The Learning Network is now live

Home  /  Stories  / 

Lowdown: Another Festival Forced Into Hiatus

11 Apr 2024

Tough decisions in challenging times, new creative partnerships formed, rare good news for GLAM sector, new appointments - all the news you need to know from Aotearoa's creative community.

Reality is like a mosquito at the moment - it both bites and sucks.

We've seen a number of events and organisations across the creative community need to dial back on their delivery - with 'hiatus' or 'pause' becoming frustratingly familiar terms.

The latest to feel that bite is the annual Hawke's Bay Arts Festival - in a part of the motu that's had more than its fair share of pain over the past few years. 

The event organisers, Arts Inc Heretaunga has worked hard to stage the festival in the face of challenges ranging from COVID to Cyclone Gabrielle, and has stated it "has impacted the organisation’s financial performance and depleted reserves".

It's led the Board to postpone this year’s Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival "in order to enter into a period of strategic and creative development" with an eye to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2025.

Aware of how important the event is in the Hawke's Bay cultural calendar, Arts Inc Heretaunga Chair John Eaden notes the decision was not taken lightly.

“As a charitable trust, whose main focus is delivery of community arts experiences, we must make credible, responsible and sustainable decisions that respond to the current reality and position our entire organisation, which also comprises The Blossom Parade, Hawke’s Bay Art Guide, Hawkes Bay Art Trail and Hastings Community Arts Centre (which will continue in 2024), for long-term success.

"In 2023, Arts Inc. Heretaunga sustained a $150,000 net financial loss which depleted our reserves and compounded on previous year’s decreased revenue through COVID-19 when the Festival continued to deliver despite limitations.

"As an event-based business, we are operating in difficult times, as are our funders and audiences. This reality requires a reset and is driven by our aspirations to create artistic excellence and exceptional experiences that connect audiences with impactful ideas.

"As a Board and Management team, we believe this approach balances short-term limitations and long-term aspirations to position the organisation for success now, and for the next ten years."

Creative NZ's Senior Manager Arts Development Services, Gretchen La Roche comments “the environment in which arts events take place has changed substantially over the past years. It’s a healthy and sensible approach for any arts organisation to re-evaluate their role and purpose within their community and we support Arts Inc. Heretaunga’s decision to undertake this work.” 

New dance partners

Sticking with the need to find new ways to make things work...

Trust in your partner is a big aspect of performance dance - and there's a pair of new partnerships of note in the dancing community this week.

The New Zealand Dance Festival Trust (NZDFT) has announced a significant partnership with The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC).

In a statement, NZDFT acknowledged there have been times that "our journey has been tempestuous and unpredictable, making navigation difficult and heavy," adding "It has been during these challenging times that our courage has been tested. This year we have altered our journey again by dreaming up new possibilities, new innovations and new pathways to sustain movement across the vast moana of creative potential."

Moss Te Ururangi Patterson Photo John McDermott.jpg
Moss Te Ururangi Patterson. Photo: John McDermott.

That first step is linking up with NZDC, whose Artistic Director Moss Te Ururangi Patterson and his experienced team invited to curate and produce Tāmaki Makaurau's Tempo Dance Festival 2024 in a collaborative partnership with NZDFT.

Patterson notes “It's humbling to be asked to help curate such a wonderful festival that I have participated in many times over the years. 

"In serving our community, I know our NZDC whānau will bring a great sense of aroha and manaaki to this kaitiaki role and I look forward to working alongside our artists, audiences and dance patrons to deliver a beautiful festival this year”.

They're not alone.

In Wellington, Footnote NZ Dance and Te Auaha have combined to launch of the inaugural Pōneke Festival of Contemporary Dance - set to run 1-7 July to increase "the visibility and vibrancy of contemporary dance in the creative capital."

Footnote Artistic Director Anita Hunziker explains her excitement at the new venture. 

“Contemporary dance has the unique ability to connect audiences to the world through physical expression and conceptual (or abstract) themes. It will be a fantastic opportunity for audiences to dip their toes into something new. 

"I am 100% certain there are people out there who love contemporary dance; they just don’t know it yet!”

The festival has opened applications for contemporary dance artists to apply for opportunities like creative residencies in the Te Auaha dance studios and performances of 2-3 night seasons in the Tapere Nui theatre.

Speaking on the new initiative, Te Auaha Venue Manager Will Harris states “I’m always blown away by the depth of talent and the quality of work from both emerging and established artists. It’s a privilege to be able to be a part of this new festival.”

