Accessible arts in 2021 are off to a busy, exciting start after what was a challenging 2020 for many people both in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world.
Already there’s a bunch of fantastic accessible arts events happening – or about to happen – across the country. Here are just two touring events that will provide access to the arts for more people.
- a series of relaxed performances by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Dunedin, Christchurch and Blenheim in March, and at two different Auckland venues in June)
- a series of audio described concerts (including touch tours) called Transfigured Night with BalletCollective Aotearoa and the New Zealand String Quartet in ten different regions, to be presented by Chamber Music New Zealand.
Many of these events are listed on our accessible events’ calendar, which I encourage you to use by uploading your accessible arts events and also checking out what’s on in your town or city. Along with accessible shows by Tim Bray Theatre Company, it currently lists sensory tours at Te Papa and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery; audio described and sign interpreted performances at Auckland Theatre Company; and a range of accessible performances and events at the Auckland Arts Festival 2021.
Once again, the Auckland Arts Festival is showing its commitment to being accessible and inclusive. As its Artistic Director, Shona McCullagh, says: “We want everyone to feel welcome and represented.” Read Auckland’s “100% Aotearoa” festival all about inclusion
Third edition of Ngā toi mō te katoa: Arts for all
In 2009, Arts Access Aotearoa wrote a practical guide for arts organisations, museums and galleries to help them improve their accessibility. Called Ngā toi mō te katoa: Arts for all, the guide is now in its third edition. Along with many new photos, there are new reflections from disabled artists, practitioners and accessibility advocates about what it means to have access to the arts and culture. It also provides updated information. You can download the new edition from our website.
The Arts For All Network, facilitated by Arts Access Aotearoa, now has six regional networks around the country: in Auckland, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. Members meet face-to-face and online to share information and expertise.
Much of the increased accessibility we see today has been driven by the members of these networks, engaging with Deaf and disabled communities. Recently a disabled artist used the guide to explain to a local theatre what "best practice" standards in accessibility are. It is great when individuals also use the guide as a reference for advocacy off their own bat. Thank you all for your commitment and energy to let every arts space and organisation know what the expected accessibility, inclusion and equity standards are.
At the beginning of the guide, award-winning artist Duncan Armstrong says: “As an artist, the hardest thing is getting training if you have a disability. Sometimes I’ve been turned down because people only see my disability and not my abilities. I get upset, for sure, but I’m not giving up.”
At the end of the guide (page 72), disabled artist and interim Artistic Director of Touch Compass, Pelenakeke Brown, writes: “Yes, the arts need to be accessible for disabled audiences and there’s some good work being done to make that happen. But what about disabled artists? I want more than inclusion. I want equity and an arts sector committed to including disability artistry in its annual programme of works rather than a tick-box measure or one-off accessible performance.”
This is a real challenge and will be a focus of our work this year. We want to see Duncan and other disabled artists thrive in their careers.
Arts Access Aotearoa will be calling for nominations to Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2021 on Wednesday 17 March. In response to the awareness that people have busy lives and to make sure as many people, organisations and projects as possible are acknowledged, the awards nomination process has been simplified: there’s just one question to complete and then if your nominee is shortlisted, you’ll be required to provide support material and two support letters. I'm looking forward to receiving your nominations.
I welcome your feedback and any questions about Arts Access Aotearoa’s work (E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 04 802 4349).