31 Aug 2016
Advocacy is one of our principles. Amongst the day-to-day blur it is affirming to acknowledge the terrific things that the arts are contributing to society.
At the recent Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference in Dunedin our guest speaker Peter Kageyama reminded mayors, chief executives and elected officials how the arts can bring communities together and encourage people to love their cities.
Local authorities are significant investors in the arts. It is important the arts are on the political agenda and in the planning documents of communities. Consequently, we were pleased to receive feedback that Peter’s presentation was a conference highlight.
One of the challenges for some local authorities is keeping pace with their rapidly changing communities. This is the same for people working in the arts and an example of where we are often leading.
Effort and champions
Acknowledging the complex knot of identity and identities, which make up our communities, requires effort and champions. Both were evidenced at last week’s Arts Access Aotearoa Awards in Parliament. The 10th anniversary of the adoption of sign language as the third official language of New Zealand was a feature of proceedings.
A new feature was the Arts Access Media Award which recognises an individual who has demonstrated leadership and excellence in reporting on accessibility and the arts. Implicitly this also reflects the media’s influence on setting social norms and standards. It was terrific to have the New Zealand Herald’s arts and book editor Dionne Christian acknowledged for taking the arts seriously and reporting in depth on Auckland’s diversity and the arts.
Shakespeare behind bars - Surprising art scene at Ngawha Prison is a recent example of Dionne’s great work.
We were pleased that Chamber Music New Zealand received the Creative New Zealand Arts for All Award in 2016 for its sustained work creating new audiences and increasing participation for people who are disabled.
Listen to a Radio New Zealand interview with Chamber Music New Zealand’s workshop and concert facilitator Julian and Rebekah Corlett attended a concert with her daughter, Sophia, who is seven and has autism. (10 minutes)
Books and incentives
There are many arts practice based communities. The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young People had their celebration on 8 August. The Hell Pizza Reading Challenge reminds us that incentives (pizza) motivate young people to read. This generation of young people are fortunate to have so many fine books that reflect their world and the worlds of the imagination. A richer fare than I recall growing up.
On September 10 in Rotorua we are looking forward to hosting the Te Waka Toi Awards. The Prime Ministers Award for Literature are on October 12 and the Arts Pasifika Awards are on October 26. Of course this is just a sample of how we have come to acknowledge different communities and their arts. It matters because as Michael King reminds us we must: “…listen to our own voices and trace our own footsteps; we must have our own heroes and heroines to inspire us, our own epics to both uplift and caution us; we must persist in building our own culture with our own ingredients to hand…”