18 Oct 2022
A joint statement from Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright and Arts Council Chair Caren Rangi:
We’re pleased to hear that the Ministry of Education (MoE) has agreed to work with Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SGCNZ) to find the funding that SGCNZ originally sought from Creative New Zealand.
The Government has recognised that the MoE is better placed to provide this funding.
This highlights the positive impact that additional government investment can have on the arts.
While it’s great that a solution has been found for this one organisation, questions remain about other arts organisations and individual artists who find it difficult to mobilise or who don’t have the international pulling power to draw attention to their funding needs.
It also unfortunately doesn’t change the reality for Creative New Zealand that we’re still facing an unprecedented deluge and there are big issues around the sustainability of arts funding in Aotearoa.
This is a great outcome for SGCNZ, but we’ve found some of the rhetoric over the last few weeks alarming, misleading and racist. We would like to take this opportunity to address and clear up some of these things. For those who have contacted us with questions over the past couple of days we offer this statement in response.
Creative New Zealand does not hate Shakespeare. We support Shakespeare productions and we support Shakespeare being in schools. We simply can't meet the demand for our funding, and hard decisions need to be made.
Here are the facts:
Sixty-two organisations submitted proposals to our Kahikatea programme for funding from 2023 to 2025. Fifty-eight proposals were successful. We have a limited amount of money to invest, and we had to make some tough decisions. Unfortunately for Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand (SGCNZ), their proposal wasn’t as strong as others and didn’t align with the Kahikatea programme requirements, and so they missed out this time around. Under their current contract (through to December 2022), they receive $31,827 a year. SGCNZ have guaranteed (transitional) funding from us until June next year and had been told about other Creative New Zealand funding options available to them.
Let’s break that down:
The Toi Uru Kahikatea investment programme that SGCNZ applied to is contestable funding – in other words, applicants compete for funding because there’s only so much money to go around. It lasts for three years and at the end of that time, organisations in the programme need to reapply.
SGCNZ is part of a lineage of exceptional artwork and no one disputes that they do good work or make an important contribution. However, because an organisation has been funded for many years, does not mean they are entitled to continued funding without going through due process. As a Crown entity we need to run fair, transparent processes.
Creative New Zealand has not “cancelled Shakespeare in schools” nor did we “defund” SGCNZ. Their bid for Creative New Zealand funding towards organisational support was unsuccessful within a group of other stronger proposals that were more closely aligned with our strategic and funding priorities.
Let’s talk about how we make funding decisions:
It’s our privilege to support the creation and presentation of New Zealand art across multiple artforms as part of our core role. However, we don’t have the money to fund everyone. This means that many talented artists, groups and organisations often miss out. Now especially, we’re under enormous, unprecedented pressure with more organisations and individuals requesting funding, and less money to give out.
We make funding decisions with input from the sector. That means we contract artists and arts practitioners outside of Creative New Zealand to evaluate applications and make recommendations. We use the terms ‘external peer assessors’ and ‘assessment panels’. We do a series of checks and balances ourselves before our Chief Executive or the Arts Council make final decisions. For this particular process, the Arts Council received advice from arts practitioners, input from our staff, and recommendations from the Chief Executive, before deliberating on the issues and opportunities and reaching final decisions.
We ask the arts practitioners who provide assessment on proposals to be constructive in their feedback, but we do need them to be able to comment on an application freely and honestly. Many people have taken exception with some of the comments made about SGCNZ’s proposal. These comments have been taken out of context; they were a small component of a thorough decision-making process.
We also want to address racially-charged rhetoric.
It’s always a good thing when arts news inspires open conversation, robust debate, and new ideas. Not everyone will agree, and that’s a part of a healthy democracy – of which the arts play a crucial role.
However, we’re appalled that some of the criticism has become about race.
Much of this commentary has been cruel and hurtful to Māori and Pasifika artists whose funding proposals were successful.
We challenge the narrative that our decision was driven by reverse racism and that we are the “cultural Taliban”. Creative New Zealand’s mandate is to fund New Zealand made work within the limited resources we have.
We also take exception to Creative New Zealand’s frontline staff being targeted with hate mail – they don’t make funding decisions. As a Crown entity, we welcome feedback on our decisions, and these can be directed to us: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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