Back to normal?
It’s been a week since the shift to Orange Light was sprung on New Zealand just as our collective focus was already shifting to out of office replies, chocolate eggs and sleep-ins.
It’s brought with it the end (for now, at least) of the 200 person indoor capacity limits that were seen as anywhere between stifling and crippling, depending on who you spoke to in the creative community.
Performers and gallerists The Lowdown have spoken to say it’s a relief to get rid of the capacity limits that many felt were “outdated” but given the announcement happened over Easter, they’re still looking for an accurate gauge of how ready audiences are to load up their artistic calendars.
The drop to Orange Light swings open doors but also opens a few headaches for those who have been seeking - or have planned to seek - financial support from Manatū Taonga.
One of the original details of several of the Omicron-focused Arts and Culture Recovery Package funds saw applications close when the move down from Red Light was announced. But the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) has announced they’re extending the dates due to the sudden change of course.
The new dates for the relevant funds are:
With guarded optimism once again growing, we can expect to see more event announcements start to come out of the woodwork. And no, we’re not talking about Harry Styles and the incoming flood of international musicians.
Theatre companies are getting their ducks in a row, postponed touring performances are being rescheduled and creatives are champing at the bit to reconnect with audiences.
As one person put it, “it feels wonderful to finally be sharing some certainty and good news from the entertainment sector.”
The Auckland Pride Festival is one of many that felt the crushing disappointment of cancellation this year. While announcing that the event will once again take over February in 2023, Executive Director Max Tweedie told The Lowdown the scars from this year’s forced decision take time to heal.
Auckland Pride Creative Director, Elyssia Wilson-Heti and Executive Director Max Tweedie. Photo: Supplied.
“At first we were all just devastated, gutted that after such a long time of being apart with closed theatre doors that we were doing it all over again. There was definitely a period of not just mourning but artists fighting for their livelihoods and heads deep in applications, but I think we’re coming out the other side.
“If anyone’s become experts in the pivot - which we now lovingly call the swivel - it’s artists, and we’re excited to keep working with artists for a triumphant return in February next year.”
Not that they’ve been sitting on their hands - it’s been a busy few months for Tweedie and the Pride team.
“Our first priority was making sure artists got paid and didn’t drown in the wake (of the festival cancellation. We supported artists through their applications to MCH and advocated for them, which we felt obligated to do.
“Artists that were supported through the funding we provided also got to keep it, which was an additional relief for us and every artist that was going to perform at our events got paid too.”
The success of the inaugural takatāpui festival Te Tīmatanga from a public offering into digital delivery “emphasised the value and importance of hybrid delivery going forward. From an accessibility and inclusion standpoint, and to protect against whatever COVID-19 will throw at us next, the work we present should be resilient and dynamic - and we’re looking forward to building on the successes of Te Tīmatanga to minimise disruptions and maximise accessibility.”
Liam Brown's artwork on display at Britomart as part of Te Tīmatanga. Photo: Supplied.
That’s also opened the door to giving Pride creatives a sense of community outside of the month long festival programming - with confirmation of a year-round platform in The Queer Agenda, which Tweedie thinks “will become one of our most important initiatives.”
He explains “one of the best parts about Festivals - and ours in particular - is the community that’s built around it. The people you have a drink with at Basement and then catch at Q Theatre in a few days’ time. Why should that just be limited to February? Queer artists are creating, presenting, testing work all year round, and we want to be able to support them.
“We have an existing platform and audience for queer arts and events, so why not help them sell more tickets, reach more people, and ultimately create better work.
“For the two months it was live in June-July last year, we had a fantastic response! We had thousands visit our website to view the events, and we saw direct conversions into ticket sales. So we hope this continues to grow, we get some support behind it to make it free for everyone to register - and that we can support creatives and our communities year-round to showcase the best of what our communities have to offer.”
Yuki Kihara at the New Zealand Pavilion at Venice Biennale. Photo: Supplied.
The queer creative community has even more reason to be proud right now, with the official unveiling of interdisciplinary artist Yuki Kihara’s long awaited Paradise Camp exhibition at the Veince Biennale.
After years of preparation and build up, Kihara’s emotions and artistic expression are wonderfully covered by The Big Idea’s Kim Meredith - and last night (Wednesday) we were given the tour of the New Zealand Pavilion in the Artiglierie after months of shrouded secrecy.
It was worth the wait.
The visuals are rich and lush, as they weave through a myriad of topics like small island ecologies, climate change, queer rights, Gauguin’s gaze, intersectionality and decolonisation.
Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni says “Yuki, being the first Pacific, Asian and Fa’afafine artist to represent Aotearoa at the prestigious Venice Biennale, has gifted the New Zealand arts community with an incredible moment to cherish.”
Yuki Kihara, Three Fa‘afafine (After Gauguin), 2020. Image: Supplied.
We may be on the other side of the globe and international travel is only just beginning to become a reality again, but there are still opportunities for those in Aotearoa and the Pacific to get a taste of this groundbreaking installation.
Much of the immersive digital elements to Paradise Camp will be available to view online, and a companion publication to the exhibition has been published, edited by its curator Natalie King.
For those longing to see it in the flesh, Paradise Camp will tour Auckland Art Gallery in 2023, as well as Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
Larissa McMillan welcomed into her new role. Photo: Supplied.
One of the new jewels in the crown of the North - The Wairau Māori Art Gallery - has its inaugural Director in place, with the appointment of Larissa McMillan (Ngāpuhi) as Te Ringa Hautū Toi.
