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Recovered stroke victim finds new skills

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 07:54 19/10/2012
Craig Banton
JASON OXENHAM
MR DECEMBER: Craig Banton discovered a talent for painting after attending an art class for adults affected by stroke.

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The last thing former truck driver Craig Banton thought he would ever become was an abstract artist.

But after attending an arts class for stroke-affected adults Mr Banton found a passion for painting, and now has his work featured in a special calendar.

He suffered a stroke on Mother's Day 2009, and says it was the "biggest shakeup" of his life.

The stroke occurred in the right-hand side of his brain, which therefore affected the left-hand side of his body including his leg, arm, vision and speech.

No longer able to drive trucks, Mr Banton turned to the Spark Centre in Morningside, where he joined a visual arts class for people affected by stroke.

"Boy, was that an eye-opener," he says.

"Kiwi males don't talk about their lives and their shortcomings and open up, it's not the thing to do."

Aside from meeting others affected by stroke, he discovered a knack for creating large-scale artworks using a pouring technique.

"I was brought up on a farm and from the age of 7 learnt how to build fences, drive tractors and all that.

"The only painting you did was the house or the barn. Not on the bloody canvas," he says.

"But as I've learnt now, anything is art."

One of his artworks, a striking piece called Untitled, now features as the final page in a 2013 calendar created to fundraise for the Spark Centre.

The calendar consists entirely of works produced by adults who attend the stroke visual arts programme at the centre.

Stroke is the major cause of disability in New Zealand, leaving many sufferers with limited movement, speech, memory or co-ordination.

Donna Jaser from Spark says the arts programme "enables them to take control of their lives again, because stroke has affected them so dramatically".

She hopes the calendar will help raise awareness for the cause and also much-needed funds for the centre.

"The students come in here and they pay a very small fee and we subsidise the rest of it," Ms Jaser says.

Spark runs a variety of programmes for people with disabilities, including an arts programme for children with autism.

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