The In Touch newsletter begins with sombre news this month. A great champion in the world of access to the arts in Aotearoa has died. Lisette Wessling was a leading advocate for blind people to have access to music performance and education.

Lisette Wesseling and her husband, Neil Jarvis, applaud at the Arts Access Awards 2014I have enormous gratitude for her life, her spirit, her voice, her gorgeous clothes … I could go on.

In her wake, we acknowledge and value her outstanding, determined contribution to music and the arts as a teacher, mentor, communicator, resource writer and recording artist.

Whenever Lisette came to support our Arts For All meetings, the standard of action and communication always went up several degrees. She had a calm, informed air of a fine artist and educator, who happened to be blind.

I am grateful that Lisette received a Highly Commended citation in the 2014 Arts Access Awards, acknowledging her career and contribution as a teacher, singer and recording artist.

Lisette says in this video: "Disabled people want to share in the beauty of this world and also help create beauty as artists." Thank you for the beauty you brought to the world, Lisette. You are unforgettable and the work you care about will continue.

Accessibility and museums

There are a number of ways to increase accessibility and inclusion in the institutions that preserve our valued historical and cultural  items, or curate and interpret contemporary collections reflecting history, unique stories or identity.

Museums, it has been said, have become important places to help people and communities make sense of their place in the world now that churches are no longer the only place where people go to understand life’s meaning. 

But what happens when individuals or entire communities don’t feel represented and included in these institutions, and face barriers to understanding and connecting with the collections?

MA17 theme of access and inclusion

These are issues that Arts Access Aotearoa cares about and we very much welcome the news that next year’s national conference for the museums sector, to be presented by Museums Aotearoa, will address these needs and issues.

A sign interpreted floor talk of the Aztecs exhibition at Te PapaWhen the Arts For All publication was revised and reprinted in 2013, we included a chapter specifically to help museums and galleries take steps to becoming more accessible – particularly for people with disability. I’m very impressed and encouraged that the MA17 Conference for museums and art gallery staff and allied stakeholders will have access and inclusion as its theme.

The question at this stage is How do we make museums more inclusive and accessible to everyone?” The 2017 Museums Aotearoa conference committee is inviting contributions to the programme of its conference, to be held in Palmerston North from 22 to 24 May. For more information and an expression of interest form (EOI close 31 October), please visit the Museums Aotearoa website

Arts Access Aotearoa is looking forward to assisting with the conference development.

Performance artist Rodney Bell

I hope you enjoy reading the stories we have for you this month. We profile performance artist Rodney Bell, whose new work, Meremere, premieres at the Tempo Dance Festival in Auckland from 14 to 16 October. Rodney shared the stage at the Arts Activated Conference  in Sydney with Claire Noble, Arts Access Aotearoa’s Community Development Advisor. Together, they provided an overview of arts, inclusion and disability in New Zealand.

Susan Te Kahurangi King, untitled, 1965Stuart Shepherd, curator and self-taught artist specialist, blogs about the launch of a book of monographs by Susan Te Kahurangi King of Auckland, launched at the New York Outsider Art Fair. 

In the community, art opportunities can provide confidence, pride and team building for youth. Please read the story about Chris Barrand, artist and tutor from Pablos Art Studios in Wellington, who has been holding weekly art session with students in Cannons Creek for more than three years. His work demonstrates the positive impact an art tutor has brought to three students at Porirua Alternative Education School.

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

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