Too often work in the arts are perceived as glorified hobbies rather than a legitimate career pathway. This social stigma is exacerbated by the lack of adequate funding from government agencies. When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she was also the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, the new government gestured towards the value of the arts. We asked Sam Snedden (actor, director, producer, and former business development manager at Basement Theatre) and Courtney Sina Meredith (poet, writer, and performance artist) what they hope to see as a result for the arts sector.
If Jacinda Arden had a New Year’s Resolution for the arts in 2018, what do you think it would be?
Sam Snedden: New Year’s Resolutions tend to be about “I will not”: I will not drink, I will not eat fast food, I will not drunk dial my ex at 3am. But I think “I will” tends to be a lot more powerful e.g. I will delete that loser’s number. So I hope that the PM said to herself on the 1st of January:
- I will use my position to help change the public attitudes about the arts
- I will advocate for the belief that arts and culture are vital to the health and well-being of New Zealand society
- I will use the ample economic and sociological evidence, gathered both in New Zealand and internationally, to make the case that the arts are not only good for society but good for business
- I will ensure that everyone can access the life changing benefits of the arts by spreading investment to the regions
- I will counter any argument that “Now is not the time for this” with “If not now, when?”
Courtney Sina Meredith: *Jacinda*is*so*cool*Jacinda*is*the*friggin*best*thank*gawd*for*Jacinda*restoring*my*faith*in*NZ*politics*and*probs*humanity*in*general*her*rise*to*power*IS*art*
Phew! Got that out of my system! Showtime, Synergy!
Creative equity in Aotearoa. It’s more of a mission than a resolution.
Māori and Pasifika poetry and fiction accounts for a meagre 3% of all locally published literature. As the world’s leading Pacific nation we can do better than this!
More arts organisations should take a leaf out of The Basement’s bold strategic vision for 2018–2020:
Reviewing all parts of our organisation through the lens of decolonisation.
Wow. Just give yourself a minute to breathe that in.
I’m personally excited about the recent policy shift at Creative New Zealand that all applications for funding will be assessed exclusively by external peer assessors. This change comes with, among other things, hopes of a fairer more representative and diverse funding process.
I’m saying all this as a Level 10 Adult but my dream arts fund would be a trial and error pot for new artists with an emphasis on risk-taking where reports could be written, verbal, or visual (CNZ I am more than happy to kōhā this initiative to you ;-)).
Jacinda has already stated that the arts should not focus solely on commercial incentives, she believes in the power of creativity in and of itself. We have a leader committed to an inclusive New Zealand, to a national narrative of openness, and just about anything is possible in such conditions. There is where the gift lies—in the vā of limitless potential.
What do you hope to pull off in 2018?
Sam: I hope to dismantle the patriarchy from the inside, have a tweet that gets more than 1000 RT, and deal with the pressure of having Jacinda's baby named after me.
Courtney: I’m working on 3 different books in 2018: my second book of poems, my first novel, and also a creative-nonfiction project with real stories from Māori, Pasifika, and Queer creatives—this will be the focus of my Michael King Writers’ Centre residency later in the year. I am also launching my first children’s book in June which is exciting. I’ve had the joy of working with an illustrator who I find endlessly inspiring. I’m doing more with my music and, as always, family is the most important thing in my world—so expect more Instagram pics of our beloved greyhound Miles!
I’ve got some travel coming up and festivals here and abroad but the thing I really want to pull of this year is balance. I’d like to spend more time doing yoga than emails. I realised while I was in the States in 2016 that I could literally just tap my life away, that whole decades could pass behind the glow of my laptop, if I wasn't careful—so I’m aiming for more prossecco-at-Coco’s and less stomach-lurching-deadlines. Life is for living.
Sam Snedden is currently directing Twenty Eight Millimetres, part of Auckland Pride Festival (2-18 February), and livestreaming himself in Running for Auckland Fringe Festival (20 February – 4 March)
Twenty Eight Millimetres plays 13–17 February at Basement Theatre.
Running screens 27 February–3 March in the Basement Foyer https://www.aucklandfringe.co.nz/programme-2018/running/
Courtney Sina Meredith is currently contributing to the ‘Same Same But Different’ LGBTI Writers' Festival, part of Auckland Pride Festival (2--18 February). She is appearing in three events across the weekend at AUT’s Sir Paul Reeves Building, on 9–10 February.