Meet Carlos Toalii

I graduated from Manukau Institute of Technology in 2010 with a Diploma in Visual Arts.

I always had a love of the arts, it has been a passion from my early teens.

I worked odd jobs in areas far removed from my dreams, but my passion never subsided. I've painted on and off since high school and I marvelled at the ability to create. It made me feel powerful, and gave me a voice.

I wanted to continue studying, however in the beginning of 2011 I fell ill. I have battled mental health issues from 2001, and although I had made some progress, 2011 and most of 2012 was a write off. I went back into the public system. It was difficult. I knew I had to find something to get me on my feet.

Late 2012 I found Upstairs Art Gallery on Volunteering Auckland. I made an appointment to meet Teena and apply to be a gallery assistant. I told her of my history and after checking with my Key Worker she took me on. It was probably one of the most important decisions in my life.

I did anything and everything. I was on the desk as often as I could and then started assisting with installs. I enjoyed the hanging, and soon was doing the technician work while Teena did admin. This system morphed into accounts and a few months after I was on the pay roll as a part timer.

The move from the temporary New Lynn location to Lopdell was another turning point. I was fortunate to start finding work with Te Uru, Lopdell, McCahon House, Titirangi Theatre, RSA and other tenants of Lopdell Precinct. At times I felt my job was a dream, but I would quickly wake up if I had to plunge a toilet.

It has been five years now and I cannot count the amount of amazing, loving, kind people I have met on this journey. It has had some very difficult times but if I look back at the last five years with Upstairs Art Gallery, I am truly grateful that someone took a punt on me.

I don't call it Upstairs Art Gallery anymore, it is simply referred to as Home.


art curator

+ connoisseur

I don’t call it Upstairs Art Gallery anymore, it is simply referred to as Home.
— Carlos.