The unavoidable impact of Covid 19 is being felt heavily throughout the arts sector –  particularly for organisations and artists reliant on income from audiences, tours, exhibitions, visitor numbers and festivals.

Creative New Zealand has responded to assist its investment clients and beyond as the arts sector has been exposed to the worst of unforeseen scenarios. And the Government is poised to do more.

Throughout the lockdown, it was heartening to see artists and organisations gathering on digital platforms to support their mental health and advocate for a renewed future post-COVID-19. They are resetting their plans with as much courage, innovation and a can-do spirit as possible.

Collage of images of participants in the creative space leaders' conversation via ZoomAt Arts Access Aotearoa we quickly learned of the gaps in service delivery in creative spaces because their artists could not gather in their physical spaces. For people who face barriers to accessing the arts issues such as geographical isolation, financial hardship, disability and mental health the lockdown was hard.

What’s been so commendable is how creative spaces have adapted to online programme delivery and worked tirelessly to hold their communities together with creativity and sincere pastoral care. The value of creative spaces in upholding the wellbeing of vulnerable people has never been more evident than during this period.

Examples of leadership and adaptability in the creative spaces sector is captured in this Zoom meet up with four creative space leaders talking on Zoom video conferencing about the opportunities and challenges they faced in lockdown. Thanks to Jen Ryckaert (Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre), Lyn Cotton (Jolt), Ian Chapman (King St Artworks) and Cass Hendry (Arts For Health) for taking part and sharing their wisdom. We captured the conversation on video.

An excellent example of accessible arts happening during COVID-19 is the response of Audio Described Aotearoa and the Royal New Zealand Ballet. When Nicola Owen, co-director of Audio Described Aotearoa, heard the RNZB was going to livestream videos of previous productions, she asked the national ballet company if it would be possible to audio describe them.

Pascale Parenteau, the driving force behind the RNZB’s Accessibility and Inclusion Programme, immediately said, “Why not?”

Doing things differently

The result of such openness to doing things differently has had a fantastic outcome in making the RNZB’s previous works available to a global online audience. As the story Audio Described Aotearoa goes online says, the first three audio described online performances in April and early May, received a total of 1110 views from a global audience.

Pascale Parenteau and RNZB representatives presented the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2019 by Stephen Wainwright, CEO, Creative New ZealandYou can hear Pascale talk about the RNZB’s ground-breaking Accessibility and Inclusion Programme at Arts Access Aotearoa’s Annual General Meeting at 6pm on Wednesday 27 May. This year, our AGM will be held as a Zoom meeting so you can attend from the comfort of your living room. To register your attendance or send apologies, please complete the online RSVP form. Alternatively, you can send an email to or leave us a voicemail on 04 802 4349 by noon Tuesday 26 May.

Pascale’s passion for inclusion shines through and resulted in recognition for the RNZB when it was presented the 2019 Wellington City Council’s Accessibility Champion Award and the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2019.

As Pascale says in the story RNZB reaches out to diverse audiences, this is just the beginning. “For the next step, I’d like the company to go beyond accessibility and focus on participation.”

Isaac Theatre Royal's call for donations

COVID-19 and its impact on touring shows and audience numbers has caused the possible closure of the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch. As this news story says, it’s calling for donations to help save the theatre and keep its doors open.

It was rebuilt following the earthquakes with state-of the-art accessibility features, making it easy for people with access needs to enjoy more parts of the Edwardian auditorium. Neil Cox, its former Chief Executive and the man who drove the rebuild and its accessibility, received the Arts Access Accolade in 2015 for his commitment to the project.

Robyn Hunt, presented the Arts Access Accolade 2019 by Karen Webster, Chair, Arts Access AotearoaLast year, Robyn Hunt received the Arts Access Accolade, presented annually at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards. Unlike the other awards, which are selected by a judging panel, the Accolade recipient is selected by Arts Access Aotearoa's staff and board. This recognises a person who has recently inspired our team and helped the organisation achieve its vision of a society where all people in New Zealand have access to the arts – someone we can’t imagine not having on board. Who will this year’s recipient be?

And who will be the recipients of our six other awards? The deadline for making your nominations is drawing close and people have until Friday 29 May to get in their nominations. Within the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we’re committed to the awards ceremony of Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2020 proceeding in some format – either digital or physical later this year.

By submitting a nomination by the end of this month you or an organisation you believe in can be considered for an award. Please contact us if you have any queries or need help. Our website lists the best people to contact, and includes the nomination forms.


Leadership and adaptability in the arts during crisis


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