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The Kids Aren’t Alright

Peter Hawkesby, Professor Tick. 2019. Photo: Samuel Hartnett. Showing at McLeavey Gallery, Fired Up.
Govett Brewster staff. Image: (L-R) Megan Tamati-Quennell, Associate Indigenous Curator Contemporary Art; Hanahiva Rose, Assistant Curator Contemporary Art and Collections; Lisa Berndt, Curator Public Engagement; Elaine Rollins, Assistant Curator Public Engagement; Emma Glucina, Curatorial Assistant, Len Lye; and Paul Brobbel, Len Lye Curator.
Vivien Atkinson, Knitting (detail), armbands, vintage knitting needles, scraps of wool thread, 2019. Image courtesy CODA Museum
Arts educators shine a light on NZ’s “inadequate” support for schools in Mark Amery’s latest arts news Lowdown, which includes a guide to some Kiwi online gems.

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Arts education in crisis - this is not a drill

Access to the arts in schools is seriously inequitable and teacher training is inadequate - that’s according to a trio of arts subject association representatives talking to  RNZ’s Lynn Freeman. They were part of gathering last week at Te Papa to establish a national alliance for educators, advocating for more support and resources for teaching the arts in schools. 

What they have to say is disturbing, particularly as it relates to primary education. To put that in context: speaking from a secondary school perspective, Francis Potter, President of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Arts Educators comments, “we’re having to teach 13-year-olds the primary colours.” 

Last year the Ministry of Education unveiled a modest Creatives in Schools programme, but the problems outlined in this interview suggest far more serious key resource and training issues to enable teachers to deliver the curriculum, with our very reputation as a nation for ingenuity and creativity at stake.

What they have to say is disturbing, particularly as it relates to primary education.

Fresh Blood

New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery have created a new Associate Indigenous Curator Contemporary Art role. It is to be taken up by Te Papa Curator in Modern and Contemporary Māori and Indigenous art, Megan Tamati Quennell (Te Ātiawa, Ngāi Tahu). Tamati Quennell has been at Te Papa for some 30 years and will (in another welcome collaborative step) work between the two institutions.   

But that’s not the only shake-up at the Govett Brewster under new directors Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh.

Hanahiva Rose (Te Ātiawa, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Toa), a writer and researcher in Māori and Pacific culture, is a new Assistant Curator Contemporary Art and Collections and Lisa Berndt takes up a new role of Curator Public Engagement. Also joining the team are Elaine Rollins and Emma Glucina. 


Govett Brewster staff. Image: (L-R) Megan Tamati-Quennell, Associate Indigenous Curator Contemporary Art; Hanahiva Rose, Assistant Curator Contemporary Art and Collections; Lisa Berndt, Curator Public Engagement; Elaine Rollins, Assistant Curator Public Engagement; Emma Glucina, Curatorial Assistant, Len Lye; and Paul Brobbel, Len Lye Curator.

Burns and Lundh make their objectives explicit: “The expanded team will be central to realising our commitment to Te Ao Māori and global indigenous practices, engagement with communities in Taranaki, and continued passion for our work with Len Lye.”

Meanwhile, back in the nation’s capital, Saturday’s Dominion Post featured an excellent interview with new Te Papa Director Courtney Johnston.

In other leadership news - as interviewed on The Big Idea here - Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho (Te Arawa and Tūwharetoa) has become the first Māori director of the Auckland Fringe Festival. Another welcome addition to more Māori in arts administration roles.

In the central North

In-depth stories on regional arts issues that really dig into the complexity of their local politics are few and far between, and often noticeable by their absence in the newspapers. 

So kudos to writer India Essuah and Pantograph Punch for this piece delving into the complexities around the campaign to save Palmerston North’s art gallery. We’ve touched on developments in this story before, but Essuah is the first to consider all sides of what might be a little too easily-dubbed a battle between inclusivity and the traditional gallery model. 

Yes, museum and gallery Te Manawa provides some strong models for cultural engagement, but Palmerston North has fallen behind other North Island city centres in its public provision for the visual arts, since the days of the Manawatu Art Gallery. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Palmy, a street art festival has wrapped up, gifting the city some impressively-sized new murals.

And in other cultural heritage news in the central north, neighbour Whanganui has, in a first for New Zealand, been accepted into the League of Historical Cities – “an international affiliation of cities developed to recognise the values that historical urban areas bring to local and international communities.” An odd kind of title that might seem, yet the river city does provide a remarkable architectural record of fine and unusual buildings across different historical eras as well as a lively cultural life to boot.  


