In a year where arts funding has been under the spotlight more than usual - perhaps more than ever - all eyes will be on the last round of the Creative New Zealand Arts Grants for 2022 that will be revealed tomorrow (Friday 9 December).
It’s a busy time of year for CNZ - having also announced the new digital delivery service Toi ki Tua - that comes with the unsurprising blowback of partnering with the controversial We Are Indigo - fully detailed and questioned here on The Big Idea.
This round of the Arts Grants cycle comes off the back of more than 30 established groups or companies losing their place under the three-year Toi Uru Kahikatea or Annual Arts Grant funding umbrella - which left not just a bitter taste but a mad scramble to submit a completely new application for the more frequent but smaller arts grants.
It was also a quick turnaround for those already working in the arts grant system, with those unsuccessful in round one finding out on 30 September and applications for this round (round two) opening on 3 October.
The contestable - and contentious - round produced the shortest opening window ever recorded, with the cap of 250 applications met after barely four days (see the details of how this transpired here).
Another record has been set, with CNZ indicating that roughly $11 million has been requested in this round - the highest asking total ever.
The Lowdown can confirm that CNZ will be putting additional budget towards this round - although the final details of exactly how much are yet to be confirmed. As an indicator, round one saw 52 grants totalling $2.2m dished out.
CNZ’s Senior Manager Arts Development, Gretchen La Roche told The Lowdown “we’re pleased to be able to support some brilliant and dynamic artists and arts organisations in this latest Arts Grants round, but the reality is, there are many more who will miss out come Friday’s notifications.
“We acknowledge all those that we have been unable to support and recognise the time and effort that is invested in preparing an application. We also congratulate those that will receive support, and hope that this will enable them to continue to develop their practice.”
Given the extraordinary circumstances of the funding climate, we asked whether there has been any specific strategy to balance the needs of established artists, infrastructure events like fringe festivals and emerging artists.
La Roche replied “where we can, we try to grant successful applicants the full amount requested. However, this time, with demand being so high, and with concern for the ongoing challenges facing the arts community, many applicants won’t be funded at the level they requested.
“Taking this approach means we’re able to spread the funding out to a further 16 applicants who would otherwise have missed out.
“I’d also like to acknowledge the terrific work undertaken by the external assessors. There are tough decisions to be made each time, and together with their valuable input, consideration is also given to the balance of artforms, emerging and established artists, independent practitioners and organisations supported.”
For those that miss out - it’s a long wait to get another opportunity. The next arts grants funding round - round three of the 2022-23 CNZ calendar - opens on 30 January next year, with those results handed down on 7 April.
Corks of (cheap) champagne bottles may be popped early tomorrow in celebration/relief - but for many others, it will be another blow in a year that has brought more than its fair share.
If you want to gauge the direct consequences on the performing arts sector right now, this surprising announcement from the well-established Silo Theatre should make you sit up and take notice.
At a time they’re usually spruiking which productions they’re putting on next year, Silo has instead announced “the stage lights will be off for a period in 2023 as the company resets its future.”
Silo Artistic Director, Sophie Roberts told The Lowdown “the impacts of the pandemic on our sector are serious and we are looking at a very long road to recovery.
“Funding for the arts is shrinking, audience attendance is down the world over, thinking and planning has become short term, reactive and risk-averse, the costs of putting on a production has ballooned, we have a skills shortage with practitioners leaving the sector for better pay and greater security and we have a burnout problem with those who are still in the industry carrying a much greater workload.“The arts are in crisis and there is an urgent need for more public funding from the Government."
But this decision isn’t about closing the doors - there is a resolve to make this time count.
Over nine months Silo will develop three new local works, involving the likes of Anapela Polata’ivao, Stacey Leilua, Leon Radojkovic, Jon Coddington, Rachel Marlow, Daniel Williams and Freya Finch.
Roberts sees this period as a chance to provide safe and secure employment opportunities for a host of creatives including actors, writers, designers, musicians, dramaturgs and directors - in what is being labelled the most significant investment in artistic development in the company's history.
