Collaborating, working in partnership, networking, sharing resources and expertise … That’s how the arts sector in Aotearoa works. And we know that sparks ignite when artists, artforms and ideas collide and connect.
Last week, I attended a performance of Seasons, a collaboration between Jolt and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, presented in partnership with Chamber Music New Zealand. The show is touring the country and finishes in Dunedin on 18 November.
This collaboration is ground-breaking. Deaf and disabled artists need to be seen on main stages, in movies and television, in exhibitions and in books if the arts are to be representative and meaningful to everyone.
I knew I was witnessing an example of what the future of the arts could be like as I watched this electric and moving collaboration, where sparks were ignited.
Another strong example of working together was realised at Ngā Wāhi Auaha Creative Spaces Conference 2022, held over 1 and 2 November. More than 300 delegates from around the country and in the Pacific attended this online conference, bringing their energy, engagement and expertise.
Encouraged delegates to move and stretch
The enthusiasm of WIDance and Jolt dancers, who performed and encouraged delegates to move and stretch during an interlude, was infectious. Thank you!
Over the two days, I listened to nurturing, informative conversations, peer-led demonstrations and practical workshops. We were challenged, cheered on and encouraged to ignite possibilities.
An important conversation was about creative spaces working in partnership with Māori, honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi in authentic ways. We heard that the deeper our understanding of the treaty, the better informed our policies, planning and actions will be.
Among all the amazing speakers and presentations throughout the conference was a profound conversation between Erin Gough and Caroline Bowditch, sharing their experiences around disability and ableism. They were generous in their challenge to us to do better.
When I look back over the years at where creative spaces have been and where they are now, I believe there’s a strong sense of belonging to an important movement that’s bigger than the individual parts.
A website for the Creative Spaces Network
Building on the energy and commitment displayed at the conference, Arts Access Aotearoa and Flightdec are in the process of developing a new website dedicated to providing research, resources and information pertinent to creative spaces.
Called Ngā Wāhi Whatunga Auaha Creative Spaces Network, the website will contain all the conference sessions – and much more, as we continue the Creative Spaces Professional Development Programme over the next three years.
At Arts Access Aotearoa, we work across three key areas: strengthening creative spaces; improving the accessibility of arts organisations, galleries and museums; and developing a valued and thriving Arts in Corrections sector.
All three areas operate through regional networks, which share information and resources. The Arts For All Network, for instance, has seven regional networks: Auckland, Canterbury, Otago, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay, Wellington – and newly established Bay of Plenty.
These networks encourage artists, festivals, performing arts companies, literary organisations, museums, galleries, venues and producers to improve their access to Deaf and disabled artists and audiences. Importantly, the networks include representatives from the disability sector, and over the year, they work together, sharing insights, information and resources.
Impressive and growing number of accessible arts and cultural events
Since we set up the Arts For All Network back in 2011, I have seen an impressive and growing number of accessible arts and cultural events, including audio description, NZSL interpreted events, and relaxed or sensory art tours.
The Arts in Corrections Network includes Corrections staff and volunteers, Community Corrections staff, artists and writers, academics, and people in the wider community interested in arts and social justice.
As with others in the arts sector, COVID-19 has made life difficult for artists and writers intent on working with people in Corrections facilities because personally delivered programmes have stopped. However, many are still keen to work on developing their arts programmes despite current restrictions and staffing issues in prisons.
The good news is that recipients of $3 million funding through the Cultural Wellbeing and Creative Arts Fund (a partnership between Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage) will be announced soon.
This will support at least ten Arts in Corrections projects and will hopefully be a great boost to the sector.
Working together, we can all make the arts in Aotearoa New Zealand much more accessible and inclusive. The arts for everyone!