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Lowdown: CNZ's First New Funding Roll-Out

23 May 2024

The new-look funding model gets its first half-million dollar drop, record-breaking numbers for key arts event, musicians making a stand and creatives land a WOW of a gig.

The first tranche of Creative New Zealand's (CNZ) new funding model has been rolled out.

The eight-pronged For The Arts system was announced back in November (detailed here on The Big Idea), promoted as a new-look, artist-friendly funding system to replace the not-fit-for-purpose Arts Grants model and the grossly unpopular application cap.

On Wednesday afternoon (22 May), CNZ announced the results - but not yet the details - of the Development Fund for artists and practitioners (there is a separate fund for organisations and groups). Applicants didn’t have to have a career track record nor had to provide an up-front budget and support material - and were told they could make their pitch for up to $8,000 to develop professional and creative skills that will support their careers.

In all, 123 artists have been funded to a total of $598,603 - which works out on average pay-out to be $4,867. More on that in a moment...

An interesting stat from CNZ - those 123 successful artists came from a pool of 292 eligible applications, meaning 42% of those who applied received funding.

CNZ's  Interim Senior Manager, Arts Development James Wilson states “We’re delighted with the response to this programme, with so many applicants taking up the opportunity to connect with our advisers for support, and so many eligible applications received.  

“The flip side of this is that we’re trying to meet post-COVID levels of demand with broadly pre-COVID levels of funding.”

Now back to the amount paid out vs the amount creatives were told they could pitch for. Wilson remarks it came down to a choice to support more artists at a lower level than the application ceiling allowed for.

He explains “We made the decision to fund as many high-quality applications as we could within the budget available for this programme. 

"By lowering the grant amount to a maximum of $5,000 we’ve been able to offer funding towards significantly more development opportunities for practitioners that could make a considerable impact on their careers.

“Development is crucial in any career path, and this fund meets that very real need in the arts and creative sector. We’re pleased to see that 36% of applications were from artists in the early stage of their careers and over 30% of applications were from people who have never applied to us before.

"The level of interest in this development fund has given us a clearer view of the real demand for funding,” Wilson says.  

While no one can argue it's a good thing for more practitioners to find shelter under the funding umbrella, there has already been concern raised within the creative community about what has been described as 'the moving goalposts' of application funding totals. There is a sense of frustration (in a range of the available funds) that applicants are told they can ask for a certain dollar amount but the perception is they will always have to settle for less.

The approach to notification has also changed with names of funded applicants being made public a few days after applicants are notified and the overview is released - with those details to be made public on Monday (27 May).

Wilson details the reason for that change. "We’d already seen a trend in which funded artists or groups were subject to unkind commentary in social media following public announcements. We hope to address that by giving the sector a few days to understand the trends and engage with their peers.”  

What we do know is that applications were received for nine arts forms - craft/object art, customary Māori art, dance, literature, multidisciplinary arts, music, Pacific heritage arts, theatre, and visual arts.

Of those funded - 24% was through the Ngā Toi Māori fund, 12% through the Pacific Arts fund, with the balance of 63% through the General fund, while the most common location applied for was overseas with 40 (33%) - almost half of those were for Europe (19).

With the For The Arts seal now popped - CNZ will be making another announcement next week, notifying applicants of the outcome of the Early Career fund.

Creative career resource boost 

CNZ's had a busy week - also releasing resources to support arts and creative practitioners make sustainable careers and businesses from their work. They focus on three areas: managing finances, navigating the law, and promoting and marketing.

CNZ states the resources "aim to support practitioners and arts organisations to implement CNZ’s Remuneration Policy. The policy sets out principles and practice guidelines aimed at supporting fair remuneration for artists and arts practitioners."

Co-Manager, Policy and Performance Elizabeth Beale states “Being passionate about what you do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a living from it. Our research shows that creative professionals’ median income is $37,000, compared to the median of $61,800 for salary and wage earners. The median income from creative work alone is $19,500. 

"For the arts sector to start to operate sustainably, we need to focus on lifting incomes and ensuring better conditions for artists and arts practitioners, especially in a challenging economic climate.”

Since its launch, Senior Development Adviser Adrianne Roberts notes “At the launch workshop hosted by The Big Idea, I saw the positive response from artists and practitioners who want their work to be properly valued, fairly paid, and become sustainable businesses.

“Over 30 artists attended the Auckland workshop from a range of career stages and arts disciplines, including visual arts, ngā toi māori, theatre and music. That suggests the resources can be used by a range of practitioners.

“The resources were developed in collaboration with the sector, so they focus on the needs and challenges that are unique to artists and arts practitioners. We take it back to basics on tax, contracts, marketing and provide lots of signposts for where to go for advice that is best for different situations,” Roberts says.

You can find the new resources on The Big Idea's new career platform, the Learning Network (click here).

