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Supporting Creative Communities

‘Tohorā’ by Kereama Taepa installed Paraparaumu Beach. Image: Karl Webber.
Pacific Dance New Zealand - The Transform Series. Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele.
From the first Going West Festival, 1996: The Literary Process Debra Daley, Emily Perkins and Stephanie Johnson.
Aaron Tokona at York Street Studios. Image: Richard Robinson.
‘Red Balloons and Knotted String’, Roberta Thornley, 2020. Archival pigment ink photograph on Hahnemühle photo rag.
Still from ‘Pain’ directed by Anna Duckworth.
Mark Amery discusses what changes might be needed to see better access to the arts across New Zealand’s communities - along with all the latest arts news and good reads online.


How we Value the Arts Locally 

Auckland's arts community is worried with good reason that Auckland Council’s emergency budget will see a substantial funding cut for the arts. 

The risks were discussed by Lynn Freeman on RNZ with the President of Local Government NZ Dave Cull and arts advisor Simon Bowden. I appreciated Bowden’s clear assertion that the arts are about more than a community “feel-good factor”. He gave the example of the Wellington Strathmore Park Kotahi Festival he co-produces every Waitangi Day: “[The festival] is credited with fundamentally changing the way people feel about living in this community. There’s data that shows that the rates of police callouts and hospitalisation and mental health [issues] have all dropped here relative to other communities… it’s had a deep impact here… it’s quite a serious thing to contemplate.” 

Treasured Local Out West 

Meanwhile, it’s great to see the work of a true crusader for the role of arts in communities, Naomi McCleary being celebrated at a time when there are concerns nationally about local authority budget cuts. 

McCleary is the former Waitakere City Council’s Arts Manager. Way back in 2004, she was the first recipient of an Outstanding Individual Contribution Award from Creative New Zealand for her services to the arts within the local government arena. Recently she got an ONZM for services to the arts in the Queen’s Birthday honours. McCleary was instrumental in bedding public art into urban design projects 20 years ago through her work in Waitakere, but what she is perhaps best known for is founding the Going West Writers Festival. This year is the festival’s 25th anniversary and post lockdown they’ve gone online, as Naomi tells Lynn Freeman on RNZ. They’ve created an 18-week-long podcast series of highlights from their past festivals - conversations, performances and poetry - which have just started online. Four podcasts are already up.

From the first Going West Festival, 1996: The Literary Process Debra Daley, Emily Perkins and Stephanie Johnson.

Changes to Supporting Creative Communities

All of this is slowly turning things towards whether anytime soon there will be changes announced to CNZ’s Creative Communities Scheme (CCS) which provides funding to local authorities to support arts projects in their local areas. Despite this government’s talk of increasing access to the arts, no changes have yet to be made or additional funding yet announced. 

It’s time, I believe, for the system to have a timely overhaul to ensure the best regional delivery. A scan of local authority websites suggests many have been slow to adjust their timelines post COVID, so I went to Creative New Zealand for comment.

“Acknowledging that the COVID-19-related restrictions and uncertainties of the past few months have made it difficult to deliver CCS funding rounds and for applicants to commit to projects in the near future,” writes Rebecca Sellwood, “we recently advised that councils can carry over any unspent funds from 2019/20 into the 2020/21 financial year.”

Incoming Creative Bay of Plenty General Manager Eric Holowacz writes on the AA(e)-C(19)C - Aotearoa Arts and Events during the COVID-19 Crisis Facebook group about how CNZ and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage might “leverage enhanced CSS funding as an incentive to local governments that are now considering cuts… 

“Let's talk about the $20 billion purse of mystery money now hiding in the central government's future OPEX pocket… Imagine if a small slice of that allowed CNZ to triple its CSS allocations for the year ending 2021, and in exchange for a boost of dosh, the central government required each recipient local government to maintain current level arts and culture funding at its general fund level….” 

Kāpiti Tohorā

‘Tohorā’ by Kereama Taepa, installed Paraparaumu Beach. Image: Karl Webber.

At such a time, coming out of lockdown, it’s also great to be celebrating a new innovative work of art in a public space in the regions: on the Kāpiti Coast, overlooking Kāpiti island at Paraparaumu Beach

Kereama Taepa is a renowned sculptor known for his exploration of technology with carving. Refreshingly, 10-metre long sculpture ‘Tohorā’ isn’t a vertical column, but a set of ridges that may be played on and which light up beautifully at night, with the addition of an audio component: whale sound. Taepa comments the work is anchored around the “notion of journeys and travel” to provide a literal pathway. "The Tohorā specifically relates to the whales and the way they migrate through the Rauoterangi Channel, between Kāpiti Island and the mainland."

All Hail the Orchestra

It’s time to give out a special COVID-19 arts access award to our national orchestra, the NZSO who have from the lockdown get-go been ahead of the ball in terms of finding innovative ways to reach Aotearoa. 

Newly appointed Chief Executive (previously in an interim capacity) Peter Biggs has clearly been having an impact. In this RNZ feature, he talks about their COVID response as being about taking seriously the remit under the 2004 New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Act to “provide world-class music to every New Zealander.” 

Now, he says - in a significant move - they intend to continue to stream their concerts online, including a massive free concert this Friday night to celebrate New Zealand’s response to the virus. 

“From now on,” Biggs states, “we’re no longer just an analogue orchestra playing physically; we’re now having to walk on both feet, analogue and digital. Streaming will continue. We’ve set up cameras at the MFC; we’re calling it MFC TV.”  

Art, Propaganda or Sales?   

