Wellington police line holding cells with art by prisoners, students

Wellington Police have lined the walls of their holding cells with art in an effort to make it a more positive space. 

Fourteen pieces were picked from over 60 submissions and include some from prisoners.

The man in charge of the holding cells, Senior Sergeant Stu Taylforth, knows exactly how bleak they can be.

He put the call out to artists to create work resembling 'Awhi', meaning help and support in Te Reo Māori. 

"When people come down here, they're actually in crisis. We have to hold them accountable for their behaviour but how can we support them to change their behaviour so they stop coming back, so that they're not a statistic," he said.

The artists range from year seven students to prisoners at Rimutaka Prison. 

Melanie Corby, a teacher of 24 years, started painting in the last two - a hobby inspired by her own dark times. 

"I was going through a stage in my life where my son was really ill and I was really stressed and had a lot of anxiety."

Corby's picture is the first thing people will see when they arrive at the cells.

The whales she's painted are patterned with detailed drawings of other sea creatures to represent the many services available to people in crisis.

"I just hope when people walk through they're inspired that there is hope and the world is full of colour and brightness and they can grasp a little straw of that and know they're here for a reason and a purpose," she said.

The pictures will stay up indefinitely and there are plans for more art instalments in the future.