“This climate has demanded that we look closely at the impact we want to make in the future. Returning to business as usual feels not only boring in this context but also dangerous. Risk and experimentation excite us, and this might be our riskiest move to date - we need to make time and space for new ways of thinking, leading and art making.”
Silo aims to have the works ready to go from Spring 2023.
Well, this doesn’t sound promising.
New Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown was never going to be a wallflower when taking office in the country’s biggest city, especially with his campaign driven on targeting ‘waste’, including discussions of selling off shares in Auckland Airport.
But if anyone was in any doubt about his thoughts on the visual art world - and more specifically cornerstone institution Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki - he’s made his stance alarmingly clear.
Having a key cultural institution compared to a dairy - and not favourably - will set off some alarm bells.
All with the caveat of acknowledging he’s “at risk of being seen as something of a philistine”, Brown is not impressed with the findings that AAG had 9516 visitors between July and September, (the target was 13,000).
“9500 wouldn’t run a dairy in terms of turnover,” Brown declared, ”How do we get to have 122 people looking after a few paintings in a building that nobody goes to?” - labelling it the most uneconomical building in the city.
When pointed out by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited (TAU) chief executive Nick Hill that the gallery did more than just show art, and had a restoration unit, as well as storing $300 million of artworks on behalf of Aucklanders, the mayor retorted “we’ve got billions of dollars of value in the cellar that no one is looking at – do we have to own all that? They are not New Zealand pictures.”
While it’s not at the level of banning karakia at council meetings (Kaipara’s new mayor Craig Jepson earning a petition for his removal from office with that stance), this is a situation worth monitoring for the creative community.
Rings by Courtney Sina Meredith. Photo: Supplied.
One gallery not having to worry about opinions being formed inside the city’s halls of power is Auckland’s newest addition to the artistic landscape.
Kim Meredith Gallery has been set up in Symonds Street, kicking off with a series of Market Days introducing some of its artists that starts on Saturday (10 December) from 10am.
The name on the door is one of the country’s highly esteemed arts and culture writers, in demand from here at The Big Idea to big international publications.
The gallery is a family affair, by why wouldn’t it be with the immense talent within its ranks. Artist, poet and cultural leader Courtney Sina Meredith and artist Danielle Meredith have been installed as the co-directors, while the first solo exhibition next year will feature Janet Lilo.
Kim Meredith (below) told The Lowdown that living through an existential crisis like the pandemic (although, she notes, it's still happening) brings into sharp focus what's important to her - and that was setting up a Moana owned art gallery in uptown Auckland on Symonds Street.
"I've always been drawn to visual art, there's the tangible aspect of it that's so different from writing.
“I wanted to set up a venture that would combine my love of the arts while having those important discussions around the Moana zeitgeist. I was talking with a friend last week about superheroes and all the Marvel movies coming out - he reminded me that we as Moana and mana whenua are real life heroes, navigating the oceans with no technology other than communing with nature and the gods.
“That's how I feel about setting up an art gallery, that as a female Aotearoa-born Samoan, I get to continue that incredible journey and the fact that I'm driven to keep doing the things that I love for the rest of my life.
“It's been exciting telling everyone our news - the responses have been so positive and from the new generation of Moana creatives coming through, I've learnt that's part of their long term plan - to open a gallery - how cool is that? Also that we get to work with artists we've long admired and stepping into the dealer space - well, let's face it, Moana people are all about nurturing but we love to haggle.”
work by Janet Lilo available at Kim Meredith Gallery's Market Day. Photo: Supplied.
One of the most determined attempts to stage a major performance over the past few years has come to a close - in a disappointing and sadly Shakespearean way.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) has pulled the pin on this week’s Auckland dates of Venus Rising - a trio of works that have wowed the audiences they’ve been able to be performed in front of.
The culprit once again - COVID - with rising cases within the company leaving RNZB having no choice but to cancel the 8, 9, 10 December performances at Aotea Centre.
