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Is Funding Hitting the Mark?

It's been a huge week for the arts - with big money moves in mentoring and accessibility. This week's arts news bulletin delves into how the sector's COVID recovery plan is playing out.


Stepping up 

We know that the impact of Coronavirus on the arts is real. 

There is a shift towards a wider understanding of the essential service and contribution artists and creatives bring to our lives. But how are we shaping this basis for the sustainable future of the sector and who should be driving those COVID recovery initiatives? 

On Sunday morning, the Government announced a plan to positively impact 1000 creative careers through its new Creative Careers Service

With both Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) combining their resources to run the pilot in true collaborative spirit, this new programme is a bit of a game-changer. 

What is being proposed is not a magic wand fix but a mentoring programme that could be a bit like winning the lottery ticket to creative recovery.

When I think about the idea of mentoring, I think about the many skills I personally had to develop to be where I am today, always expanding and rippling into the new. As a creative freelancer, my success is also the success of many experienced and trusted advisors I have had along this perpetual journey. It’s about having someone in your sphere to look out for you, give you some good advice and show you things that you might be momentarily missing to succeed. 

Having our government backing a variety of mentoring programmes will accelerate this process for so many creatives out there which will make a considerable difference towards their success journey.

Making networks and asking for help is about relationship building. Probably the most important skillset in the creative industry. These relationships are consistently vital throughout the entirety of one’s professional career, and most vital when starting off or like many trying to recover from the pandemic blow.

Find out full details and how to apply in this comprehensive story here on The Big Idea

Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, the Minister for both Arts, Culture and Heritage and Social Development has grand plans.

It must be said, Carmel Sepuloni is stepping up her game now she’s had a few months under her belt as the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage (after serving as Associate Minister in the previous Labour term).

In the space of a week, Sepuloni has announced both the Creative Careers Service and the Creative Spaces Initiative, where MCH is putting $18 million into promoting and improving accessibility to the arts for those who face barriers to participation (the most comprehensive coverage again here on TBI). 

Both these projects aren’t about circulating money among the top tier organisations - they are funding those who may be lost to ways of creativity without support. There is much more to come in the $374 million Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme - but this appears to be a strong start.

Fair enough

In Auckland, a number of festivals were bracing for possible disruption. With Fringe and Pride Festivals underway, Level 1 arrived just in time for the upcoming Auckland Art Fair. It will go on as planned, with previews of the fair beginning on Wednesday and ending on Sunday.  

Look out for a special feature In Residence, a new initiative for artist-run spaces occupying the mezzanine area of The Cloud. This year’s line-up includes mothermother, Parasite, RM, Satchi & Satchi & Satchi and Wet Green. Thanks to the Boosted campaign, these experimental galleries will be bringing vibrant energy while being supported financially, where the full cost of participation has been covered for each booth, alongside additional curatorial and writing support. 

 “Each space has been working for months to best showcase their artists and share the ethos of their projects in innovative ways,” says organiser Becky Hemus. “Parasite have emulated the staircases in their physical location, mothermother have hand-painted their walls to look like faded wallpaper, RM are presenting new artworks by approximately 60 artists from their archive, Satchi & Satchi & Satchi have invited Mexican curator Adrián Fierro Lara to host an exhibition alongside the Tāmaki Makaurau-based Inspiration Group, and Wet Green are sharing a solo presentation by Priscilla Rose Howe." 

Unlike the commercial galleries that are participating in the Art Fair, the mezzanine of the Cloud is offering emerging artists to be seen as the potential pipeline. 

“An emerging artist has generally had less exhibitions that are widely seen, and rarely someone to stand behind the artworks and really champion them. Yes, it’s important for these artists to be seen and make sales, but most importantly, it’s a chance for people to attend a well-considered presentation of their artwork and glean more about their practice.”


mothermother’s booth at In Residence. Photo: Auckland Art Fair.

Flirting with disaster

Teresa Peters is one artist that couldn’t be better suited to the apocalypse if she tried.

