Game of Smarts

The battle to claim the throne as New Zealand’s most creative city could be about to warm up, as the newest contender works to finalise its first arts strategy in nearly two decades.

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They want it to be a clean fight but make no mistake: Christchurch is after the crown as the most creative, and liveable city in the country.

The unofficial national competition is a little like the HBO series, minus the bloodshed, and the millions of viewers. Strategy is coming...

The southern contenders have been gathering supporters and plotting for a while now.

They needed to come up with a plan to offset the influence of the King of the North (Auckland) and to challenge the incumbent – all hail Wellington, (seen in the capital as) Rightful Heir to the Throne, Ruler of the Kingdoms, Protector of the realm, and technically our only Mother of Dragons, thanks to Weta Workshop.  

All the southern plotting with a steering committee and a working party has resulted in Christchurch’s first formal arts strategy since 2001.  

Toi Ōtautahi is open for public submissions until 5 pm Monday and has a simple vision – for Christchurch to be known as the best place to live and create; a place where ‘new ideas are tested and a spirit of collaboration opens new possibilities.’  

It’s the collaboration piece that has been getting attention. In a first for New Zealand, the strategy has been drawn up in a partnership between arts sector funders and advocates.  Not only that, once it’s finalised the same collaborative approach will manage outcomes and implementation, with the proposed set-up of an Arts Office, and a Joint Leadership Group.  


Submissions on the Christchurch arts strategy close 5pm, Monday 17 June. You can read the document in full and have your say here. 

Creative New Zealand has talked of how proud it is to be one of the strategy’s major partners, alongside the City Council, Rātā Foundation and ChristchurchNZ.  “The Toi Ōtautahi strategy partners are already thinking about innovative ways they could work on shared interests together through this new approach,” says Garth Gallaway, a Christchurch-based Arts Council member.

"Christchurch has been a place where there is a bit of a rebellious and innovative spirit, and that perhaps hasn’t been well told enough in the past.” - Kiri Jarden

Christchurch’s Council arts advisor, Kiri Jarden, says the city is definitely uniquely placed to come up with something fresh. “I think the strategy is great. I see lots of potential in it. What people wanted to celebrate is our unique history in the arts. Christchurch has been a place where there is a bit of a rebellious and innovative spirit, and that perhaps hasn’t been well told enough in the past.”

Jarden says since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes there’s been an opportunity for a lot of different stories to be told.  “We want to be sure we remember the narratives and that we have a lot to celebrate creatively. “

Most of the submissions to date, she says, have been positive, but many people will be waiting to see what detail emerges, particularly on funding.  “One of the things we’ve said as we have gone through is that new funding isn’t necessarily part of this, “says Jarden.  “For Council, it’s really just about how we prioritise where existing funding might go.  It’s about rejigging, not necessarily about increasing the arts spend.”

The strategy document says a shift of focus ‘will likely impact existing resourcing and allocation through traditional funders'.  

Mural by Tilt for Spectrum 2015/ChristchurchNZ

Strategic action areas include:

  • increasing investment in the arts and creativity over time

  • establishing a range of exchange, residency and mentoring opportunities

  • ensuring there is a visible diversity of art forms and cultures

  • developing a public art plan including sculpture, street art, integrated artworks and placemaking

Steering Committee member, and long-time arts advocate, Marianne Hargreaves, reassures more detail is to come. “The key thing has been to just make sure there are some guiding principles,” she says. “It’s really important at this stage for us to outline the vision for the city, and to hear more of what people think. We haven’t had anything to hang on, up until now. You couldn’t say you were meeting the vision for the city because there wasn’t one."

“It’s really important at this stage for us to outline the vision for the city, and to hear more of what people think." - Marianne Hargreaves

Hargreaves says people in the north don’t usually look south when it comes to matters of the arts, but they may soon have more reason to.  

“If the strategy gets cemented here, and people start being more proactive economically as well so you get people investing in what’s going on in the arts and making it more visible, then it will impact more on the rest of the country.”

Capital gains

So just how important is that creative crown, to a city, and its people?  The stakes are high, but potentially the rewards are rich, and not just for the artistic community.

New York’s former mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, has said that cities in the 21st century need to do more than just offer public services. “For cities to have sustained success, they must compete for the grand prize of intellectual capital and talent,” he wrote in a piece for the Financial Times.

“The most creative individuals want to live in places that protect personal freedoms, prize diversity and offer an abundance of cultural opportunities. A city that wants to attract creators must offer a fertile breeding ground for new ideas and innovations.”

“For cities to have sustained success, they must compete for the grand prize of intellectual capital and talent.” - Michael Bloomberg

Auckland and Dunedin are both members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Wellington has twice been named New Zealand’s most creative city by economic consultancy Infometrics, based on the number in the workforce involved in creative occupations and industries.  The capital is also home to the Royal Ballet, New Zealand Opera, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and more.  

6.4 per cent of Wellingtonians were employed in the creative sector, 1.7 points ahead of the next best, Auckland. Christchurch was down the chart, at 3.6%. But Christchurch has had many challenges and priorities since 2010.


Graph: www.infometrics.co.nz

The city and its people have stories to tell.  As someone very short and wise said recently:

“What unites people? Stories. There is nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it.”

 

Read the Christchurch draft Arts Strategy here.

Read Wellington’s Arts and Culture Strategy here.

Auckland’s Toi Whitiki Strategic Action plan is here.

Submissions on the Christchurch arts strategy close 5 pm, Monday 17 June. You can read the document in full and have your say here.  

 

Story by Keri Malthus

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

14 Jun 2019

The Big Idea Editor

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