“We’ve turned to creativity, as a way to help us cope with this current situation. You can see that from the massive growth of people doing live streams and sharing videos and recordings and sharing work online. The next challenge is how you attach a deeper understanding of value to that so that artists can continue to sustain themselves in their careers which is going to be a difficult challenge in the next few months, and potentially years as the current situation evolves”
Jeremy Mayall is a man of many talents. His CV boasts composer, record producer, musician, multi-instrumentalist, DJ, filmmaker and now CEO of Creative Waikato.
Prior to his new appointment, he’d been a research leader at the Wintec School of Media Arts. It was while working there that he collaborated with Creative Waikato on a number of different projects and events. When the current CEO stepped down, Mayall originally came in as a temporary replacement but he soon realised it was a great opportunity to combine his various skill sets and passions.
“It was a chance to take what I've done in my creative practice, but also in my academic research around art and well-being, the kind of connection to mental health through creative practice.”
Jeremy Mayall speaking out. Image: Supplied.
Well-being within the arts couldn't be more timely during the current crisis. Mayall sees this as well-being for both the artists and members of the audience. “It brings together ideas, helps us to express who we are and what our identity is. It gives us a sense of kind of community, a sense of belonging and can help to calm you. There's a number of different responses, all of which have different benefits.”
Which brings us to what it was like taking over the running of an arts organisation during a global pandemic. Mayall admits it’s been a challenge, but says the small, resourceful team at Creative Waikato have been really supportive, making the transition to working remotely relatively smooth.
He says the team are focused on trying to “find a sense of positivity and forward momentum that we can use to support artists to transition their work to this new environment, and helping them to think creatively about what this might mean moving forward.”
Jeremy Mayall in composer mode. Photo: Dan Inglis
Mayall thinks the current crisis will potentially lead to the localising of art, with people unable to tour for the foreseeable future.
But he also sees an opportunity for artists to connect with an overseas audience, while everyone is stuck at home looking for things to entertain them online.
“It may be a potential surge and what does that mean for local artists internationally? We're just trying to work on creating resources and creating tools for motivation and for capability to support our arts community at this time.”
Making a Difference
Jeremy Mayall's making well-being a priority Photo: Chris Hillicock.
When you hear Mayall talk about the Waikato arts community, it’s clear why he’s the right person for the job. He describes the creative community as both inspiring and of high quality but also a bit underground. Despite all the great work happening in the area, he worries if you're not from the area you might not notice it.
“What's been interesting, up until this shutdown, is that there have been so many different events on that it's hard to see everything, which I think is a real testament to the quality and breadth of work that's going on.”
Looking towards the future, Mayall is planning to lobby both central and local government to recognise the relationship between arts and health, both mentally and physically.
“I think it's really interesting now that we see that artists understand the importance of well-being. That we can see a world in crisis, and approach this with so much creativity. I think art is a really useful coping mechanism for humanity.”
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