For the past 15 years, Nia-Val has been a community artist and teacher. A natural facilitator, Nia-Val’s abilities to listen and engage budding artists has compelled her to leave her own practice in the background in order to facilitate community art programmes in Mangere, Glen Innes, and at adult and youth correction facilities.
Being the eighth generation of storytellers in her family, it’s the story that fills her practice. The stories begin with her family, such as a photograph of her father’s mother, the family matriarch who instilled strong Aitutaki
Those Pukapukan Mamas became the inspiration for superheroes in a graphic novel. Nia-Val initiated Te Tala o Mamas XL in Danger Island as a means of bridging the generational gap between Cook Islands-born and New Zealand-born. Te Tala o Mamas shows the beautiful side of the older generation in a presentation that youth can appreciate and enjoy reading. With her cousin, Grace Lazaro illustrating, they carefully included distinctly Pukapukan symbols such as hair-combs and flora. Upon seeing initial sketches, the Mamas were honoured by the portrayals.
In 2009, Nia-Val completed a public sculpture project in Glen Innes by meeting with seven community groups to figure out a way to reflect their stories and the positive elements of Glen Innes such as its cultural diversity. Those dedicated community groups provided inspiration for the public sculpture that reflects the groups’ constant endeavours to restore optimism and confidence in the community. Using the example of Native American totems, which stand tall and confident, Nia-Val and the community groups created seven totems that reflect the diversity and solidarity of Glen Innes. These projects reveal Nia-Val’s capacity for celebrating her culture and community by encouraging creative expressions.
Nia-Val has exhibited in a number of group and solo exhibitions including: This Woman’s Work is a Woman’s Worth, Bergman Gallery, 2017; Lead me to Rest & A Mother's Heart; NZ Sculpture on the Shore, 2016 and Lest We Forget the 500 Cook Islands Soldiers, Depot Artspace, 2015.