Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2021, presented by Arts Access Aotearoa at Te Papa Tongarewa on 5 July, celebrated the award recipients and also the individuals, groups and organisations who received Highly Commended certificates in several of the award categories.
Arts Access Holdsworth Creative Space Award 2021
Highly Commended: Cantabrainers Choir, Christchurch
Established in 2012, the Cantabrainers Choir is run by a registered music therapist and registered speech-language therapist, supported by a co-ordinator who does the choir’s operations and communications. Cantabrainers works with people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis and brain injury to help them regain their speech through singing. It helps increase members’ confidence, and reduces their isolation by enabling them to sing with others. It meets once a week during school terms. The music therapist leads and accompanies the choir, while the speech-language therapist provides individual support.
Judges’ comments: “A nugget of gold! Cantabrainers is an excellent creative space that transforms its singers. It’s committed to best practice and governance, with the inclusion of choir members in the decision-making process. We were impressed by how they adapted quickly to COVID-19 and lockdown, providing online resources to build confidence and maintain connections.”
Highly Commended: Women’s Art Initiative, Palmerston North
The Women’s Art Initiative is a collective of women whose members have, for nearly a decade, been making art that reflects their responses to their experiences of violence and abuse. WAI is unique to the Manawatū and is the only art group whose sole focus is on women and violence. Its members say it has changed their lives, helped them express their resistance to violence and their strengths, and allowed them to challenge the many negative stereotypes and myths. They have staged several public exhibitions, which have drawn attention to the issue of violence.
Judges’ comments: “The deep respect and honour that is shown towards each artist is outstanding. We were impressed by the depth of the testimony from each of the women and by its strong relationships with Te Manawa Art Museum, galleries and spaces. WAI provides a safe, healing place where each woman can explore her creativity beyond anything she ever imagined – creating beautiful, powerful art.”
Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award 2021
Highly Commended: Juanita Davis, Whanganui Prison
Juanita Davis has been teaching raranga (weaving) to the men in Whanganui Prison for several years, along with the history of weaving, the protocols of harvesting the harakeke, and how to dye it. She has helped the men weave their own personal korowai, organise an exhibition of their weaving, and make wahakura (woven bassinets) as part of Whanganui DHB’s Safe Sleep programme. While the men participate in Juanita’s weaving courses, she helps them learn about their culture, who they are and where they come from.
Judges’ comments: “Juanita’s raranga programme with men in Whanganui Prison is a wonderful demonstration of the value of art and tikanga as a rehabilitative tool in Corrections facilities. The men develop confidence and cultural connection, and the mana the men would have felt in wearing the korowai they had created is transformative.”
Highly Commended: Zak Devey, Youth Arts NZ / Mt Eden Corrections Facility
Youth Arts NZ co-founder Zak Devey always wanted to be a writer and to make a difference in his West Auckland community of Rānui. He and a team of writers are now doing that by facilitating the Te Kahui creative writing programme for young men in Mt Eden Corrections Facility, where they create journals with writing prompts and exercises for the young people to use to express themselves. Zak and the other writers began these writing sessions in person in February 2020 but the COVID-19 lockdown meant that in April 2020 they started to create and distribute booklets of writing exercises that the participants could write in and get feedback on. In May 2021, they returned to Mt Eden Corrections Facility to facilitate the workshops in person.
Judges’ comments: “Zak Devey is a young champion in the delivery of a creative writing programme to rangatahi in Mt Eden Corrections Facility. His dedication, constant learning, reflection, responsiveness and innovative processes are impressive. Feedback from rangatahi taking part in the creative writing programme are evidence of its powerful impact.”
Highly Commended: Annah Mac, Otago Corrections Facility
Singer-songwriter Annah Mac has been delivering The Kōwhai Project, a holistic music programme for the Department of Corrections since 2017. Course participants learn the ukulele, write songs and record as a group. A CD of 37 songs was engineered onsite across all six South Island facilities by Annah and mixed during lockdown when she was unable to deliver the programme. Annah is a resident tutor at Otago Corrections Facility where the programme was piloted. For Annah, music is a tool that can be used in a person’s rehabilitation to channel creativity.
Judges’ comments: “Anna’s commitment to her mahi and music as a powerful rehabilitative tool is truly impressive. Creating an album of music across multiple sites demonstrates her ability to navigate complex issues and achieve excellent results.”
Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts for All Award 2021
Highly Commended: Theresa Cooper, Wellington
Theresa Cooper is Deaf and a well-known advocate for accessibility on behalf of the Deaf community. She has more than ten years' experience teaching NZSL, and also has a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Studies. In 2017, Theresa talked to a Te Papa staff member at a Museums Aotearoa conference about the issue of accessibility in galleries and museums, which led to her working with Te Papa for two years to develop the Te Papa NZSL Guide app, which was launched in 2021, though Te Papa started introducing NZSL videos on its website in late 2020.
Judges’ comments: “We applaud Theresa’s commitment to increasing accessibility for Deaf visitors to Te Papa, including the introduction of an NZSL web-based museum guide in 2020. Working alongside this large national organisation, Theresa is creating a legacy of learning and empowerment so that Te Papa and the wider GLAM sector can provide a positive experience for Deaf visitors.”
Highly Commended: Nicola Owen, Audio Described Aotearoa, Auckland
Nicola, whose partner Paul Brown is blind, started audio describing professionally in 2011. In 2014, she and Paul set up Audio Described Aotearoa, which contracts up to ten audio describers around the country to provide high-quality audio description for a range of events and tours. She has described musicals, operas, award ceremonies, guided walks and museum/art gallery tours. When New Zealand went into lockdown in 2020, Nicola worked closely with the Royal New Zealand Ballet to audio describe the videos of its previous ballets that RNZB posted online.
Judges’ comments: “Nicola is a pioneer in the development of audio description. Over the years, her company Audio Described Aotearoa has continued to grow and evolve, always promoting the voice of blind people in the audio description process. Winning an international award for her work during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 was a fine recognition of her fantastic commitment.”
Arts Access Corrections Whai Tikanga Award 2021
Highly Commended: Sharne Parkinson, Harakeke Down South, Invercargill Prison
Sharne has been volunteering weekly at Invercargill Prison since February 2020, teaching the men about Māori language, culture, traditions and history using traditional Māori artforms such as traditional Māori musical instruments and kites, raranga and mau rakau. The men she works with have made installations for community festivals. Sharne has a passion for the arts, toi Māori in particular, and for tikanga Māori. She wants everybody, no matter their ethnicity, to be exposed to te ao Māori, the Māori worldview.
Judges’ comments: “Sharne is a wāhine toa. Driven by the Department of Corrections’ Hōkai Rangi Strategy, she shares her expertise and passion for toi Māori and tikanga with men in Invercargill Prison. An accomplished weaver and fibre artist, she uses the arts to heal, inspire a strong cultural identity, connect and rehabilitate.”
Arts Access PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award 2021
Highly Commended: Helen Vivienne Fletcher, Wellington
Helen Vivienne Fletcher is a children’s and young adult author, playwright, spoken word poet and creative writing tutor. She writes on a wide variety of subjects but all tending towards the gritty, in line with her black sense of humour, and all with some connection to disability and mental health, due to the influence of her several chronic illnesses. Many of her works have won or been shortlisted for awards. She is also one of eight disabled writers who feature in Crip the Lit’s book Here We Are: Read Us.
Judges’ comment: “Helen’s CV is remarkable. She is a multi-talented writer, performance poet, teacher and mentor. Through her work, she is a strong disability advocate and barrier-breaker, writing about important topics that resonate with young adults.”