09 Jul 2015

This content is tagged as Multi-Artform .


Opening up on the arts


Photo: Robbie Macrae, Suzy Randall and Penn Trevalla from Auckland Live and Stephen Wainwright from Creative New Zealand. 

Following the recent launch in Parliament of our New Zealanders and the Arts research we were back on 1 July for the Arts Access Aotearoa Awards 2015. Recently we’ve also been part of The Big Conversation about audiences.

I am drawing these threads together because they go to the core of an issue facing the Arts Council and everyone who delivers the arts. What do we really know about who benefits from what we do? Governance guru Bob Garrett once asserted the only questions any entity needs to ask itself are: What is the good to be done for whom, and at what cost? Wise simplicity at its best. 

Arts Access Aotearoa has a clear take on the ‘for whom’ question. It focuses on those people who, because of the randomness of fate and circumstances, have limited access to the arts.  Around one in five New Zealanders self-identify as having a disability. This could be related to a range of circumstances including mental health or physical disability.

Out of sight, out of mind

In the wake of World War One, vast hospitals were built in Britain and New Zealand to house war veterans maimed and damaged by their wartime experiences. The prevailing orthodoxy encouraged an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach with people institutionalised in large numbers.

Now the mindset is more progressive and disability advocates are successfully making the case for everyone having the right to opportunities for civic engagement. Now there are, at least with new buildings, minimum standards so that people in wheelchairs can access venues without having to go via the basement and so on. Regulation of course has an important role to play but I would suggest that mindfulness and genuine interest in doing ‘good’ can be even more powerful.

Arts for all

Creative New Zealand supports Arts Access Aotearoa with ongoing funding and also the Arts For All Award.  The awards, in addition to a great evening, are an opportunity for the community to hear about some of the extraordinary things that are being done to improve access. Auckland Live won the Arts for All Award because of physical enhancements to increase access to venues and training initiatives to help staff to become confident in working with those with accessibility needs. Staff have e-learning modules created with subject experts from the community and the result is growing numbers of attendances by people from the disability communities.

The highly commended award went to Auckland Museum for their work with people with dementia and for their infowave initiative. The latter is a brilliant solution for a city where so many inhabitants were born outside New Zealand.  Via a smartphone the technology a visitor can access information, for example about an exhibition in any language you can think of, including sign language.

The awards shine a light on the excellent things going on across the country in this access space. The Arts for All guidebook will help anyone interested in doing better in this area. Thank you Arts Access Aotearoa for making the awards happen. Many stories were told over the evening.

The Corrections Community Award was won by Mary Ama and the Pacifica Mamas. They travel regularly from West Auckland to a Waikato corrections facility in the weekends to help change the lives and prospects of the inmates through art and culture. These stories remind us that art can have a profound impact on an individual, a community, and indeed society.

You can read more about the awards. If you would like to know more about the work of Arts Access Aotearoa or think you would like to be a contender for an award please contact Richard Benge on richard.benge@artsaccess.org.nz