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As many of us have no doubt been receiving warm wishes for the end of the year, it’s a pleasure to add mine. The wider group of people – artists, art tutors, managers, venue directors, advocates and funders – that Arts Access Aotearoa connects with is awesome and “thank you” does not seem adequate to convey the feeling I would like to express.

An artist at Otautahi Creative Spaces in ChristchurchAs I attend strategic planning events and other activities at local and central government level, I am heartened to hear words such as “wellness”, “accessibility” and “inclusion” being used by speakers who even a few years ago would not have paid attention to these terms.

However, we know that words must turn into actions if our society and communities are to share in the benefits of New Zealand’s economy, employment, the environment, education, health, the arts and cultural expression.

Building and maintaining a harmonious, democratic and fair society takes work and constant resetting. We have seen the upheavals overseas this year and New Zealanders shouldn’t take any of our benefits for granted.

Essential role in community

In the community sector where Arts Access Aotearoa sits proudly, I recognise acutely (probably this year more than ever) the essential role we play in the community, along with other not-for-profit organisations that uphold the values, rights and needs of people who are vulnerable.

Together, we work to reduce the effects of the excesses and sharp edges of a fast-paced and ever-changing twenty-first century lifestyle.

Within our communities, we have the expertise, talents and hard-work ethic to ensure that all people who contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand can share in our unique arts and culture.

Julian Raphael makes music accessible in a relaxed concert, presented by Chamber Music New Zealand  Photo: Hannah BeattieArts Access Aotearoa has been talking this up for 21 years now and with help from our partners and stakeholders, we are seeing the results. There are more audio described performances and sign interpreted tours happening; creative spaces are providing high-value inclusive art programmes; and innovative rehabilitation-driven arts projects are being taken up in prisons.

We can all feel proud to be part of a movement that sees inclusion in the arts more visible, more local and less “labelled”.

It is particularly pleasing to see people who experience disability advocating for increased accessibility, inclusion and opportunities to participate. The organisers of Disability Pride Week in Wellington, held from 27 November to 3 December, expect that next year this celebration will be taken up in other cities.

It was great that Disability Pride Week used several arts events to bring people together, and have their voices and abilities recognised.

John Perry, art historian, curator and presenter at the Outsider Art FairIn Auckland, the Outsider Art Fair was held over ten days from 17 to 26 November. Bigger and more diverse than in 2014, it built many partnerships and connections, and profiled a diverse mix of artists. Congratulations to Erwin van Asbeck, Managing Director at Toi Ora Live Art Trust and his team for delivering this ambitious project.

Arts Access Aotearoa’s final event of the year came on 1 December when we held our fourth Awesome Arts Access Auction at CQ Hotels Wellington. Thanks to so many generous sponsors, suppliers, supporters, volunteers and guests, the evening was a huge success.

I am also grateful for the support and interest and energy of our friends, followers, fellow advocates and volunteers. This time of the year is good to take a breath, chill out and realise our good fortune, and build up the energy levels to take on what is still to be done.

With my warmest wishes for a safe and happy Christmas and new year. 

Building a fair society

 
 
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