Harnessing the technologies of remote nearness in our pandemic life, DISASTROUSFORMS.COM is a nomadic month-long exhibition taking place from 22 Feb – 24 March. Inspired by Auckland Museum Natural Sciences Collections Online, the archive is presented in a complementary blended format, accompanied by essays, street posters, threading across both physical and digital platforms, enabling audiences near and far to discover and experience. DISASTROUS FORMS opens up a platform of reference and reflecting on a changing world and the complex dynamics within which we live in. 

To mark its end, a live screen public viewing will take place in Aotea Square in partnership with Auckland Live.

DISASTROUSFORMS 2020. Image: Teresa Peters. 

Spiritual showcase

After 3 months at Objectspace, the exhibition SYOKES came to an end. Featuring artists Marc Conaco and Louie Bretaña, the show delved into their reimagined childhoods. Through reclaiming the power of the queer Indigenous identity as divine conduits, their art is showcasing the magic of creating spirits and deities through storytelling.

The closing of this evocative exhibition was accompanied by the event Mahiwagang chorvalyn (Magical ephemera) as an offering to SYOKES. Diesel and Magic of the queer arts collective: Ballroom Haus of Coven-Carangi performed the embodiment of diwata (a powerful babaylan spirit guide that offers protection, love and belonging) through the magic of wearable works of art created by fashion designer Dennis Sayat.

Image from SYOKES exhibition. Photo: Hohua Ropate.  

Fringe trim

Last year they got through their full schedule before the world ground to a halt. But it’s a different story this year for the Auckland Fringe Festival - into its second week and once again COVID levels came into play.

Many artists with shows at Basement had to wait for the last-minute announcements to be able to provide their audiences with information of what to expect at Level 2. This proved to be particularly difficult for visiting artists with accommodation and other associated costs if Level 3 continued any longer. 

Level 2 meant a reduction of audience numbers to 45, while implementing physical distancing. Half of the programmed shows postponed while the other half performed under Level 2 conditions. This level of uncertainty results in loss of pre-sales making it riskier than ever to put on a show. 

After her memorable performance at last year’s NZ Comedy Gala, award-winning comedian Laura Davis brings her not to be missed show Ghost Machine to Basement as part of Auckland Fringe. It comes highly recommended - as does listening to Davis on The Laugh Track and RNZ’s Standing Room Only. 

Laura Davis in Ghost Machine – Photo: Supplied.

Musos and muses

Meanwhile in Wellington, the sun came out shining strong for The Garden Party. It’s a brand new kaupapa dreamed up by Claire Mabey in lockdown 2020 and realised over the weekend at the Botanic Garden's Soundshell. Verb Wellington and The Spinoff joined forces to create an event that would bring writers together with music and food - combining the carnival vibes of a music festival with yarns of books, ideas and creativity.

But it too almost had its wings clipped by the fluctuating Alert Levels.

Mabey explains “During the COVID level rise in the days leading up to it, our team un-produced the festival behind the scenes to ensure we had appropriate plans in place for all of the possible iterations that the Prime Minister could have announced. We were incredibly relieved that Wellington was in Level 1...we know how lucky we are to have been able to go ahead.”

It was designed to be family-friendly - judging by the invasion of children on stage to sing sounds over the top of a culture quiz and a range of activities, it certainly sounds like it ticked the right boxes - with Taki Rua's production of Navigating the Stars on Sunday morning seen as a highlight, performing tales from Witi Ihimaera's book of Māori creation stories. 

The Garden Party in full swing. Photo: Rebecca McMillan Photography.

Too good to refuse

Check out the Artspace Aotearoa new podcast series The Drift-Kōrewa: ruangrupa. I personally recommend ruangrupa Series, Talk 2: Refusal by ARTSPACE AOTEAROA (, a conversation about challenging and changing the notions perceived around diversity, relationship building and uneven power dynamics with some highly credible and engaging creatives like Nigel Borell and Ema Tavola. 


Written by

Dina Jezdic

25 Feb 2021