Record books

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The books were flying off the shelf at Auckland Writers Festival. Photo: Supplied.

The numbers are in - and they're pretty impressive for the Auckland Writers Festival.

This year's edition ended in the weekend - and finished with record high total attendance of more than 85,000 for the 167 events. The 11,000 books sold was also a new benchmark - up almost 50% on last year and headlined by freshly minted Ockham New Zealand Book Award winner Emily Perkins' Lioness. 

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Tusiata Avia in full flight at AWF'24. Photo: Supplied.

With huge names like Sam Neill, Booker Prize winner Paul Lynch, Catherine Chidgey, Tusiata Avia, Selina Tusitala Marsh and 2024 Honoured Writer Dame Anne Salmond among the headline acts - you can only deem this one a success.

Festival Artistic Directors Lyndsey Fineran and Managing Director Catriona Ferguson told The Lowdown "We were so thrilled by the buzz and reception of AWF ’24. Seeing the huge crowds and ticket numbers was amazing; but equally heartening was hearing feedback about the warmth of the Festival, and how it had made strides into new genres, new audiences and generated a palpable excitement for books and ideas that reverberated throughout the city.

"We kept ticket prices as accessible as possible, worked hard with partners to ensure over 25% of our offer was free and as front-facing as possible and thought hard about who isn’t accessing literary spaces, and how we can begin to change that."

The pair cited events like the Family Days, the STREETSIDE literary street party and the Kōrero Corner, a drop-in space for "relaxed conversations and exchanging ideas".

Fineran and Ferguson continued "The number of books bought by the 240 writers featured – over 200 of whom were from Aotearoa – was incredible, and we know will make a real difference to the local publishing industry in an uneasy time. 

"And it’s wonderful to think about the 40 international authors who have gone home with very fond memories of AWF, and of NZ, and what the ripple effects of that may be.

"The buzz and response to the last few days tells us that books, arts and ideas aren’t a nice to have for an elite few, they’re for all and we hope that the right mix of partners and supporters can help us create future Festivals that open them up to even more people."

New Tūi categories

The new-look Tūi award. Photo: Supplied.

The countdown is on the Aotearoa Music Awards (AMAs) that bring down the curtain on NZ Music Month - now just a week away (30 May).

And Recorded Music NZ has just announced there will be brand new Tūī categories recognised in this year's incarnation. 

While Breakthrough Artist has been acknowledged in the past - it's been split into two separate categories. 

Breakthrough Single will have its own Tūi in 2024, with Cassie Henderson (Whatever), Corrella (Blue Eyed Māori), Jordan Gavet (He Said), Navvy (Till You’re Ready) and teo glacier (close with desires) all in the running.

Breakthrough Artist of the Year will be contended by 9lives, COTERIE, Hori Shaw, MOHI and SXMPRA.

Te Manu Mātārae is another new category being introduced. Named by Māori Cultural and Language Development agency Kauwaka with guidance from Dr Sir Tīmoti Kāretu, the title was chosen as a prestigious acknowledgement of someone of particular standing or rank. 

At next week's AMAs, it will be awarded to two artists who have made a significant impact on the music landscape during the 2024 eligibility period.

Music treasures dug up to stop gold mining

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Karl Steven's handwritten lyrics for Can't Get Enough. Photo: Ours Not Mines.

While May is so often about celebrating our top musicians, a group of them are using their platform to give back to a cause that is raising concern.

Well-established music industry figure Morgan Donoghue has tapped into some talented connections to help raise funds for his anti-mining group - Ours Not Mines - in their bid to stop the proposed gold and silver mine underneath conservation land between Waihī and Whangamatā (the issue is extensively explained here in the NZ Herald).

The Musicians Against Mines Lyrical Art Auction is live on Trade Me - with some leading lights throwing their support and artistic talent behind it.

Benee - AKA Stella Rose Bennett - is a long-time anti-mining protester (as the below Instagram post shows, that's her on the right) and has donated hand-written lyrics to her monster hit Soaked to be auctioned off.

The likes of Hollie Smith and Don McGlashan, Goldenhorse, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Goodshirt, Supergroove, Kings, the Phoenix Foundation, Greg Johnson, Che Fu, Georgia Lines, Pluto and Ladi 6 are all involved too - giving music lovers a chance to support something dear to the hearts of many while also getting a slice of history.

Topping the auction bidding at the time of publication with $1,510 was the handwritten lyrics for a true NZ anthem in Can't Get Enough, penned by former Supergroove frontman and now award-winning composer Karl Steven.

He told the NZ Herald “It would be incredibly ungrateful of me to live amongst this beauty every day ... a few streets away is forest stretching for miles until you hit the world’s biggest ocean ... (and not do) the slightest thing to help ensure it exists for future generations.”

