[ Article by Matt Walters ]
[ Photographs by Bex Gibbs ]

Using creativity to make us think

Art should make you think. It should challenge and speak up against the status quo. It should raise questions and leave you thinking. The best art has always done these things. Art is a record of history, of how things are. Bex Gibbs is an artist, ex-teacher and activist. She believes in fighting for the underdog and having their voice heard. The way she intervenes here is through her art, her comic cartoon work and her murals.

To find out more, The Fuller Issue caught up with Bex in a busy central Christchurch coffee shop.

Bex taught in primary schools for 10 years. She remembers always having a passion for art and animation, and it was into the latter part of her decade of teaching that she realised that all her heroes in the creative fields she loved were old men. As time went on, teaching became less of a personal challenge and she started to feel a bit of a hypocrite telling the kids to take a risk and reach their potential when deep down she wanted to test herself and push herself in a new career direction.

So she took a risk and decided to go back to study. As soon as she did this, new doors started opening. She has done murals and work for people around Christchurch. This experience has given her more confidence to continue to try new things, to spark a conversation, and to seek new opportunities.

In New Brighton, she met a local street artist and worked with him to produce murals. Her passion for not letting go of the issues that others aren’t bothered about and speaking up about the things she believes are wrong keeps her interested and driven in her work. Feminism, socialism, and poverty are some of her key drivers.

She wonders if maybe there is a place for her in the editorial world, communicating a message through image.

Bex continues her work with children, helping them realise their potential. This work involves UNICEF and local organisations.

Maybe one day, she says, she will return to the classroom with a renewed vigour to see learners reach their potential; however, in the mean time, she has a number of projects on the go.

It seems that education is never far away from Bex Gibbs’s work however, as proved by her recent work in the Christchurch central suburb of Phillipstown.

© Bex Gibbs

The Phillipstown project was key to some of the understanding of how creativity and Bex’s approach could change and influence a community.

Bex was one of the students who worked with CPIT to help the community of Phillipstown to continue with their development after the decision to close the primary school. Bex talks about the hurt that the community felt in that process but, through the work of dedicated community leaders, they have managed to keep the former school buildings to be used for community organisations and activities: a community hub.

Bex isn’t the sort of person who waits around for things to happen to her. Rather, she makes things happen for herself and others.

Bex talks about how much the police and local leaders have made a difference in this community.

A visual companion was important in this process to compliment what was happening in the community this is where Bex came in again. Her challenge was how to help foster community pride and get the message out there in a visual way. The challenge was on to  visually rebrand a whole community.

There was a competition held with CPIT students, and the options were put out for the community to comment on. They picked Bex’s design for the main logo for the community hub.

“In Phillipstown, the community knew they were important and, through the process of the school’s closing, they wanted to make sure the government knew about that. They felt the heart was removed. They didn’t want this spirit to die. So they turned this resentment into a positive creative development process; they’ve just gone ahead and done it.”

“It’s the real world application of good design that made such a difference to me here.

Bex isn’t the sort of person who waits around for things to happen to her. Rather, she makes things happen for herself and others.