It was the poet W.H. Auden who said, “All I have is a voice.” It’s no good thing if you are not heard or listened to or understood. Giving a voice to people and organisations is a key role for Art Access Aotearoa as we advocate for people and places that don’t have access to arts and culture as easily as others.
It's essential to Art Access Aotearoa for disabled artists and the creative spaces that support them to be heard, seen, appreciated and valued. That’s why advocacy is central to our activity. Communications like this in the In Touch e-newsletter is a key part of that advocacy.
Art Access Aotearoa was supported by the Ministry of Social Development’s Making A Difference Fund to establish a group of people with lived experience of disability and mental illness in Christchurch. The aim of the group was to introduce them to information about advocacy and communications and help them build skills in these areas.
Over three training workshops, participants explored their own capacity for advocacy (being seen around the city and at arts events is one of the ways to advocate) and how this improves access to the arts for themselves and others.
Accessible arts initiatives
They also learned about accessible initiatives in the New Zealand arts, entertainment and culture scene and how they can get involved: for example, asking for audio described and sign interpreted live performances in Christchurch.
One of the members is Thane Pullan. I greatly admire Thane, a stand-up comic – who actually sits down. Thane is developing a career as a comedian and has his own blog, which is worth following. You can also read the blog and watch the video he recorded for us.
Thanks again to the Making A Difference Fund, Arts Access Aotearoa will soon be presenting an important public relations advocacy campaign. Starting on 6 October and running for five weeks, the national campaign will feature huge street posters promoting five artists (who have a disability or lived experience of mental illness) and the creative spaces that support them. There will be a suite of five posters in five cities: Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
The purpose of the campaign is to highlight the fact that disabled people are achieving as artists and that they achieve because of supportive creative spaces. There will be a media campaign around the period that the posters will go up in each city. The message on the poster is simple: “I’m an artist.”
Creative spaces essential
Creative spaces all around New Zealand are, in our opinion, essential to providing accessible, supportive and learning environments and opportunities for people with limited access to achieve in their chosen artforms.
However, in many cases creative spaces are underfunded, underappreciated, and vulnerable to lack of funding or policy and planning changes.
For this reason, the importance and value of creative spaces will be profiled in the poster campaign. Funding for King St Artworks (recipient of the 2011 Arts Access Big ‘A’ Creative Space Award) was recently the subject of a newspaper article suggesting its funding was under threat. This letter to the editor from Arts Access Aotearoa stresses the value that King St Artworks provides to artists and the community of the Wairarapa, and that it’s a touchstone for creative spaces in other regions.
We all know it’s a busy world with a lot of noise and distractions. For the voices and value of artists and their creative spaces to be heard, we need to be smart and creative. Like Thane!