International triumph

Te Kōtiu at MOTAT. Photo: Supplied.

New Zealand winning on the world stage never gets old - and there's plenty to smile about with MOTAT picking up a prized gong at the recent Museums + Heritage Awards in London.

MOTAT’s Te Kōtiu experience, an installation in its Aviation Hall in Auckland's Western Springs, has claimed the Best Use of Digital – International category. The exhibit edged out organisations like Notre-Dame de Paris and Dublin's Trinity College to top the digital experiences category.

The judges said Te Kōtiu stood out for: “Bringing objects and stories to life, with beautiful simplicity being its strength, this great use of digital technology is both impactful and effective."

It's a great achievement from MOTAT's Exhibitions and Collections Teams, who partnered with Waxeye to bring this experience to life. Projected onto two large flying boats, the floor and a special screen, Te Kōtiu uses a mix of video, animation, oral storytelling, and soundscape to cover all elements of flight and aviation in Aotearoa.

It draws on the images, artefacts and footage held in MOTAT's collection, and features manu aute kites by celebrated Māori artist Nikau Hindin, as well as the voices of trailblazing wahine toa in the aviation and aerospace industry.

Head of Exhibitions Simon Gould beams, "We are so honoured to be recognised with this internationally prestigious award. I walk by this beautiful, immersive work every day and see enthralled school kids and adults, and, in that sense, we had already won. But gaining this extra professional recognition validates the enormous efforts by the whole team who delivered Te Kōtiu."

WOW headliners ready to dazzle

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Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant (standing) and Sharn Te Pou. Photo: Nick George.

A big opportunity has been opened up to a pair of relentlessly creative performers - with the World of WearableArt (WOW) announcing the headline roles for its 2024 showcase.

DREAM AWAKE will see Sharn Te Pou and Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant at the forefront - with some of the key talent in what will be a cast of about 100 unveiled.

They will take the stage with another exciting line-up of feature musicians and aerial artists who will bring this year’s WOW Show to life alongside a wider performance cast of around 100.

Taiwan-born, Aotearoa-based artist Tu-Bryant is an actor, writer, director and composer who's earned a reputation for fronting psychedelic-pop trio KITA.

She told The Lowdown “I have always loved telling stories through different mediums. I genuinely believe stories are what connects us, and allows us to find common ground between our differences as humans. We need this more than ever! 

"I'm over the moon to be able to combine many aspects of how I like to make art into one space, on such a large wondrous, awesome, imaginative scale. I'm feeling very grateful to have this opportunity.”

Tu-Bryant will combine with composer, singer, dancer and stunt person Te Pou, who has plenty of experience on the WOW stage as a model and performer dating back to 2005. This will be his first headline role with the iconic event.

Also announced to be part of the visual symphony as feature performers internationally in-demand ballet dancer Tabitha Dombroski and world-renowned Rodney Bell (Ngāti Maniapoto), who will bring his wheelchair and signature physically integrated dance style to the WOW stage to celebrate people with different abilities.

Multi-instrumentalist Dave Khan and Manchester-based Kiwi violinist Shimna Higgins have also been confirmed.

The show, of course, is just a platform to highlight the real stars of the WOW - the breathtaking garments brought to life by an incredible collection of creative designers. 

Entries are now closed, with those who have made the cut due to find out in July. The finalists and winners will be on display for the DREAM AWAKE that takes over the capital from 26 September to 13 October.

A Shaw thing

Novelist Tina Shaw has thrown her support behind the wonderful trend of acknowledging the mahi of mid-career artists.

She's combined with the New Zealand Society of Authors to offer a new $5,000 award which supports the completion and/or publication of new fiction by mid-career fiction writers from Aotearoa - the NZSA Shaw Writer's Award.

Tina Shaw. Photo: Supplied.

Shaw states, “It’s true that our New Zealand writers frequently express the feeling that their mid-career progress is slower than that of new writers, who can more readily garner media interest for their publications.” 

As a result, the newly created award is intended not only to offer the recipient the freedom that money brings but also to increase the chances of a mid-career writer (with at least three standalone novels to their name) being recognised as a “good business” prospect to be welcomed by publishers. 

Shaw will select the winner after a shortlist is put together by a judging panel, with the final winner selected by Tina Shaw in consultation with and advised by the shortlist judging panel.

Applications are open until Sunday 14 July. 

NZSA's also looking to the future, with four secondary school students announced for their annual Youth Mentorship Programme.

Abbie Mackay (Epsom Girls Grammar), Siti Nur Aina Binti Mohd Nazlee (Nga Tawa Diocesan), Xavier Penfold (Gisborne Girls' High) and Leo Reid (Hillcrest High) will be matched with a professional writer/mentor in their genre, to help them hone their writing skills and develop their craft through the year.