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I have written about acknowledging milestones in an earlier blog, particularly referring to achievements by organisations, artists and arts workers who are part of and connected to the world of accessible and inclusive arts.

I believe it’s very important to recognise achievements in professional and personal life and, while it is great to celebrate birthdays and holidays, it’s also  important to pause and celebrate people who make a positive difference to all our lives through their creativity and cultural expression.  

Making time to do this is also a thing in our ever-more busy lives. But if we don’t individually and collectively take the time to acknowledge the milestones, then who will?

Milestones of old literally marked the number of miles to go on a road to a destination. Whatever form they take nowadays, milestones bring measurement to memory and are helpful when retracing steps as we look back on how far we have come.

I was once fortunate to live in Watson’s Bay, the heritage suburb at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. An actual historic milestone made of sandstone sits beside Robertson Park and carved out in Roman numerals is the number of “Miles to Sydney Town”.

I’ve remembered it to this day as it was most likely carved by convict road builders and it still shares this information. Isn’t Google Maps amazing? I’ve been able to track it down and share this image of the small obelisk marker in the park.

Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards have provided a meaningful marker of achievement and appreciation for many artists, organisations and people. I’ve loved working with so many others to help conceive, design and judge nominations. It is a little sad to not be holding them as usual this year – as we all know, nothing is “usual” these days – but they will be back next year.  Instead, this year we’re offering fellowships.

Last week I became more aware of the feelings and amazement that comes with having an award presented to you. In last year’s Queens Birthday Honours it was announced I would be made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to arts accessibility. It was a huge surprise and humbling news. And then Covid interruptions caused postponements to the actual investiture date with the Governor General.

Finally last week, I was able to share this milestone with my sister, Jocelyn, who helped raise me after our mother died very early, along with members of my family. I was grateful that Robyn Hunt ONZM and Stace Robertson were able to support me also and represent our hard-working staff and communities that Arts Access Aotearoa advocates for.

I found the occasion humbling and emotional because while our intention with Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards is to recognise the achievements of leaders and promote the human rights of all people in New Zealand to have access to the arts, it was not lost on me that I was getting a “taste of my own medicine”.

As surreal as the beautifully managed occasion was, I was made more aware of how our recipients at the Arts Access Awards are likely to feel when they come forward to receive their trophy and have their story celebrated.

A permanent fixture in my memory

Like the stone marker beside Sydney Harbour, receiving my MNZM will remain a permanent fixture in my memory and I am pleased that arts accessibility is up there with the rest. I am grateful to our staff, trustees, funders, artists community leaders (and my nominee), who I hope will all share and appreciate their part in the Arts Access Aotearoa story. 

Another life milestone is being marked as we celebrate Glen McDonald, the Coordinator  of Vincents Art Workshop, on her retirement at the end of the month.  Glen has devoted 30 years of service to Vincents Art Workshop and its community, and to making Wellington a more inclusive and creative city.

Glen has steered Vincents through some challenging times, particularly COVID-19, and can retire knowing that Vincents is well-positioned to look to the future. A big thanks from all of us at Arts Access Aotearoa for your passion and commitment, Glen.

I’ll leave you with a comment from Glen, which says it all.

“I’ve always been aware there are people who are not included in our society. People who are devalued and locked out. Even though I don’t really focus on the past or the future, my vision is for a world where places like Vincents are not needed. A world where everyone is accepted, included, respected and valued.”

 

Acknowledging life’s milestones

 

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