The Autumn Ball, part of RNZB's Venus Rising. Photo: Stephen A'Court.
It comes after Christchurch’s dates were slashed to one performance after getting a full run in its world premiere in Wellington at the end of November. In the end, after three postponements and now two cancellations - Venus has risen for the last time.
RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker states “despite having their hearts broken every time we had to push it back - when the occasion finally arrived, the dancers danced their hearts out in a world class performance.
“We have gone through every possible scenario in making our Auckland season happen but… we do not have enough dancers to present all three performances. Some might say Venus Rising was never meant to be, but the company, and we’re sure those who were lucky enough to see it, would disagree. It is a trio of ballets which each stole our hearts and, right now, mine is filled with appreciation for the whole company’s, but especially the dancers’, strength and resilience over the past three years.”
The passing of The Clean’s Hamish Kilgour has sparked a wave of tributes to a man who not only helped launch Flying Nun as one of the most influential labels in Aotearoa’s history - but one that was beloved in so many other ways.
The news filtered quickly through the creative community, with “one of New Zealand music’s maverick spirits” remembered for co-founding the band with his brother David and his unique drumming style.
Former Christchurch booker Jim Wilson stated in the NZ Herald “No one can duplicate a man like Hamish. He stood apart from the world. A bohemian kind of guy.”
Matthew Goody - who literally wrote the book on Flying Nun records and is featured here on The Big Idea - gives a detailed history in The Guardian. And and one of New Zealand's most dedicated music sites AudioCulture is a great source to deep dive into the life and career of Kilgour.
But perhaps the reason why he was most loved is expressed by Kilgour’s friend Gemma Gracewood in The Spinoff, who labelled him “a million sparks in the dark.”
She explains “Hamish was the very opposite of a music snob; he just wanted people to do their thing. It’s how a whole scene got started. To perform with him was to feel held and uplifted by his fluid, idiosyncratic beat. He nudged us all a little closer to the footlights, a kind man in a mad scene that often threw up barriers to its newcomers, and that still doesn’t know how to care for its elders.”
A whole lot of life squeezed into those 65 years, as we lose another remarkable talent.
Creative wordsmith Colleen Maria Lenihan (above) is set to use her skills in a new direction after landing the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) Emerging Māori Writer in Residence for 2023.
Already a proven screenwriter and photographer, who this year published her first book of short stories Kōhine, Lenihan (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) will use her three-month residency at the Victoria University of Wellington campus to work on a novel set in Aotearoa in pre-European times.
“To be gifted time to write is the dream for writers. Having that space to fully focus, away from day jobs, helped me complete my first book. I’m excited to try my hand at writing a novel, and will seek to apply some of the screenwriting principles I’ve learned to fiction. I hope to create something epic that will make my tūpuna proud.”
Also heading to the Victoria University of Wellington campus next year is Music researcher Dr Michael David Brown - named as the 2023 JD Stout Fellow.
The music curator at the Alexander Turnbull Library, Brown will research the role of electronic popular music as a medium of expression for contemporary generations of New Zealanders, particularly millennials.
Something that doesn’t need any extra publicity and hype is the new Avatar movie - but before we let it enter the world of Hollywood hyperbole, there are some numbers worth keeping in mind.
According to the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), more than 2400 New Zealanders worked on returning Pandora to the big screen including 1400 crew. Nearly 800 extras, 114 stunt artists, 46 New Zealand cast and a pool of 36 interns and apprentices were contracted on the production.
In a release, NZFC points out “over the years, Avatar has launched many careers and supported thousands of jobs in New Zealand. It has also raised the capability and experience of the New Zealand crews working on the production, exposing them to leading technology and innovation from around the world.”
The just world-premiered Avatar: The Way of Water, as well as Avatar3 and parts of Avatar4 were filmed concurrently, with Auckland and Wellington used as live-action shooting venues. NZFC states the sequels are eligible for the New Zealand Screen Production Grant on their NZ$774 million investment in New Zealand.