Why we need to be a resilient arts sector


“Resilience” is a word at the top of my mind at the moment because I’m working on Arts Access Aotearoa’s proposal for Creative New Zealand Toi Totara Haemata funding.

The Creative New Zealand Investment Strategy Te Ara Whakamua 2018 – 2023 states the vision of Creative New Zealand: “Dynamic and resilient New Zealand arts, valued in Aotearoa and internationally.”

Making music at the Kapiti Shed ProjectI’ve also been thinking about the term “resilient arts sector” because it’s one of three key features in the Investment Strategy: “Diversity and Reach”, “Dynamic Arts” and “A Resilient Arts Sector”. Totara-funded organisations applying for funding must align with all three features.

While preparing the Arts Access Aotearoa submission, I’m taking a moment to explore why I agree with a focus on resilience and why it matters.

A couple of years ago, I attended a workshop meeting of city stakeholders in Wellington, led by Mayor Justin Lester, to explore the priorities for action to plan the city’s future.

Resilience was a key topic and we heard from leading infrastructure managers, business leaders, arts managers, and social workers dealing with homelessness. Because it was just after the Kaikoura earthquake, preparedness and recovery from natural disasters was on top. I appreciated how it’s everyone’s responsibility to play their part in building a resilient society.

Tools to aid recovery from any sort of disruption

Resilience of a physical material or anything else (e.g. a city, organisation, business, family) determines how well it recovers after a severely disruptive incident. Work in community arts development is important and also needs a focus on resilience. We need to ensure the correct back-up structures are in place and that we have tools to aid recovery from any sort of disruption.

From our own research, Arts Access Aotearoa knows that most creative spaces and allied arts organisations in the community arts sector do not have the financial reserves needed to bounce back after a significant incident such as an earthquake affecting their physical space. Nor do most have the reserves needed to carry them for several months if there’s a funding shortfall.

Weaving at Te Whare o Ngaruawahia Twin Rivers Arts CentreIf organisations are managing only on one-off grants or project funding, there is little scope to build the funds needed to provide financial security for any unforeseen event.

For managers of creative spaces, it’s often a challenge to keep the doors open and programmes running, responding to the needs in their community to deliver the projects and programmes that nurture and support their artists.

I am interested in gaining a better understanding of the foundations and business models in our community arts sector that can build the resilience of individual creative spaces. If individual members of a sector are strong, it means the wider sector is more able to withstand challenges. Collective impact also makes for greater artistic and meaningful social outcomes.

The research commissioned by Hon Carmel Sepuloni into the creative spaces sector is completed and being analysed. I expect that findings will bring up issues of resilience, including the impact of funding inconsistencies, and other barriers and anomalies. It goes without saying (if you are a sector worker you will know) that resilience will follow if the value of the creative spaces sector is better understood and funding needs are appropriate and consistent.

Essential key pillars within organisational infrastructure

There are other aspects that affect resilience, additional to the financial aspect of organisational health. Key pillars within organisational infrastructure are essential for longevity and sustainability. Good governance, programme delivery, strategic planning and strategic, supported fundraising programmes are part of the essentials. From charitable status to core planning documents, support from trustees to staff leave balances – it all matters. Important also are relationships with larger strategic stakeholders whose goals and targets can be reached if they include your organisation in their planning.

An artist at work at Sandz Studio and Gallery in HamiltonIt all intersects with the understanding of the value that creative spaces – their artists, tutors, programmes and events – bring to the community. When creative spaces are under the radar it’s harder to find strategic partners, and be valued. The story of your organisation and its reach is essential to building an organisation that can be more resilient.  

To strengthen the creative spaces sector, Arts Access Aotearoa has a Creative Spaces Advisor, Jenny Hutchings, who can provide advice and information on a range of topics from governance and programming to fundraising. Contact Jenny Mondays and Tuesdays (T: 04 802 4349 E: jenny.hutchings@artsaccess.org.nz). I recommend you also check out the creative spaces section of our website, which includes a directory of creative spaces and a wealth of resources.

We can also assist you in promoting your organisation’s value through our communications service with digital distribution via websites and social media (Email Iona with your story ideas).

We also offer any creative space a Flightdec website, with flexible design and training provided free to creative spaces. With a Flightdec website, you can “broadcast” your story, blog or event to other websites. This increases the profile of your creative space and keeps your site refreshed with news from across the sector. A fine example of a Flightdec website is that of Te Ora Auaha: Creative Welling Alliance Aotearoa. Please contact us for more information about Flightdec websites and how we can help you.

All these aspects help build the resilience of creative spaces and community arts organisations, enabling them to reduce barriers to participation  Let’s all keep working on and uncovering smart, sustainable ways to be resilient and share these for the benefit of the whole sector.


Why we need to be a resilient arts sector


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