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nourishing the roots of empathy Exhibition 2019

The Art for Change 2019 Exhibition, Nourishing the Roots of Empathy, was held at Depot Artspace from 21st September to 9th October 2019


The exhibition highlighted the desperate need for positive input to help future generations develop empathy - to ‘place themselves in the shoes of the other’ - and so reduce the misunderstanding, prejudice and stereotyping that lead to anger and violence.

Funds raised by the exhibition were donated to  the educational organisation, Roots of Empathy, to train more facilitators for their transformational empathy programme in New Zealand primary schools, and to provide essential support materials and resources.


Visitors engaged really deeply with the exhibition theme and content. The extra events (the Opening Event, the Empathy Workshop, and the Empathy Speaks evening to celebrate the UN International Day of Non-Violence) were popular and helped to keep the energy up and the visitors flowing in.

For the Roots of Empathy organisation, the level of public engagement and media coverage generated were equally as important as the funds raised. The fact that FIVE people volunteered to become RoE instructors is a testament to the power of the exhibition.

Whilst in New Zealand for the exhibition opening, Mary Gordon(Roots of Empathy founder and President) took a trip to Wellington for high level meetings, and we are very hopeful that some more support for the programme may be forthcoming. 

The results were excellent

1000+ Visitors
41 pieces sold
$4,000+ raised for Roots of Empathy
Thousands of dollars worth of media coverage generated
5 new instructors volunteered for Roots of Empathy

a selection of the work

About the artists

Most artwork has been created especially for the exhibition by members of the Art for Change Collective. 

We were delighted to have artists from the Piki Toi collective contributing to the Roots of Empathy exhibition. The image shows are of the members with samples of their work. 

From left to right: Ceanna Waa, Martin Rawiri, Brenda Liddiard (from AFC), Tiare Turetahi, Rob Smith.

Students from Pinehill Primary School are among those whose artwork, created in the Roots of Empathy programme, was on display at the exhibition. Devonport artists, Tina Frantzen and Holly Sanford visited the school recently with Art for Change organiser, Brenda Liddiard.

Local artists (L to R) Tina Frantzen and Holly Sanford with Art for Change exhibition organiser, Brenda Liddiard, and Pinehill School students (L to R), Larry Li, Camellia Zhang and Ryan Laugeson-Mitchell.

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images from the exhibition opening

Photos by Patrick Byrne 

Proudly supported by

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Funds raised support


Why is Empathy important?

Empathy helps dissolve the borders that separate us and allow us to deem one group or an individual to be less human. Empathy allows us to understand difference and recognise that our emotions are universal and connect us.

The tragic events in Christchurch on March 15th brought into even sharper focus the need for the work that the fundraising exhibition supported. The project gave the artists and the general public the opportunity to assist an organisation that is having a positive impact on children's understanding of themselves, and their attitudes to, and interactions with, each other. Artists told us that the mosque attacks, and the resulting outpouring of grief, empathy and support for Muslim communities, helped to sharpen their ideas for exhibition artworks.

Who are roots of empathy?

Expressing empathy through art is an important part of this unique programme. In the Roots of Empathy model, a baby becomes the teacher, visiting a class regularly during the school year and helping children develop essential social skills that they can share with their families and community. 

Some 16,000 New Zealand children have benefited from Roots of Empathy over the past 12 years. New Zealand was the first country outside Canada to trial the programme, which is now run in 14 countries. Roots of Empathy New Zealand manager Ally Fulcher says more than 35 schools are waiting to take on the programme and they desperately needs more funding to train more volunteer instructors.

Founder Mary Gordon talks about the Roots of Empathy more in-depth presenting this Ted Talk.

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