“Without whakawhanaungatanga, there is nothing. With it, we can build the revolution we all so desperately need.” These powerful words were written on the eve of Waitangi Day by Arts Access Aotearoa’s Policy Principal, Conor Twyford.

I encourage you to read Conor’s blog Whakawhanaungatanga at the heart of everything because of its timeliness on the political calendar and its vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Whakawhanaungatanga – valuing positive, collaborative relationships and partnerships – is also one of the values that underpins Arts Access Aotearoa’s work. It is  all about supporting and encouraging access to the arts for everyone in Aotearoa.

We have a vision for the future that upholds accessibility, which is interwoven across the three strands of our mahi. These are about ensuring:

  • the arts are accessible to Deaf and disabled people, as both artists and audience members
  • creative spaces are well-resourced and the creative spaces sector effective
  • the arts are accessible in all New Zealand prisons through a well-funded Arts in Corrections framework or strategy, integrated into Corrections’ rehabilitation services.

Supporting Deaf and disabled artists

An important way we can make the arts more accessible to Deaf and disabled artists and writers is to provide support such as resources, advice, advocacy and networking.

We're excited that dancer, now actor Lusi Faiva is premiering her new work, Aiga, from 20 to 24 March at the Auckland Arts Festival. 

Lusi is a founding member of Touch Compass and sits on its Artistic Direction Panel. She has received numerous awards, including the Arts Access PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award 2021. You can read Lusi’s Q and A interview with Stace Robertson, Lead Accessibility Advisor Kaiārahi a Toi Ōritetanga at Arts Access Aotearoa.

A shout-out to both the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts (23 February to 17 March) and the Auckland Arts Festival (7 to 24 March), two events that shine a light on accessibility and inclusion. They are also long-term, valued members of the Arts For All Network, facilitated by Arts Access Aotearoa.  

Another strand of Arts Access Aotearoa’s work is about supporting creative spaces to build their long-term sustainability so they can meet the demand for their services and deliver on their potential.

There are around 90 creative spaces throughout New Zealand, from Southland through to Northland. These community arts organisations and groups provide space, resources, opportunities and learning for people who face barriers to making art, including theatre, dance, circus, visual arts, music, film and creative writing. You can read a history of creative spaces. You can also check out the creative spaces directory and learn about creative spaces in your region.

In 2021, responding to the impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector, the Government through Manatū Taonga delivered $18 million Creative Spaces Initiative funding over three years. Its key aims were to secure employment, boost staff numbers and extend their reach into communities. The fund has had a remarkable impact.

We know this because Arts Access Aotearoa has been closely monitoring the outcomes of the three-year funding. The workforce has been able to upskill, diversify their programming, and develop deeper and more impactful relationships with their participants.

Students who had left formal education returned to classrooms after developing skills that enabled them to integrate into school environments. People who experienced strokes learned to vocalise once more after participating in therapeutic choirs. Isolated people, who had felt their place was at the edge of our social fabric, found themselves embedded in communities that welcomed them.

Concern over end of funding 

This is the final year of the Creative Spaces Initiative. Creative spaces and Arts Access Aotearoa are very concerned. As many in the not-for-profit sector will know, constantly applying for funding and grants takes up a large portion of staff resource that could otherwise be spent on contact time with artists.  

It’s been proved the creative spaces sector has improved its delivery for communities during the period of the fund. It is now very important to keep up the momentum so that service and quality gains are not lost.

It is more important than ever to provide and maintain longer-term funding contracts with creative spaces. They give security and allow them to respond to demonstrable need and invest in their artists and staff.

Arts Access Aotearoa is working with creative spaces to increase their capability to obtain grants and funding through a year-long focus that is building professional development in many areas, from fundraising to governance.

We are also working with the sector to strengthen their profile and demonstrate the huge impact of what they do for people in Aotearoa’s communities. It makes economic and social sense for central and local government, along with the philanthropic sector, to invest in this sector and provide long-term funding for creative spaces. 

I encourage you to follow the Creative Spaces Network’s new Facebook page where you will learn all about the many achievements of creative spaces and their artists.

Accessibility in all we do


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