Community night classes set to return to city

Wonderful medium . Artist Ron Esplin is set to teach watercolour painting at the Workers' Educational Association classes at the South Dunedin Community Rooms. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

They’re back – community¬†night classes are set to return to Dunedin.

Southland Education manager Lesley du Mez, of Invercargill, said the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) was set to provide low-cost community education opportunities in Dunedin “allowing people to gain skills, increase confidence and engage with their community”.

Southland Education was acting as the umbrella organisation until the Dunedin association was incorporated, making it one of six such associations operating in New Zealand.

The concept for the associations was imported from Britain in 1915, and involved teaching subjects such as economics and industrial history, Mrs du Mez said.

New Zealand’s oldest provider of community education, the WEA had adapted its courses to suit communities across the country.

Before 2009, Dunedin was “well served by community education providers”, including a former Dunedin association and community education programmes based at local secondary schools.

When government funding was axed, most of the classes stopped

“Our aim is to fill this void,” Mrs du Mez said.

The first set of classes was a series of art workshops at the South Dunedin Community Rooms starting on August 6.

Topics included drawing for beginners, acrylic painting, watercolour painting, patchwork and creating art journals.

“The four art classes are full – we’ve only got spaces left in the patchwork class. We’ve been blown away by the response.”

The strong support showed the need for the classes, she said.

The first series of classes were subsidised by a Dunedin City Council arts grant.

She had lodged funding applications to various organisation in the hope of starting another series of classes in Dunedin as soon as the first series had finished.

Each association in New Zealand was individually registered as a charity.

Association tutor Ron Esplin, of central Dunedin, said he would be teaching the watercolour classes at the South Dunedin Community Rooms.

He would teach beginners the techniques required to “master a really difficult medium”.

“A lot of people think it’s too hard but with a bit of guidance to kick them off, it’s a rewarding medium – it’s wonderful.