In advance of Artbeat Studio’s 24-Hour Art-a-thon Feb 6 to 7, CNC profiles the artists participating in this event that is raising funds for Artbeat Studio, an organization supporting artists with mental illness. Click here to read the other profiles.
Art is a coveted thing, as Hai Romana found out when his piece One Tree City was stolen from the Health Sciences Centre.
“Right off the wall,” laughs Romana, whose sense of humour is evident within the first few seconds of meeting him.
Romana is originally from Aotearoa, which is the common name used for New Zealand by the M?ori people, of which Romana is a descendant. He immigrated to Winnipeg in 2004 after travelling here for work.
“I tell people I got stuck here,” explains Romana.
He prefers not to elaborate, but a business relationship turned sour during the trip to Winnipeg and resulted in Romana being left at the Winnipeg International Airport without so much as a ticket home.
For Romana, his mental health declined and he took himself to the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society (MSS) where he met Jane Burpee, the Public Education Coordinator for MSS, who introduced him to Artbeat Studio.
“I went down and picked up a pamphlet” remembers Romana. “And I went to Studio Central first and started volunteering there. Every now and then I would go there and entertain people.”
In 2012, Romana was selected for Artbeat Studio’s core programming and graduated in January of 2013.
“Since I was a kid, [I’ve always enjoyed art], and I took it up again because it’s very helpful for the mind.”
After leaving Artbeat Studio, Romana has built up a rapport with Winnipeg’s art community and art enthusiasts. He’s had his artwork commissioned and hung up in the Exchange Community Church and of course infamously in the Health Sciences Centre.
Romana says he often gets homesick for Aotearoa, where some of his kids live and who also possess that artistic flair. Romana says he hopes they come to visit Winnipeg as well, and one can assume that the rest of Winnipeg would feel the same way as it would be a shame to see such talent leave this city.
Hai Romana is one of seven Artbeat Studio alumni participating in the 24-Hour Art-a-thon from Feb. 6-7, 2014 beginning at 5 p.m. The 24-Hour Art-a-thon is an event to raise money for Artbeat Studio’s endowment fund, which supports its core-programming. To support Hai and Artbeat Studio, please visit The Winnipeg Foundation’s website to donate online.