I’d like to share with you six photos that were taken at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2018 on 1 August at Parliament, and explain a little about what’s going on and why I like them.

Jesse Johnstone-Steele and Hon Carmel Sepuloni Photo: Vanessa Rushton Photography

Jesse Johnstone-Steele has been a dancer with Touch Compass since its inception in 1997. He was recognised for his career and artistic achievement over this time. When this photo was taken the audience was applauding wildly and his family and Touch Compass colleagues were filled with joy for him. The image captures Hon Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Disability Issues, presenting Jesse with his unique and fragile ceramic trophy by Robert Rapson. The tenderness of the moment reminds me that it is in the gentle seconds suspended between awe and understanding that happiness is born.

Rue-Jade Morgan Photo: Vanessa Rushton Photography

This is the moment when the spotlight shines on Rue-Jade Morgan from Otago Polytechnic. I love this photo, which captures the moment of recognition: he walks towards the stage and gratitude is forthcoming from his peers. More amazing steps on his personal and professional journey from former prisoner to leader and role model of tikanga programmes that inspire youth in Otago Corrections Facility to change. 

Richard Benge and Beth Hill Photo: Vanessa Rushton Photography


In one award (which we save for the wow finish), Arts Access staff and board choose the person we recognise who has made an extraordinary contribution in recent years. It is our way of saying thank you for extending the impact of accessible arts beyond what we have imagined. While it recognises effort, skill, persistence and service, above all it celebrates what people do for love. In this treasured moment, I get to heart-welcome to the stage the amazing and generous Beth Hill, leader of Redemption Arts, changemaker at Northland Region Corrections Facility and Arts Access Accolade recipient for 2018.

Guests from creative spaces at the reception Photo: Edwin Eliecer Reverol


Hope occurs for people when there is trust and expectation about positive future change and their part in it. This photo is like the school photo taken before the perfect one that was taken – although it never was. This is it! I love the moment because it captures the distractions and vitality of people from creative spaces (mainly) organising themselves for a group photo. They bring their hope for a better future to work each day and it is with them at the awards in Parliament. I feel positive and hopeful that this government is listening to the needs of creative spaces and their importance in an inclusive society.

Artists from the Humans of Hendo project with the Ngati Poneke Young Maori Club


When your society includes your cultural expression then you, your ancestors and family are recognised as having value and relevance. The feeling of pride that this engenders is captured here in a playful-meets-serious moment when young artists are included in the kaupapa of the event.

The closing ceremony Photo: Vanessa Rushton Photography


Hundreds of people climb the stairs or elevators to Parliament not knowing each other or who all the recipients will be. By the end of the night, they have heard remarkable stories of one another’s gifts and achievements. Guests have learned more about accessible arts in Aotearoa and the people who make the arts more inclusive. At the end, when all the recipients assemble back on stage, there is a sense of family and that we all know each other. The final waiata was the National Anthem. Whānau on stage and in the audience are joining in the NZSL version of the anthem on video. 



Six photos, six moments


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