Welcome good news for museums

There have been plenty of dark clouds hanging over the GLAM sector, but thankfully some rays of sunshine have broken through.

Museums Aotearoa has welcomed the announcement from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) that museums and galleries have an exemption from paying levies to Fire and Emergency (FENZ) on the insured value of their collections.

This comes after a number of submissions from the organisation strongly pushed the case of the 476 museums throughout the sector nationwide.

“The level of the proposed levy was vastly disproportionate to the potential benefit museums and galleries receive from FENZ due to the high insurance value of their collections,” Adele Fitzpatrick, Museums Aotearoa chief executive states.

“We estimated an additional cost to the sector at around $6 million per annum, based on insured value and insurance premiums. 

"Insurance for some of our museums and galleries has tripled in recent years and an additional levy increasing in line with values and premiums would add a financial burden the sector wouldn’t be able to sustain.”

The Government announced exemptions on Monday that will apply from 1 July 2026, when a redesigned insurance levy commences. Exemptions will ensure that those not benefitting from Fire and Emergency services do not pay a levy.

“Art and collections held by cultural heritage bodies are thankfully on that list,” says Fitzpatrick.

“While this is not a permanent exemption, we can have confidence that the sector won’t be subject to levies until potentially June 2029 when a review may occur. We hope this exemption will remain into the future.”

Silent festival silenced

2023 IYSFF NZ winners. Photo: Brydie Photography.

An opportunity for aspiring young filmmakers to be shown internationally is about to come to an end.

It's been announced that the International Youth Silent Film Festival (IYSFF) will bring down the curtain on a 15-year stint of nurturing budding talent in the old screen art.

The New Zealand leg has been based at Tauranga's Baycourt Community & Arts Centre since it arrived on our shores in 2016 - with 252 silent films created by almost 600 young Kiwi filmmakers from across the motu entered in that time.

It's been a successful stint as well - with five Kiwi films winning higher honours at the annual IYSFF Global Awards, including first-place winning films Crash (2023), The Climb (2022), and Overexposed (2019).

Kiwi filmmakers’ have one final chance to win higher honours at the Global Awards in Portland, Oregon in June.

Representing Aotearoa are 2023 IYSFF NZ first-place winning film Shelf Life, by Victoria University of Wellington students Amelia Walshe, Sophie Hampson, Esther Schubert, and Max Norwood, second-place film HER by Tauranga Girls’ College students Tearani Wikohika, Yasmin Austwick, and Sienna Burns, and Mum’s Star by Whakatāne filmmaker and inaugural Kōhungahunga – Fledging Filmmaker Award winner Malachi Steel.

IYSFF Founder Jon Palanuk & Official Composer Nathan Avakian. Photo: Brydie Photography.

Baycourt manager Reena Snook enthuses “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of our filmmakers was crowned ‘best of the best’ at the 2024 Global Awards? That would be the perfect end to New Zealand’s successful eight-year partnership with the festival, fingers crossed for a Kiwi three-peat!”

Not only was the IYSFF a flagship arts event for Baycourt, it also provided a unique opportunity to showcase the centre’s almost 100-year-old Wurlitzer theatre organ to a younger generation. 

“We will absolutely miss having our ‘Mighty Wurli’ celebrated as part of this festival. It was always a real treat to hear Nathan Avakian’s intricate musical scores come to life on this revered instrument,” Snook comments.

Don't forget your roots

Scene from Safe/Sound. Image: Supplied.

Kiwi filmmaking talent has been coming the other direction too - with a poignant homecoming for one former Kāpiti College old boy eager to showcase his talents back where he first got the film bug.

And the fingerprints of the local community are all over it.

Rising young director Mason Cade Packer is back in Aotearoa for the local premiere of his 40-minute thriller film Safe/Sound in Kāpiti on Monday (15 April). 

The film - shot in Kāpiti over 8 days back in July - attracted some impressive NZ acting talent with it as well. It stars Beulah Koale of Hawaii 5-0 and Next Goal Wins acclaim, Ryan O’Kane from Baby Done and One Lane Bridge, Madeleine Adams (Black Christmas, The Gulf) and What We Do in the Shadows' Cori Gonzalez-Macuer.

Packer states "It's a film I was adamant on making in my hometown (and at my old high school), because that's where I fell in love with filmmaking; in one of only three New Zealand high schools that actually offered it as a subject.” 

