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Making a Stand for Youth

14 Sep 2020
Youth Arts New Zealand strives to make a difference for Aotearoa's young creatives. Their dynamic new Board have the tools to do just that.

When you work both in the arts and in the youth sector - being fresh and forward-thinking isn’t just a bonus. It’s a prerequisite.

Youth Arts New Zealand Founding CEO and Trustee Matthew Goldsworthy knows this more than anyone. Since starting up the organisation in 2017 - as a 17-year-old no less - Goldsworthy has thrown himself into providing a platform for young creatives to connect with each other, showcase their mahi and develop their ideas and opportunities to forge meaningful careers.

But he also knows he can’t do it alone.  

Goldsworthy (pictured above) has always been grateful for the support and guidance he’s received along the way and sensed a new step was needed. So he set about the search for five new Board members.

“It was vital to me that we recruited trustees that understood how to build revenue strategies around our work while growing our impact and building our community. We don’t want to be solely reliant on core funding to make ends meet, and I think this pandemic has proved just how volatile funding can be,” Goldsworthy explains.

So the word went out, including through The Big Idea, earlier this year. Goldsworthy was blown away by the results, collating an incredibly extensive skill set to take YANZ to new heights.

“Working with our new Board so far has been fantastic,” he enthuses. “Their networks and expertise have already had a huge impact on our growth, and I’m incredibly grateful for their dedication and enthusiasm in supporting our mission.”

Strong foundation

Tania Jones.

At the helm, quite literally, is new Chair Tania Jones, who brings an impressive depth of board and chairperson expertise to the fledgling organisation.

With 20 years of experience in governance across a wide variety of community and not-for-profit organisations, Jones describes herself as “a governance enthusiast and volunteer champion.”

It’s easy to see why she was an attractive addition to the board, having also been a CEO of a national charity and membership organisation. For Jones, she was drawn by the “fantastic vision and purpose for a social enterprise” that is being created.

“The YANZ values really resonated with me and I loved the ambition for a national reach for building the capability and advocating for young creatives. The chance to be part of a founding board was very appealing as we would have the chance to develop a new way of governance that was reflective of a youth-led and youth focussed organisation.”

Jones sees the arts as “an essential way to express emotions and to tell stories that can teach others about a new worldview. It is the transformative power of the arts that we need to embrace and encourage our youth to try out, trust and develop as an ongoing platform for self-expression and for many, maintain good mental health.”

The rise of anxiety and isolation in the nation’s youth is a concern for Jones. “We are seeing lower levels of participation in local communities, which is impacting on how our youth develop their experience of the world, figure out who they want to be and what impact they want to have in it. The purpose of YANZ is to promote, support and showcase young creatives and build their capability.”

All about impact

Toss Grumley.

Like Jones, Trustee Toss Grumley knows something about rolling up his sleeves. A business advisor and director for Wolf and Fox, Grumley has a background in starting and growing his own businesses, a skill that will be put to good use on the YANZ Board.  

“My specialities are strategy, brand, marketing and the numbers, so through these subjects, I hope to be able to assist at a governance level to be able to influence the organisation and assist it to have a positive impact on more people.”

An appreciation for creativity was born through his formative years, attending concerts and art galleries with his parents, with both arts and youth causes top of Grumley’s charitable support list. 

“This role is perfect in terms of allowing me to assist in those areas and to make an impact on the sectors I care about,” Grumley explains. “YANZ is a fantastic initiative with a very clear mandate for what they are trying to achieve. With a clear purpose and a fantastic team, I’m confident the organisation can have a large impact.” 

And Grumley has no hesitation when asked where that impact is needed most. “The younger generation are feeling lost. COVID has impacted them more than other age brackets, there are more job losses and less of a sense of purpose. You can see this on social media with huge amounts of unrest and people lashing out, often from issue to issue just knowing something isn’t right.

“For people to feel fulfilled, they need purpose. The creative arts are a way to allow larger numbers of youth to find this and have goals, aspirations and a way to express themselves.”

Arts advocate

Josie McNaught.

