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"One little word when it comes to the arts is so valuable and important to me: access." Last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave the opening address at Creative New Zealand’s conference, Nui Te Korero, and spoke about the importance of the arts as an essential part of our lives.

The Prime Minister’s speech – and in particular the quote above – is music to our inclusive ears at Arts Access Aotearoa. Our belief that everyone has the right to be creative – to have access to the arts – lies at the heart of everything we do. It’s a belief that has guided the organisation since it was formed in 1995.

Front covers of the Performance Review 2017 and What's the story? 2017Our vision of a society where everyone in this country can participate in the arts as artists, audience members, and museum and gallery visitors encapsulates that core belief. It’s a pretty big mandate for a small national organisation. That’s why we work alongside other individuals and organisations.

As the Chair and Executive Director’s report in What’s the story? (a magazine reflecting on the achievements of 2017) states, “Together, we can build a more cohesive, creative, inclusive and diverse society. People in the sectors we work with – arts, disability, criminal justice – value the opportunities to make connections, share insights and knowledge, seek advice and be inspired. Arts Access Aotearoa provides these opportunities through the regional networks it facilitates.”

You can download Arts Access Aotearoa's What's the story? and Performance Review 2017.

Arts Access Aotearoa's regional networks

Claire Noble, Access and Participation Advisor, facilitates the five regional Arts For All Networks. Jacqui Moyes, Arts in Corrections Advisor, facilitates three Arts in Corrections Networks while Jenny Hutchings, Creative Space Advisor, supports two Creative Space Networks. Please check out the website and get in touch if you would like to join any of these networks.

Artist Carmen Brown and Prime Minister Jacinda ArdernThe report also mentions the Prime Minister’s visit to Christchurch in November 2017, where she visited Ōtautahi Creative Spaces with Health Minister David Clark to witness the positive impact that art is having there on people’s health and wellbeing.

The report continues, “We look forward to working with the Government and advocating for better resourcing of creative spaces ... ” Over the past month, I have made three submissions on behalf of Arts Access Aotearoa to highlight the important role that creative spaces can play in the health and wellbeing of communities in Aotearoa. In these submissions, I spoke to the call from creative spaces for sustainable, coherent and consistent financial support.

We always value getting feedback and hearing from the people we work with. A couple of recent emails were turned into a blog by Claire Noble. In Making the arts accessible to children, Claire highlights three events that did just that! The blog includes feedback from the mother of a daughter who attended the touch tour and audio described performance of Still Life With Chickens at Circa Theatre in Wellington. Also included is feedback from the grandmother of a boy who, with others from his class (mostly autistic and non-verbal), attended a STOMP workshop in The Civic in Auckland.

First relaxed performance in a secondary school

Claire’s blog also referenced the first relaxed performance organised by students of a New Zealand secondary school – Takapuna Grammar.

Following on from Claire’s blog, we posted Accessibility in the spotlight at Takapuna Grammar, a blog by Year 12 student Claudia Toxopeus about what was involved in providing a relaxed performance of its school production called Little Women: the Musical.

A member of the production’s accessibility team, Claudia wrote: “I was excited to be involved in the process of removing barriers and creating an inclusive, judgement-free theatre environment.” So inspiring!

Pati UmagaAnother piece of email feedback I received was from Pati Umaga, who wrote eloquently about performing his song SIVA as the opening act for the Vodafone Pacific Music Awards 2018. Performing with Pati was Pasefika Phusion 2.0, a dance group of Pacific youth with physical and learning disabilities.

What better way to share Pati’s insights than to turn his email into a blog called Using the arts to challenge stigma – with his permission, of course.

Pati writes: “The arts are crucial to people with disabilities. They give us creative expression that’s not only artistic but also gives voice to the voiceless. They advocate for our causes; challenge stigma and stereotype; provoke discussion and conversation; and promote social justice. The arts are love; they are pain. They are anything and everything we want them to be in an ableist society!”

Music to our inclusive ears

 
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