The project was resourced and funded by over 300 local individuals and businesses that raised half of the $100,000 budget, as well as providing dozens of volunteers and extras, locations, food and in-kind donations.

After Monday's screening, Safe/Sound is sent overseas for its international premiere and hits the film festival circuit before returning for more NZ screenings in 2025.

Cavaliere attitude

Paolo Rotondo 2024.jpg

New Zealand's creative community has a new Knight - but it's not coming from Christopher Luxon or King Charles.

Award-winning New Zealand-Italian filmmaker Paolo Rotondo has been honoured with a Cavaliere dell'Ordine al merito della Repubblica Italiana. The endowment, which translates from Italian to ‘knight’, is akin to a CNZM, or Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Cavaliere Rotondo was bestowed the title at an event the Embassy of Italy held in recognition of his work in the arts, and promotion of Italian culture and language.

It coincided with the opening of the Cinema Italiano Italian Film Festival which he co-directs, running between April 2024 and January 2025, with over 1,000 screenings across the year.

The award follows a memorable year for the ex-Shortland Streeter. His latest short film, Maunga Cassino, debuted in Italian festivals last year, winning an award in the country of his birth. In a world first, dialogue is entirely in Te Reo Māori and Italian.

“I feel genuinely blessed to have been recognised for my contribution through both the film festival and the films I’ve made,” says Rotondo. “Living in Aotearoa, Italian cinema has been a lifeline that keeps me connected to my culture. I am immensely fortunate.

“Receiving the Cavalierato in the presence of the Italian community in the iconic Embassy Theatre in Wellington - a temple of New Zealand cinema - felt like a perfect convergence of my career as a filmmaker in Aotearoa and my life as an Italian New Zealander. Sono davvero onorato. (I am deeply honoured)”.

The Festival is its largest incarnation yet - with 24 Italian movies and documentaries screened across Auckland, New Plymouth, Havelock North, Napier, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Christchurch, Nelson, Tauranga, Hamilton, Matakana, Pāpāmoa, Wānaka, Arrowtown, Masterton, Wellington, Dunedin, and Kerikeri.

Love stories - on and off the stage

Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Michael Hurst. Photo: Supplied.

The first couple of Aotearoa theatre are coming together on stage in a rare first for them.

It's been announced that acclaimed performers Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Michael Hurst will partner up in their first-ever two-hander production in careers that span over four decades. The husband and wife duo will put on In Other Words at Q Theatre in September, described as a tender and enduring love story that delves into the profound effects of Alzheimer's disease and the transformative power of music. This production comes to the stage during World Alzheimer’s Month.

They'll play two characters who meet in their 20s, fall in love, and share a life together. Ward-Lealand and Hurst's real-life relationship mirrors that of the protagonists they'll play, lending deeper meaning and promises to make this a piece of outstanding craft. 

It's the first time they've played husband and wife on stage since 2005's sellout season of The Goat for Silo Theatre.

“We’re both going into this show with a huge amount of enthusiasm”, states Ward-Lealand, “I’ve had some beloved family members and friends head down this road. It’s pretty devastating and a lot to carry for loved ones.”

Newby judge on the block

Aotearoa's contemporary ceramic artists now know who they need to impress this year.

It's been announced that internationally recognised artist Kate Newby will judge the 2024 Portage Awards, select the finalists ahead of their announcement in October and present the Awards at the prestigious launch event on 21 November, organised and hosted by Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery in Titirangi.  

Screen Shot 2024-04-11 at 12.09.03 AM.png
Kate Newby on residency at Fogo Island, 2013. Photo: Steffen Jagenburg.

"Being invited to judge the prestigious Portage Ceramic Awards is a huge honour. I never cease to be astounded by the versatility and joy of clay: how its qualities are made manifest in practical applications such as cups, floors, and rooftops, as well as through abstract and instantaneous expressions. I eagerly await the opportunity in November to witness and celebrate the innovative ways in which artists embrace the power of clay in their work.”

With family ties to the West Coast, Newby has established a global reputation as one of New Zealand’s most exciting artists working within the field of expanded ceramics. The 2012 Walters Prize winner has had her work shown In Italy, Austria, America, Tokyo, Paris and around Aotearoa, as well as being exhibited in the Biennale of Sydney, the 1st Brussels Biennial for Contemporary Art and the Sao Paolo Biennale.