What’s the role of the news media? At best, it should provide a balance of accurate information with interpretation, instruction and entertainment. It’s also important to protect ourselves from too much negativity when we read, watch or hear news.
Fortunately, there are stories that lift our hearts. Stories that make us go, “Yes! How cool, how beautiful, how courageous, how extraordinary!”
Over the past fortnight, there have been a feature article and an opinion piece that provide a positive, accurate perspective. Both were written by The Dominion Post and Stuff’s Arts Reporter, Andre Chumko, one of the few arts reporters remaining in mainstream media.
Thank you, Andre, for always shining a light on the arts of Aotearoa: the issues we shouldn't shy away from, the feel-good, the views and reviews. Your commitment and excellence in reporting on accessibility in the arts earned you the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Media Award in 2021. Read more about Andre Chumko
In the article How the arts can help improve the lives of our ageing population, Andre captures the joy that participants express from participating in the free, drama-based programme run by Wellington creative space Voice Arts.
He also refers to international research that shows the benefits for older people of participating in the arts: for example, a sense of purpose, improved cognitive function, and improved self-esteem, connectivity and enjoyment.
The article says that Voice Arts runs eight programmes in the community, attended by up to 250 people every week. It also runs groups in four retirement villages.
Voice Arts is one of more than 80 community-based creative spaces throughout the country, working with people who often face barriers to participating in the arts: for example, senior citizens, Deaf people, former refugees, disabled people and people with mental health distress.
Maintaining the mental health and wellbeing
Collectively, creative spaces provide a supportive, nourishing and learning place for an estimated 15,000 people to paint, do ceramics, dance, sing, perform and write. I have no doubt they help maintain the mental health and wellbeing of many of the participants.
The power of creativity and its impact on our lives! That’s the theme of Andre Chumko’s opinion piece – the other media story that lifted my heart.
Originally written for The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi/Creative New Zealand’s recent event series, All in for the Arts: He waka toi e eke moa nei tātou, the piece was then published in The Dominion Post (and Stuff). In Stop searching for your creative inspiration – it’s all around you, Andre says that “creativity” can be a loaded word and asks: Who gets to call themselves creative?
Creativity at the core of original thought
He continues: “I think creativity resides in all of us. Every single human being on planet Earth is creative. Creativity is at the core of original thought. It is behind humanity’s biggest, boldest, bravest inventions and successes. And our worst failures.
“Creativity can be your best ally or your worst enemy. It can drive people to insanity. But it also has the power to enact change. It has the power to get people to think differently. It has the power to alter society’s systems.”
Andre concludes his piece by recalling a story he wrote about transformative power of the arts for people in the justice system. He came across a letter written by a prisoner who had been through an arts programme while they were incarcerated.
It read: “It was great to rediscover my creativity after over 40 years of just earning a living. From a slow start my pencil and paintbrush began to reveal long ignored freedom of expression; how ironic that I had to come to prison to become free again. I feel sure there is a hidden artist in all of us. My advice? Let them out.”
At Arts Access Aotearoa, our vision is of a society where everyone in Aotearoa has access to the arts – whether they’re older people doing a drama programme, a prisoner participating in painting, raranga or whakairo classes, or a Deaf arts practitioner performing on stage.
May the arts and creativity lift your heart and may journalists like Andre Chumko continue to shine the light.