Arts Access Aotearoa’s vision is that all people in New Zealand will have access to the arts. This is no small perspective especially if you have a wide horizon to keep in focus (please excuse the ‘sighted metaphors’ if you are reading this via Screen Reader - I think you get the drift).
The strategic direction should always take us on a path providing a service to people who experience barriers to inclusion or accessing the arts. It’s challenging as there are many arts cultural and entertainment experiences on offer and there are many people with different abilities. We are usually talking about and promoting the value of diversity and opportunities in our community.
Museums and Access
Different places and spaces hold the experience of the arts in trust to share with visitors, patrons and ticket holders. For example, in museums there is all manner of art, artefacts, stories and treasures. What is particularly cool about museums is they provide a pathway from where we have come as a community, city or nation that helps us interpret why we are who we are now.
Arts Access Aotearoa wants people with access needs to have as much access and inclusion in museums as possible. I presented to a group at the recent inspiring Museums Aotearoa conference in Dunedin where access to collections was a theme. I’d welcome more museums in New Zealand to use the Arts Access Aotearoa Arts for All guide to increase visitor numbers and the engagement of people with lived experience of disability. You don’t have to wait to get ‘everything perfect’ with accessibility action plans. Just start with a few manageable changes that don’t have to cost a lot. Museum curators and arts venue managers can learn about accessibility in our free to download guide here.
Around New Zealand there are community arts studios, galleries and learning spaces we call Creative Spaces. In line with reducing as many barriers as possible (such as cost) these spaces provide access to an arts space and place with resources and guidance from tutors. Here artists can explore their creative potential. Creative spaces become essential hubs of creativity and provide a non-judgemental / no labels space where artistic skills can be developed and talent can flourish.
Of concern to most who work in this sector is the lack of consistent funding for creative spaces. Resources on many levels are stretched and recognition of their value and importance is often overlooked by funding agencies. I stressed this in an editorial opinion piece I wrote during the I’m an Artists campaign last October and it will be a regular theme in future.
Mentoring for leadership development
To assist with the development and future sustainability of creative spaces Arts Access Aotearoa provides a professional development programme for mid-career tutors and managers of creative spaces. Through the Creative Spaces Mentor Programme up to seven participants receive one year’s free mentoring with a specialist who may have experience in for example, arts programme management, law, governance, HR or finance. The third cohort of this project met for training in Christchurch Friday 15 and Saturday 16 May. I’m grateful to the mentees and mentors who participated – they are all volunteering their time to proceed on an exciting journey of professional development.
Our research of creative spaces highlights issues in common and it will come as no surprise that funding is an issue for most. Arts Access Aotearoa provides links to fundraising suggestions and ways to plan a more sustainable funding strategy. Keri Tilby-Price of Exult (a community and not for profit development training group) stresses that it is a good idea to see where you can save funds through prudent shopping and advantage taking. If you don’t already know of it, then TechSoup New Zealand is good to take advantage of. Many IT products are available to eligible not-for-profits. If you have been putting off upgrading your IT hardware for example this will be a great help.
Arts Access Awards
The Arts Access Awards are coming up Wednesday 1 July. The annual celebration recognises and profiles the people and organisations that help Arts Access Aotearoa achieve the vision that the arts will be accessible for all people in New Zealand. By having these awards attention is drawn to the achievement of recipients and also to the issues and challenges they face.
I am one of the judges and it is always a pleasure to learn of the innovative projects and collaborative ventures that makes the experience and enjoyment of the arts accessible and inclusive. However it can sometimes be difficult choosing one very good nomination over another. You can get information about all the recipients on the Arts Access Aotearoa website from 2nd July.
Arts Access Aotearoa is 20 years old
We will be acknowledging this milestone the same day as the Arts Access Awards Wednesday 1 July with a celebratory lunch at 12 midday, CQ Hotel 223 Cuba St Wellington. The lunch will be hosted by Dame Rosie Horton and will include two courses with beverages and birthday cake!
I’d like to invite all current and past friends of Arts Access Aotearoa to come to this. It will be an opportunity to meet up and reflect on the achievements of past years and enjoy the landscape before we embark on the next twenty years. At the lunch we will take the opportunity to launch a ‘Friends of Arts Access Aotearoa’ supporters group where friends can help Arts Access Aotearoa through a monthly donation of their choice.
Twenty years is a long time and we have touched many people over this time - staff, trustees, stakeholders, artists and funders. I’d be very grateful if you could share this news of the anniversary lunch with anyone you think has been involved in the past, who is currently involved or who would like to support us into the future.
This is advance information of limited ticket reservations and sales. Please let Dawa Devereux (firstname.lastname@example.org) know how many tickets you would like to reserve and she will be in touch with all the information.
I very much look forward to enjoying this ‘once every twenty years’ event with you.
If you have any questions or feedback on this column, or if you would like to let me know about your art, organisation, group or project please email me on email@example.com