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Hamilton mouth painter Toni Leefe takes second place in exclusive art awards
Hamilton mouth-painting artist Toni Leefe has been awarded second prize for her painting entitled 'Lazy Sunday Afternoon' at the annual Bruce Hopkins Memorial Art Awards.

The Bruce Hopkins Memorial Art Awards started 19 years ago to commemorate Bruce Hopkins' contribution to the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) and to artists with disabilities throughout New Zealand. During the 1970s and 80s, Bruce was the only New Zealand artist with a disability to belong to the MFPA and was responsible for encouraging and inspiring people with disabilities to start painting with a brush held in their mouth or foot.

Toni Leefe has been in a wheelchair for 16 years after a competitive trampolining accident in which she broke her neck. She took up mouth painting after leaving the Otara spinal unit and has been a student member of the MFPA since 2002.

"Painting for me is a wonderful form of escape. I love concentrating on my art and drifting off into whatever I'm painting. It's a great form of relaxation", she added.

For over 40 years, the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists' Christmas cards and calendars have been distributed to millions of households around Australia and New Zealand.

About the MFPA

Founded in 1956 by a group of European artists, the MFPA is a self-help organisation which gives people with disabilities the opportunity to fulfil their creative ambitions while still maintaining financial independence by selectively selling their artworks.

The MFPA was established in New Zealand in 1961 and currently has 20 members around the country.

To become a student member an artist must qualify by painting using a brush held in either their mouth or foot, having lost the use of their hands through an illness or accident. Student members receive scholarships for art supplies and tuition. Once an artist becomes a full member or associate they are guaranteed a salary for life, even if they are unable to continue painting.

For further information on the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists or to place an order contact MFPA on (09) 827 6746.

Released for MFPA by Dennis Rutzou Public Relations (
For further information please call Nicola Rutzou on 61 2 9413 4244.

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