It’s the next step in McMillan’s homecoming, having left Whangārei over 20 years ago. She told The Lowdown she returned to Te Tai Tokerau “to reconnect with my whakapapa and help to bring the place where I grew up into a new dawn of dynamism” - originally working as Marketing Manager of the Hātea Art Precinct, where she’ll be based with her new role.
“When I learned in-depth about the kaupapa of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery and how its feet are firmly grounded in mana motuhake, as well as Toi Māori, well… I threw myself, heart-first into being part of the project in any way that I could…I had to put my hat in the ring.”
Having built up a diverse skill set including graphic design, film, street art and exhibitions, McMillan’s spent more than a decade in the art and non-profit sector and has put her focus on building strong connections and relationships, especially at a local level.
“My marketing experience in branding and advertising will amplify the gallery’s karanga, and my years of mahi in the art sector have made me resilient and profoundly respectful of the dedication that artists apply to their work daily. They are the real heroes of the story - I just get to awhi them.
“I am incredibly privileged to get to know the board, which has 12 esteemed tangata whenua on the team. They are so embracing and they are all committed to excellence in Toi Māori.”
Te Hemo Ata Henare, Ka Nukunuku! Ka Nekeneke! (2022) and John Miller, The Launch of Ngātokimatawhaorua (1974). on display ar Wairau Māori Ary Gallery. Photo: Sam Harnett.
Elizabeth Ellis, Chair of the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Charitable Trust believes McMillan’s appointment will allow the fledgling gallery “to develop its work in promoting Māori artists, Māori curators, and Māori culture through supporting vibrant exhibitions and developing an education programme that will engage our communities in contemporary Māori art. I am confident this will lead to growing our national and (in time) our international and indigenous audiences.”
The appetite for indigenous creativity is growing, particularly in non-māori-led institutions, which gives the role of McMillan and the Wairau Māori Art Gallery even more importance.
“Toi Māori has been going through a vital period forever. And by that, I mean that it has always been vital to Māori.
“Education at all levels is essential to this growth (of interest) – if we give people the tools to understand concepts such as the impacts of colonisation, then we can then at least equip them with the ability to make informed opinions based on fact.
“Our wider community in New Zealand is also feeling that shift in exposure and is recognizing that our indigenous lens here in Aotearoa brings light and knowledge to the table. It never detracts from but adds to the conversation. And don’t we all want to have full tables?
“Exposure to Māoridom is, as it has been for decades, on the rise.
Photo: Sam Harnett.
“You will see more Māori-led institutions in the art scene, and other disciplines too. You will see Te Tiriti o Waitangi and tikanga inform governance and decision-making. You will see more diversity at the top level- sounding out for marginalised voices. You will see more young Māori wanting to be fluent with their reo and whakapapa, and older Māori wanting to know and understand their journey.
“Toi Māori will become tantalisingly visible in our cities and will be seen around the world as a defining aspect of Aotearoa.”
While she’s just getting her feet under the desk - McMillan is straight to work with her first in-gallery project..
“We have a new exhibition to be installed in June which will be curated by Karl Chitham – the Gallery Director of The Dowse Art Museum. Lucky us! I can’t give away too many secrets right now but expect a moving and profound show.”
If you woke up today feeling an extra bounce in your step, it could be because today is officially World Creativity and Innovation Day.
Does it make you any more creative? Probably not. But just like we listen to and love Aotearoa music outside of NZ Music Month and treat bullying with distain outside of Pink Shirt Day - having a global, United Nations recognised day to celebrate all things creative gives the deeds of those who are part of our community a little extra focus.
The more this event grows, the more aroha, support and acceptance will be directed towards creatives - sounds good to me.
Today is the culmination of World Creativity and Innovation Week (WCIW) - with Aotearoa one of over 120 countries registered as officially celebrating these deeds.
While today and WCIW are spotlighted, it’s actually becoming a year-round platform where you can post your creative expression like an international index for the world to see, and to be able to glean artistic education and inspiration from around the planet.
So if you have a creative project, performance, digital exhibition, podcast that you want to share with the world, click here to be part of it - you can post it any time, not just today.
Aucklanders are about to lose some of the bright and vibrant creative offerings that have attracted so much interest this summer.
But for those with deep enough pockets who haven’t spent all their reserves on a Tāmaki Makaurau house deposit - there’s the chance to bring that magic home.
The Whale Tales art trail saw 80 “Big Broos” designed by Aotearoa artists - littered throughout Auckland since January to add some colour to the city and highlight the plight of the Bryde’s whale.
A source suggested to The Lowdown that the sales from previous sculpture trails like the Big Hoot and Pop Up Penguins have led to estimates that the tales will sell between $6-36K, and anticipate the average price to sit around $12.5K.
For those wondering where the money goes, the artists who stamped their mark on the tails were paid an original fee but part of the process was always for the completed works to be donated to WWF New Zealand to auction off, the money going to their mahi protecting our marine environment.
There are some tails already up for grabs online via timed auctions - but the rest will go under the hammer at a live auction at the Maritime Room on 2 May - though it's worth noting that both entry and online registration to bid comes with a fee.
The tails will be brought together for one last chance to enjoy collectively and publicly at Silo Park next weekend (29 April - 1 May).
Valerie Auersperg's Backyard Bliss. Photo: Supplied.