Vincents Art Workshop

The Toi Ora story

Toi Ora began in a small factory space above a spectacles shop in Mount Eden. It was first registered under the Charitable Trusts Act (1957) on 13 July 1995. As Toi Ora evolved, a larger space was needed, leading its move to another space above a mechanics workshop in Arch Hill. Finally, in August 2009, Toi Ora moved to its current location at 6 Putiki Street, Grey Lynn, where a long-held dream of having its own gallery became a reality. As the trust began to make a difference and have a positive impact within the wider community, more funding was granted. With more space and money for resources, Toi Ora has been able to provide an increasingly diverse programme of classes covering the arts spectrum, and over the years, new and exciting courses continue to be introduced.

Toi Ora Live Art Trust Studio

Toi Ora Live Art Trust is a unique, shared, creative space located in the heart of Auckland city, for people who have experienced/are experiencing mental health issues. Toi Ora Live Art Trust provides an array of visual arts, writing, music and recording classes and workshops that are tutored by professional practitioners with experience and/or an understanding of the issues surrounding mental health. Studio space is available for members wishing to work on individual or collaborative projects. A range of art materials and resources are available. Members are able to explore their creative ideas and potential in this supportive environment. 

What we do

Toi Ora is an award-winning arts organisation that provides innovation and leadership in the field of creativity in mental health recovery. Our aim is to promote social, intellectual, artistic and creative pursuits that enrich people's lives, improve capacity, and contribute to the destigmatisation around mental health thus encouraging social change. We provide tutored workshops and classes for people to develop their strengths and potential in the arts in a safe, non-institutional environment.

We wish to bridge the gap for those who come into contact with mental health/addictions and other support services, with the exploration of creativity as a proven means to enhance recovery and maintain well-being, and opportunity to open a pathway personal recovery, peer support, training and career opportunities.    

Our Strategic Plan

A Strategic Plan developed in consultation with stakeholders, including members, underpins all of Toi Ora’s work. Our strategic approach focuses on what matters to the mission: the impact on the community we serve and the differences we can make to the lives of vulnerable people.  

Our programme echoes the “five ways to well-being" model of mental health: connect, take notice, keep learning, be active, give.

Our People

Frances Turner | Co-Chairperson

Frances Turner is a strategist and change leader with 25+ years’ experience in leadership roles with Ernst & Young and Carter Holt Harvey to co-founding The New Zealand Dance Company and Executive Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. She brings business acumen, a strong sense of justice, and a keen interest in building safe, strong and inclusive cultures for all. In addition to being Toi Ora Co-chair, she’s a Trustee for Arts Access Aotearoa. Additionally, she’s served on a school board and multiple arts boards. She holds a BS in Accounting and MIS from Pennsylvania State University.


Hilary Lewis | Co-Chairperson

Hilary Lewis’ strengths and experience is in leading programmes of change, technology, innovation and business process improvement in large, medium, entrepreneurial and social enterprises. Her particular focus has been the airline and travel sector, with over 25 years in senior, strategic and global  roles. Success has come from having clarity in vision, strong commercial imperative, attention to detail, and an ability to communicate and engage all involved. This is supported by a strong finance, IT, commercial, strategic and executive background.

Hilary has a strong affinity with creativity and the arts, and is a trustee for theatre company Nightsong, and has been a trustee for the NZ Contemporary Arts Trust and Silo Theatre. She was previously a trustee for Lifeline Auckland and Lifeline NZ and volunteered for Lifeline as a trained telephone counsellor. Hilary aims to combine her business and not for profit skills and experience with a passion for the arts to strengthen Toi Ora to further support its’ beneficiaries.


Farhana Khan | Board Member

Farhana Khan is a legal professional with seven years’ experience in the public sector in New Zealand and the United Kingdom in regulatory compliance. She also has experience in human rights law including historic physical and sexual abuse claims and Maori land law and currently works in refugee law. She was the founder and director of an interior design social enterprise which employed women from former refugee backgrounds.  Farhana also has a background in Indian classical dance and is a graduate of the New Zealand Academy of Bharata Natyam.


Gary Denney | Board Member

Gary Denney has a wide skill base, knowledge, networks and experience in a range of government, not for profit, DHB, mental health, disability, welfare, youth and community service sectors.    It includes considerable experience at a senior management and strategic levels.  He is a strategic thinker and is passionate about human and animal rights.

He is currently the Chief Executive of Friendship House He Whare Tangata; a provider of domestic violence and social services including social work and counselling services to the Ministry of Justice, Department of Corrections and other government agencies.  Keeping children and families safe and resilient.

From 2009 to 2011 he managed the Richmond New Zealand (now Emerge Aotearoa) Northern Region. Richmond NZ is a leading provider of disability and mental health services in NZ.  From 2011 to 2015, Neil managed the Crisis Care service for Auckland City Mission working with families in crisis and desperate need. 

His time in Rotorua and study at Te Wananga O Aotearoa reinforced this learning.  He has a love for language and cultures.


Susanne Ritzenhoff | Incoming Director

Susanne Ritzenhoff combines her passion for arts and people with her business acumen (MBA). Susanne led the development of Q Theatre, has worked at Youthline, Lifeline, was General Manager at Presbyterian Support Northern,  and is a Director of Creative Pathways Ltd.






"Reflecting, I can clearly see how fundamental the experience with Toi Ora was in my road to recovery and re-discoveryThe encouragement and support shown to me by the staff and professionals involved in Toi Ora, is something I'll remember for the rest of my life" - Maia


"Toi Ora has helped me change my attitude and my outlook on life. After my first visit, my attitude literally changed overnight because the programs at Toi Ora have helped me to look at my new life from a whole new perspective!" - Keith


"Through Toi Ora I was able to connect with people who were kind and respectful. I could also reconnect with my creativity and feel the joy and satisfaction this can bring. Gradually, through friends, family and Toi Ora I have been able to feel safer in the world. I have found trust and have been able to enjoy my daily activities again." - Juliet
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