8 May 2014

It's New Zealand Sign Language Week. This is an opportunity to focus on access to the arts for Deaf and hearing impaired people. New Zealand Sign Language is one of New Zealand’s three official languages and I’m always pleased when producers, presenters and galleries include NZSL interpretation in their planning and budgets so that Deaf people can be included in their audience.

For the second year, the New Zealand International Comedy Festival is recognising New Zealand Sign Language Week and offering four signed performances this week – two in Auckland and two in Wellington.

And just last week, Spark Centre of Creative Development introduced pilot art-making classes for Deaf and hearing artists. These are co-facilitated by Deaf art therapist Rachel Coppage, who is also a facilitator at Spark Centre. You can read our Q and A interview with Rachel.

Rachel Coppage, Erwin van Asbeck and Olivier Lacoua at the Big 'A' Awards 2013This photo of Rachel receiving the Big 'A' CQ Hotels Wellington Community Partnership Award 2013 on behalf of the Giant Leap Foundation from the hotel's General Manager, Olivier Lacoua, is one of my favourite photos. 

There are some excellent Sign Language interpreters available to interpret your arts and cultural events. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the time that’s needed to nurture and develop an audience of Deaf people. There’s no automatic guarantee that Deaf people will attend simply because an arts event is interpreted.

As the updated second edition of Art for All says, it’s important to engage with the Deaf community and find out what events they would like to attend and some of the issues they face in attending events or venues.

Filmmakers Jared Flitcroft and Jack O'DonnellThe publication also talks about the importance of using the most appropriate channels to market your event. As Jared Flitcroft, one of the artists profiled in Arts For All, says: “The best thing that any arts organisations can do to market to Deaf people is to work with their local Deaf community or through Deaf consultants to create an accessible performance; book NZSL interpreters for events; and use social media such as Twitter, Facebook with vlogs in NZSL and/or captioned to let the community know their organisation is Deaf accessible.” 

This month’s featured artist

Jared is also this month’s featured artist. He’s an inspiring filmmaker currently based in Christchurch and working on his short film Tama. As a Deaf filmmaker, Jared has had to overcome obstacles along the way as he works towards his goals.

In the excellent captioned video interview that accompanies the written story, Jared describes the background to his film, which he’s making collaboratively with hearing filmmaker Jack O’Donnell.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Richard Benge, Executive Director, Arts Access AotearoaIn New Zealand, this is groundbreaking work and I hope you’ll be as interested in following the progress of this project as I am. We’ll post updates on Arts Access Aotearoa’s web site and Facebook to keep you informed.

Last month, we reported about the audio describer training course in Wellington, conducted by Nicola Owens and Robyn Hunt. The city now has a pool of audio describers ready and wanting to audio describe live performances, exhibitions and other arts and cultural events for blind and visually impaired people.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown presented the certificates to the new describers at the launch of the Arts for All at Wellington Museum of City and Sea.

Whether you’re planning a sign interpreted arts event or wanting a skilled audio describer, please get in touch with Arts Access Aotearoa’s Community Development Co-ordinator Claire Noble (E: claire.noble@arts access.org.nz T: 04 802 4349).

Celebrating Deaf culture


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