Grand Opening. Supplied.

Driving east, plans finally gather pace for the long-awaited reopening of Hastings’ grand 981-seater 1915 opera house on March 1. It now runs under the moniker Toitoi: Hawkes Bay Arts and Events Centre. 

After a community opening, Barbarian Theatre Productions bring local artists together to stage Grand Opening on March 7 and 8. Previously done at Auckland’s Civic and Wellington’s State Opera House, it takes you backstage to all the nooks and crannies led by local performance.

NZ in Melbourne 

Melbourne is home to many New Zealanders and its art. Indeed, the National Gallery of Victoria collection can put some galleries to shame in terms of contemporary indigenous work. 

Currently, it’s marking the centenary of Colin McCahon’s birth with Letters and Numbers, noting that the NGV was in fact the first place McCahon went outside New Zealand, in 1951, to study paintings. Meanwhile, out at the Heide, Kiwis Jess Johnston and Simon Ward have their terrific VR experience Terminus.


Ngā Mātai Pūrua Melbourne. Supplied.

Which is all a prelude to the fact that there is an inaugural Kiwi Fest, ‘Melbourne's Festival for New Zealand Music, Culture, Arts, Food and Drink’ happening at the excellent Footscray Community Arts Centre on February 15, bringing together New Zealand communities for the day. Che Fu headlines and Victorian culture groups  Ngā Mātai Pūrua (pictured), Collateral Culture and Nga Uri Whaioranga feature.

The festival is the brainchild of ex-pats Jacob Howard and Chris Lemeulu, who had been “lamenting the lack of events serving the large community of Kiwis in Melbourne.” 

And, staying in Melbourne, why wasn’t it huge news here in 2019 that New Zealand comedian Urzila Carlson was the highest-selling comedian in the history of The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, one of the three largest comedy festivals in the world? 

Carlson also took home the People’s Choice Award, relaunched her memoir and has a standalone one-hour Netflix Special due out this year . Starting in March, she will be touring Australia for three months solid, starting with 18 nights in Melbourne. 

The Alternative Oscars

An Oscar party with a political difference on February 10 in Auckland.

Bloomsday Productions (who do the annual Bloomsday Cabaret and last year Who Killed Blair Peach?) produce Class Struggle in Hollywood! The True Story of the Oscars, combining the story of the unionisation of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s with songs that won Oscars sung by Linn Lorkin. 

Behind the event and telling the story is playwright Dean Parker. “The Academy Awards were set up in 1929 to convince Hollywood writers, actors, producers and directors they were all part of one family and had no need of unions. After a battle with the studios, Hollywood was finally unionised.” Parker gave a smashing lecture at the National Library in October touching on this and a history of writers’ unions, published by Newsroom.

Great Reading Online

One of my favourite places for quality moving image online is the Pacific hub thecoconet.tv. Love this interview in Samoa with Pusi Urale, who at 81 is getting a profile as a painter of nudes, and currently showing at Titirangi’s Te Uru. Urale has been inspired by the high profile artistic lives of her children - here also is a great wee Stuff story from two years ago.


Vivien Atkinson, Knitting (detail), armbands, vintage knitting needles, scraps of wool thread, 2019. Image courtesy CODA Museum

New on the platform dedicated to New Zealand artists overseas Contemporary Hum, jeweller and writer Roseanne Bartley looks at the remarkable Aotearoa jewellery exchange programme, Handshake 5 and their recent exhibition at the Coda Museum in the Netherlands.

Steve Braunias heard back from Creative New Zealand about why they didn’t fund New Zealand Books and well, to be honest, there’s only one word for his response: snarky.  

Art Tour Resources

Artmap is a great, pocket-sized guide to Wellington galleries, available in the galleries but also online to download for the digital device of your choice. Here’s the new expanded Summer 2020 edition. On Facebook, Artmap is good on exhibition announcements, and on Instagram on work images. In Christchurch, its equivalent is a newspaper and site Artbeat and then there’s Artsdiary in Auckland. Selected national listings are provided by Artnow.  


Fired Up. Supplied.

Back in Wellington, Fired Up, a festival of ceramics across the galleries during NZ Festival now has a site. And along with other art commentators in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, I take walking tours of galleries with the great folk at Artexplore

Art Collector is an Australian art magazine which has long made a commitment to covering New Zealand as well. Limited amounts of editorial are online, including from their last issue, this piece on New Zealand artist Ann Shelton.

Written by

Mark Amery

30 Jan 2020

Mark Amery has worked as an art critic, writer, editor and broadcaster for many years across the arts and media.

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