Otis Frizzell and Mike Weston have seized the commercial iconographical ground with smart pastiches post lockdown - and the boundary between genuine news and marketing technique gets murky. Here, their take on the Barack Hope poster (itself a pastiche), the Ardern Aroha print is according to TV1 news, the subject of complaints to the electoral commission. For each print they sell, they are pasting one up in public - nice move. Frizzell and Weston may have “wanted to come up with a way to thank Jacinda Ardern” but one can’t but wonder that the main reason they sat down to come up with something wasn’t to make some money - and why not.      

A Decade in Dance

Pacific Dance New Zealand - The Transform Series. Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele.

Organisation Pacific Dance NZ is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and have created The Transform Series to mark the occasion. Ten artists have been selected to create a 25-30 minute ‘webisode’ that “explores how their personal dance practice is informed by their unique heritage”, hailing from 10 different regions of the Pacific. The first has been launched this week via Facebook Live, before being available on-demand on Pacific Dance’s YouTube channel

Creative NZ Rolls Out the Money

Creative New Zealand continues to share weekly results from its Emergency Response Package. A whopping $20 million has so far been approved:  Emergency Relief Grants are here and Arts Continuity Grants here. There’s been nearly $10 million to support 2,605 practitioners for Emergency Relief Grants (for loss of income), and just over $10 million for 405 Arts Continuity Grants for short-term projects. More results are coming through over the next three Fridays (26 June, 3 and 10 July).

Film Festival Announcement

Still from ‘Pain’ directed by Anna Duckworth.

Breaking news from the Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival - announcing their programme this morning and it includes a triumphant return to theatres.

With the 79 feature films and seven collections of shorts all available online, Festival Director Marten Rabarts explored the options on a physical showing once Aotearoa dropped back to level one. “This has been incredibly complex to secure both in-cinema and online rights for films, but we are very pleased to announce we will have 27 films showing in venues in eight cities including Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.”

The six finalists in New Zealand’s Best Short Film Competition have also been announced: Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) (director Cian Elyse White), Daniel (director: Claire Van Beek), Love is Real! (director: Calvin Sang), Oranges and Lemons (director: Robyn Grace), Pain (director: Anna Duckworth), and Safety Net (director: Anthea Williams).

Christchurch Centre’s Woes Need Resolution

Questions are being asked about how the historic Christchurch Arts Centre, which is run by a not-for-profit trust rather than council, should be funded in the future. In this Press story Chief executive Philip Aldridge has raised the alarm about its long term financial viability given it no longer receives council funding as it once did. 

Creative Tamaraki hit the Tile Wall in Tairāwhiti

The first project - and a rather smart community one - for this year’s Gisborne Tairāwhiti Arts Festival in October, as published on The Big Idea has been announced. It’s a digital retrospective of Gisborne’s ‘Tile Wall’ – hand-painted tiles created by 6500 school children in 1999 for the millennium celebrations. Pakiwaitara (If This Wall Could Talk) is cleverly about bringing the community together and considering 20 years on where these tamariki are now. The project leader David Jones (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu) is one of those kids: “With this project, we are using technology to connect and also take stock of where we are today.”  Those who claim their tile, The Big Idea write, are also being asked to contribute to the digital wall in any way, including mediums not available back at the end of last century. “It can be,” says director Tama Waipara, “a selfie, a self-portrait, Tic Tok, a piece of artwork, whatever way people want to use to reconnect.”

Remembering Two Fiery Guitarists

Aaron Tokona at York Street Studios. Image: Richard Robinson.

Tributes are pouring out for Aaron Tokona, the gifted Hutt Valley guitarist and songwriter who has been taken from us too young -  aged 45 from a heart attack. Known for his work with the band Weta in the ‘90s (who threatened big things alongside Shihad) and then A Hori Buzz, Fly My Pretties and Cairo Knife Fight, Tokona was a gifted, flamboyant musician who was at the passionate heart of many a music scene. Critic Simon Sweetman penned this, and Nick Bollinger also notes the passing within a day of Tokona of an older renowned Māori Hendrix-inspired guitarist, Kemp Tuirirangi (71) who played with Blerta among many other bands. Of Tokona, Bollinger remembers:

“I once had an uncanny experience in the Auckland studios of RNZ. I had spent the morning in a soundproof room, editing a programme about the legendary New Zealand band The Human Instinct whose guitarist Billy Te Kahika was sometimes referred to as ‘the Māori Hendrix’, listening to his 1970 tour-de-force ‘Stoned Guitar’. Taking a short break, I turned off the music and opened the door, only to hear what seemed to be the same sound coming from another studio at the opposite end of the corridor. Discombobulated, I ventured towards the source, only to find Aaron Tokona, hunched over a guitar, his amp turned up full, coaxing Hendrix-like tones from his equipment. He laughed with delight when I told him how confused I’d been.”

And Finally 

‘Red Balloons and Knotted String’, Roberta Thornley, 2020. Archival pigment ink photograph on Hahnemühle photo rag.

I’m loving the balloons in Roberta Thornley’s latest suite of photographs at Auckland’s Tim Melville Gallery. Here’s a review from Nina Seja and a full suite of images, on a site full of new writing and photographic portfolios, Photoforum.   

Some of the most exciting art being produced in New Zealand has been produced for international shows care of the Mata Aho Collective, so it’s special to get to consider the collective’s work in image and text and why it’s so resonant right now with this piece by Cassandra Barnett for The Spinoff Art. 


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Written by

Mark Amery

25 Jun 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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