Lisa Terreni: Teacher and Artist

Story by Libby Judge

Faculty of Education, 2018

Our very own Banksy?

Set against the dull, drab grey of a lonely corrugated iron building, the timber deck is dressed in colourful knitted stockings. It elicits feelings of curiosity and wonder in students ambling up the hill. But who exactly is responsible for ‘yarn bombing’ the Faculty of Education’s new home on the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University of Wellington?

Lisa Terreni: Teacher and Artist

Lisa Terreni is a senior lecturer in Early Childhood Education at Victoria. As she shares her story with me, it’s easy to believe that she was the one to breathe life into an otherwise lifeless structure with just a few balls of wool.

Lisa trained to be a teacher in the early eighties when, she says, “feminism was going off”. During this time, she was also the lead guitarist in Freudian Slips, the first all-female band to become popular in New Zealand.

She spent many years teaching within the early childhood sector, as well as working as a professional development specialist for the Ministry of Education. In 2005, she began teaching as an arts education specialist at Wellington Teachers’ College which later merged with Victoria. Lisa continues to inspire both teachers-in-training, and in-service teachers through her art and academic endeavours.

Lisa in action

  • <p>Art responses, Photographer: Te Papa and Lisa Terreni, © Te Papa and Lisa Terreni</p>
  • <p>Lisa Terreni on the far right in the band ‘Freudian Slips’ in the late ’70s. Image source unknown. © Lisa Terreni</p>
  • <p>Lisa Terreni. Image by Victoria University. © Victoria University</p>

The Child Becomes the Teacher

Although both of her parents were visual artists, Lisa never felt comfortable entering the visual arts orbit when growing up. It was while watching children paint at kindergarten that she became inspired. Fascinated by the freedom and fluidity of children’s expression, Lisa returned home with rolls of paper and began to explore the exciting realm of the visual arts.

Her interest piqued, she acquired a studio in an old factory in Newtown. Here, she was able to spend time with other artists, which helped to develop her style and confidence.

Since then, Lisa has continued to create what she calls “eclectic and often subversive” art works, with several pieces on display in her office.

The Art of Teaching

Lisa recently received a Teaching Excellence Award at Parliament House, and it is evident that she is a devoted educator, revered by many. A teacher before an artist, she believes that teaching is ultimately an art form, and says, “My art inspires my teaching, and my teaching inspires my art”.

When asked to comment on how she inspires creativity in her art courses with primary and early childhood teacher trainees, she said the biggest hurdle she faces is “the myth of talent”. “If you’re not Lorde or Frida Kahlo,” she said, “why bother trying?”

Lisa tries to enthuse adults with the joy of children’s expression through art and reminds them of the importance of art in a child’s thinking. She says, “A child’s art is literally their thoughts on paper”. Equipped with an understanding of the importance of play, students often feel more comfortable experimenting with different materials and art forms. Have a look around the next time you’re walking down Wai-te-ata Road, as you might just spot some of her students’ work on display.

Lisa's Three Minute Thesis - 2nd Place Winner!

  • 3MT 2nd place winner - Lisa Terreni

What Next?

Having just completed her PhD, investigating how art museums and early childhood centres can collaborate to create meaningful learning environments for young children, Lisa is looking forward to a future full of possibilities.

She plans to weave a korowai for her graduation using paper yarn made with an old spinning wheel and the drafts of her thesis. To coincide with her monumental achievement, Lisa plans to hold an exhibition at Thistle Hall in May 2018, showcasing various works inspired by her thesis.

She also plans to continue her work with REANZ (Reggio Emilia Aotearoa New Zealand), where she helps provide professional development opportunities for early childhood and primary teachers.

From my time spent with her, I think it’s fair to assume that we can be expecting more Banksy-esque art in the future from Lisa Terreni.

Where is Lisa?

Waiteata Rd, Wellington, New Zealand