Josie McNaught has a passion for advocacy, built from nearly two decades as an arts journalist. “ I saw my role as a watchdog for arts funding and decision-making - the work of the Arts Council,  CNZ, Culture and Heritage - at local and national levels.”

With a desire to help young creatives grow their talents, McNaught also has a “deep understanding of how a creative’s career works and empathy for how damn hard it is to make it as a sustainable career in Aotearoa.”

That’s led to a career change, completing a law degree “with the express intention of continuing to advocate for the creative sector, but as a lawyer looking out for their rights and ensuring that artists, just like other professionals, have access to good, relevant law, priced at a level that creatives can afford.”

As someone who has dedicated so much time to the sector, her priorities on how YANZ can make a difference are crystal clear.

“Arts subjects are still not promoted at school as leading to a good career - by that I mean a career that will sustain you for your entire working life. Arts is seen as a “nice to have” but there needs to be a pathway offered to all rangatahi if they choose a career in the arts. 

“We need an overarching plan from government that provides support and jobs at all levels of the arts. We need set rates of pay and conditions for all roles - just as we have in other professions like plumbing, or IT or law. 

“We need a little less conversation and endless surveys about the arts and how nice it is to have them in our lives and a lot more action. I see initiatives like YANZ as being part of that action.”

International exposure

Sam Witters.

Sam Witters brings international expertise to her role as Trustee. Having forged an impressive career in the cutthroat media industries in the UK and USA, Witters held key roles for organisations like National Geographic, Lionsgate, Viacom and Lionsgate.

Her time working with a variety of creatives across multiple platforms in digital media, film, animation, virtual reality and augmented reality has given Witters “a unique perspective to see how the arts and business overlap and how important developing the 'inner creative' is to make meaningful content that tells the human story and empowers others.”

Happy to be back home in New Zealand, Witters states “I believe in communicating effectively and developing relationships to get the best out of people. I have gathered a vast array of experience globally, so have a good handle on how YANZ can develop both strategically and practically to become an integral part of the creative community.

Her drive to support creative youth is unwavering, with a desire to help mentor the next generation of leaders - both in the creative and business sectors. 

“NZ’s creative industries contribute over $17.5 billion to the nation’s economy and it's vital that the economic value of this sector is not overlooked. Our young need to have opportunities for creative careers and find points of entry through education and businesses within the creative sector. 

“We are living in a radically different world now. It is vitally important that people have a platform for creative expression. I see YANZ as being a key conduit to young people’s creative self- expression, linking creative’s together and offering a safe and inclusive place to feel connected”. 

Artistic education

Stacey Ogg.

For Stacey Ogg, joining the YANZ Board was a “no-brainer.”

With a background studying Fine Arts, Arts Management and Museum Marketing, as well as an extensive connection to charity work, Ogg describes Goldsworthy’s team as “an essential service for future generations of young creatives.”

Like Witters, Ogg’s built a strong knowledge base abroad, spending a decade in the UK’s visual arts sector at establishments like London’s National Portrait Gallery and Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Arts. She’s ready to put her strategic engagement skills to good work, with a focus on fundraising, sponsorship, marketing and events. 

Ogg’s time overseas has seen her develop “a real interest in the intersection between different art forms, how practitioners can collaborate, share skills and knowledge to create truly unique works and immersive experiences. 

“With new technologies come great opportunities and it’s so exciting to see the next generation embrace tools such as artificial intelligence, coding, the internet and combining these with music, painting, sculpture to create entirely new concepts.” 

As with all the new board members, Ogg is determined to make a difference. 

“The biggest issue I see is equity,” Ogg declares.

“Aotearoa has a staggering wealth divide and for some tamariki, accessing even the most basic of educational services and support is a path filled with barriers and obstacles. 

“Pursuing a career in the creative arts and industries is a challenge in itself and YANZ makes a difference by enabling young creatives to collaborate with industry, to experience work in the field and to get out there and share their talent with the public. 

“I wish there had been an organisation like YANZ around to help me and my peers when we went through art school back in the early noughties.”


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