Make a big difference to The Big Idea.

Help us tell the most creative stories.

Become a supporter

A year of achievements in pandemic times

Kristie Mortimer, a Dance Educator at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, rehearses with women in Arohata Women's Prison for the Inside-Out Matariki Concert in 2021. Kristie faces the camera, her arms above her head. The dancer has her back to the camera with her arms above her head. She is wearing a sweater with the words AWP on the back.
NZSL interpreter Melissa Simchowitz signs to Deaf patrons about The Little Mermaid pantomime before the sign interpreted performance at Circa Theatre
Co-hosts actor Jacob Dombroski and Richard Benge, Executive Director, Arts Access Aotearoa share a joke at Te Putanga toi Arts Access Awards 2021
The late Mel Smith, Founding Patron, with Lynley Hutton, Chair, Arts Access Aotearoa in May 2022
"Arts Access Aotearoa’s activities across the country would not be possible without the commitment of people who work with and alongside us," blogs Arts Access Aotearoa Chair Lynley Hutton.


Tena koutou katoa. Arts Access Aotearoa’s activities across the country would not be possible without the commitment of people who work with and alongside us.

I want to start by thanking our Kaumātua Wiremu Kaua, who has been a constant guide and mentor. I also thank our founding trustee (and then Founding Patron) Mel Smith, who did my role back in 1995, for his timely advice and warm encouragement. Tena koe Rangatira.

Sadly, our much-loved and valued Patron died on 28 May – the day after our online Annual General Meeting, where I delivered this speech. Mel constantly supported, encouraged and gave wise counsel to our organisation from its very beginning. Haere me to tatou aroha, Mel. Go with love, respect and gratitude from us all. Read more about Mel’s contributions

Thank you to my fellow trustees for your guidance and support of the organisation. And thank you to staff for your commitment to delivering our work and to your many skills.

Funding, donations and in-kind support
We are grateful for the grants, donations and in-kind support we receive, along with vital core funding from Creative New Zealand, a contract with Ara Poutama Aotearoa, and significant grants from Foundation North and Wellington City Council.

In 2021, we were pleased to receive funding through Auckland Council’s Strategic Partnership Grant, which will increase our capacity to deliver for Auckland.

We were also pleased to work with Oranga Tamariki and look forward to continuing this relationship in 2022. Visit the funding and supporters page on our website.

Another year of responding to COVID-19
2021 was year two of providing our services differently while we all responded  to the challenges of COVID-19. We’re fortunate to be funded for our services and not rely on ticket sales, as are many arts organizations.

At a time when tours, festivals and opening dates were greatly interrupted, our work to provide advocacy and advisory services to our stakeholders continued online, wherever we were needed.

It was difficult for prison staff and prisoners, who have experienced long lockdowns with no access to outside rehabilitation providers. It was also hard for creative spaces and their artists, who experienced lockdown periods. We thank everyone who continued to provide services wherever and however they could. You all understand the importance of keeping people connected and supported.

Research and policy
Research and policy development increased in 2021. Thanks to the work of policy advisor Angela Yeoman, we worked with central Government, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections, Oranga Tamariki and Creative New Zealand.

We completed our pilot arts programme with Oranga Tamariki in two youth justice residences. The evaluation report concluded that the pilot achieved positive outcomes across the facilities and the rangatahi really enjoyed participating and got many benefits, especially wellbeing and positive identity through creativity.

Thank you to Jacqui Moyes, who co-ordinated the project over two years, the art tutors and staff youth workers.

Access, inclusion and participation
We have some very good statistics for our Te Puna Toi Access Inclusion and Participation programme with 58 events featuring Deaf and disabled artists and writers. Our statistics also show that of the 182 accessible services at arts and cultural events recorded in 2021, 44 were audio described; 37 were sign interpreted; and 37 were relaxed performances. Visit the Arts For All Network section of our website.

Arts in Corrections
Under this programme, we conducted a major literature review examining the benefits of arts programmes in criminal justice settings such as prisons and in Community Corrections settings.

The review concluded that a national framework to deliver arts programmes across all 18 prisons would support the Department of Corrections’ Hōkai Rangi Strategy to deliver culturally relevant arts programmes. It would also enable us to provide more effective data and measure the impact of these arts programmes.

I’m pleased to say that Corrections has taken up this advice and we are now supporting them to plan for more strategically funded arts opportunities. Visit the Arts in Corrections section of our website

Arts, health and wellbeing
Through Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Creative Spaces Initiative Fund has benefited 54 creative spaces – and will continue to do so over three years.

Even though creative spaces were very challenged by COVID-19 restrictions, their efforts to remain connected and deliver programmes to their communities have been outstanding. Visit the Creative Spaces section of our website.

Advocacy and profile
We presented Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2021, using Te Papa as our venue for the first time. The change refreshed our major event and helped us promote the voices and achievements of Deaf and disabled artists, Arts in Corrections leaders and many more.

Written by

Arts Access Aotearoa

9 Jun 2022

About Arts Access Aotearoa