoring in prison – the biggest learning has been around my renewed sense of shared humanity, i.e., we all struggle with unforgiveness, we are all wanting to be loved and need grace in our lives. As I’ve listened to the stories of the prison­ers, I have become aware of how much disadvantage and trauma many have faced in their lives and often wonder if I had not been so advantaged what my life would look like now.

Untitled Art by Allan J

How has the program been received by inmates? Most of the prisoners who participate say that the art sessions are a place where they can relax and be them­selves. They say that even when they are challenged by the activities or the themes we explore, they enjoy being there and often feel proud of the work they produce. They say the classes help them to forget their circumstances while they are there and that they get to do cool things that they have never had the opportunity to do before, like painting and ceramics and making things.

You’re curating an art exhibition show­casing prisoner’s artwork. Tell us about that. Art From Inside is an exhibition of prisoners’ work. It will be held at the Waterside Pavilion at Mawson’s Place from 17-20 August with the opening night on 16 August. This year the theme is ‘Grace – The Gift’. Many artists from the prison will address the theme while others may not, but the work is thought-pro­voking and of various levels of skill and execution. This year, as for all other years, there is a community engagement instal­lation that will offer a fusion of prison and community artwork. It’s well worth getting along, and the entry is free.

What do you love doing outside work? I love cooking for others, sharing meals and wine with family and friends, walking (especially bushwalking), swimming in the ocean, and hanging out with my dog Gus who sings and is very stick focused. I also love hanging out with my friends and their kids and painting, of course. Oh, and I’m learning German!

Iceberg by Vanessa W

Who do you admire? My kids – I have two sons who are now adults. They are amazing human beings and I am so blessed to have them in my life. It has been one of the joys of my life seeing them develop a heart for others and believe in social justice. They are so interesting and now they are teaching me stuff. How did that happen? And then there is Bob Brown and Brene Brown and so many more people including my dear friend Kim who is the bravest and most humble person I know.

Favourite podcast or tv show? I don’t watch much TV or listen to podcasts that often, but I loved Alone Australia on SBS recently – just seeing people survive in those Tasmanian wild places and facing their demons. It was so inspiring.

Secret vice? So many, but let’s say chocolate bullets because that was the vice I indulged in today!

What are you reading now? Tin Man by Sara Winman.

What gets your goat? People who abuse their power. A sense of entitlement. An ungrateful attitude. The degradation of the environment for wealth and short-sighted gains.

What was your first job? Milking the cows – does that count if you weren’t paid? My first job as an occupational therapist was in an activity centre for adults with cerebral palsy – gosh we had fun doing gardening, painting and going on camps.

What are your daily news/social media habits? I listen to the ABC Radio National and Local Radio when I’m in the car – which is a lot. I do suss out Facebook as I’m part of a few different groups that I’m interested in like Lightweight Hiking and Tasmanian Bird Watching and Photography and I like Pinterest for great craft ideas that I adapt for some of my classes in prison.

Your favourite place (in Hobart) for…

Breakfast: Dispatch, New Town

Lunch: The Shed at Derwent Estate, Granton overlooking the Derwent

Dinner: At a friend’s place around their table with other friends, shared food and wine

Favourite Hobart secret? The walks on the mountain, kunanyi, and Lost Freight Cafe

Parting words? The one thing I have learnt more recently is that independence does not equal success or happiness. What equals success and a happy life is interdependence, where we are there for one another and not scared to share our weaknesses or our strengths.

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June 2024

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