Megan Symon (Ngāti Raukawa) is this year’s recipient of the long-standing annual Ōtātara Trust John Harré Award that aims to assist a disabled EIT | Te Pūkenga ākonga (student) transition into employment.
This Ōtātara Trust award was established to acknowledge John Harré, the foundation Principal of Hawke’s Bay Community College (to later become EIT in 1986).
Megan completed a Bachelor of Creative Practice at IDEAschool in 2022 and has fond memories of her time there.
“They (staff) are so nurturing and helpful, it’s truly the best place to study. They are just so helpful and caring and it makes the whole process of studying so much easier knowing that they have your back”.
It has not been an easy road for Megan, who was diagnosed with tumours on her thyroid and underwent surgery last year during her final year. An issue with her vocal cords resulted in paralysis on one side of her vocal cords.
“I made it out alive and I’m pretty damn grateful. So that’s the biggest thing. It’s just one of those things you’ve got to work through and make the most of it.”
She is grateful for the award which has gone a long way to helping her financially.
“I wasn’t really aware of the award until not long before I applied, actually. And I didn’t know that I really needed a little bit of a financial injection to get my work out a bit further. “
“I found the John Harré Award, and then I did a little bit of research and it just seemed perfect, really. So, kind of like destiny, it just sort of fell into place.”
“All the hard work that my family’s done to help me get through the last three years for the Bachelor and the hard work that we’ve done for getting past everything, the surgery and stuff. “
EIT | Te Pūkenga Student Disability and Wellbeing Advisor Barbara West congratulated Megan on the award and said she was a worthy recipient.
“Megan has put a lot of time into networking within the art community and this has paid off already. She is sending eight pieces of her art to two international galleries in Europe. She is so excited about this opportunity.”
Megan says she is excited about the opportunities before her.
“I thought I would have to break into the local and national scene first but I’ve jumped straight in on the world stage. I can’t thank EIT | Te Pūkenga enough for the award, this is going to help me so much, I really appreciate it.”
“I’ve got a lot on my plate for this year and next year. I’m applying for competitions. I have been accepted to contribute work for an art magazine called The World of Crete. And I’m going into the Luxembourg Art Prize, which is a big deal for artists.”
“And so this year I hope to really connect with a lot more bigger companies overseas and push the whole New Zealand art and Māori art and women art and connect with the overseas market with just showing our little corner of the world.”
Megan, whose favourite art forms are acrylic and oil paint focusing on the abstract expressive form with plus sized female and Māori influences, says she had many careers before deciding to follow her passion for art.
“I started out as a mechanic, then I went to being truck driver, before trying my hand at natural therapies. And then I had my kids and the world sort of stopped, which was kind of lovely. And I did a lot of sales repping as part-time jobs when the kids were little.”
A few years ago she decided to pursue her love for art, having always regretted turning down an art scholarship in the United States when she was at high school.
She says that it was her husband Richard who encourage her to enrol in an IDEAschool programme.
“Without him, none of it would’ve happened. And then I just decided, ‘Bugger it, I’m going to do the art course,’ and then met all those amazing people and I tell you; it’s just changed my world for the better. Much, much better.”