The art of lifting people's spirits

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2013
Isabella Miller Bell
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

SHARING THE LOVE: Isabella Miller Bell, performing under the name Ma Bell, is one of the artists volunteering at the Celebrate the Arts event this weekend to bring the arts back to Christchurch.

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The quakes dropped curtains and collapsed stages, but Christchurch artists are determined to play their part in the rebuild.

Although engineering and geotechnical analysis may not be their forte, artists can help people rebuild their sense of wellbeing.

"When times are tough, the arts thrive because they have an important role to play in giving people optimism," says Isabella Miller Bell, a singer who is volunteering her services at this weekend's Celebrate the Arts festival.

"For performers and musicians, there's a greater appreciation of the role art and music are playing in people's lives because it helps to nourish and strengthen the spirit. I think [art] has definitely become more important after the quakes. It plays a big role in the overall sense of wellbeing and it lifts you out of the ordinariness of life."

Although money might be tighter, more people are coming to see Miller Bell's Pop Up Theatre stage shows featuring some of the city's best performance artists.

"There's been a re-evaluation of the arts and where people spend their money," she says. "Somebody said [about the show], ‘This is better than any counselling session I have ever had'."

Since the earthquakes, her work has been more satisfying, even though many of the stages had disappeared and it was very hard to make a decent living.

"I'm making people happy and getting little bits of funding from a couple of sources and turning that little bit of funding into three or four times what's coming in and distributing it to other musicians, our sound man, and our lighting person."

Although touring her show nationally is a possibility, Miller Bell says she is focusing on Christchurch at the moment "because that's where it's needed".

She began performing in 1981 because she needed to relieve her own feelings and issues. "It's lovely to be able to give expression to internal human states and there were a lot of confusing situations and I was trying to make a sense of it." Of course, it was great to see people enjoying her performances.

This weekend's festival aims bring the arts back to the city and remind people of what the arts can do for them.

The three-day event from 12pm today until 4pm Sunday will have opportunities for people to try their hand at calligraphy, embroidery, felting, and other arts that have taken a backstage in Christchurch's rebuild story.

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- The Press

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