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The Big Catch Up - Creative News You May Have Missed Over Summer

16 Jan 2023
Been off the grid or just not bothering with keeping up with the news over Summer? We've got you - here's a quick recap of the biggest news in Aotearoa's creative community over the holiday period.

For many in Aotearoa, the day has arrived.


That day where alarm clocks begin to rudely start their days, the ‘professional’ attire that’s been gathering dust in the back of the wardrobe for the last few weeks gets dusted off, the out-of-office summer holiday replies (with the now wildly outdated sentiments of ‘Meri Kirihimete’ splashed all over it) get turned off.


If you’re one of the New Zealanders getting back into the work headspace - welcome back and, just quietly, kia kaha…


Just as sure as you’ll be asked about how your break was and dispirited discussions about how rain robbed us of a true summer break will take place, some will struggle getting back into work mode. Even the ones of us who love their mahi.


The creative community never stops - there have been countless festivals (with some sadly called off due to the inclement conditions), markets, galleries and performances to take in, especially in the holiday hotspots. Not to mention many toiling away over the end of December and start of January to stay on top of the many creative endeavours heading our way this year.


But it’s fair to say not everyone is checking their emails and keeping an eye on the news during the past month, whether you were working or not.


So as The Big Idea hits the ground running for 2023, we thought we’d give you a quick recap of some of the creative stories that have landed over the summer holidays to make sure you’re up with the play and ready for that watercooler/Zoom/coffee catch up chat.


MCH Regeneration Fund


The news of the second wave of recipients for Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Regeneration Fund dropped as many had already clocked off for 2022 - and let's get real, working your way back through your inbox to mid-December isn't a priority for everyone!


22 creative organisations - including The Big Idea - from 224 full proposals were given the green light for a combined $7.9 million of funding. For the list of who received second round funding and more details, click here. 


The good news for those unsuccessful to date is the lion's share of the $28m fund is still available. At the halfway stage of the four funding rounds, around $17m remains up for grabs.


Creative Honours


With Dame Miranda Harcourt’s well-deserved elevation to the elite ranking was the highest profile of the creatives in the New Year’s Honours list - there were plenty more from the arts and cultural communities recognised for their monumental contributions to Aotearoa.


The Big Idea has gone through the list to highlight those who contribute to our creative community to receive honours - and it’s worth a read.


From well-known performers like David Fane and Michèle A’Court to arts leaders Elizabeth Caldwell and Marilyn Kohlhase or local heroes like Charles Wilkinson and Naomi Baker-Wenley - these are names worthy of recognition.


But it has to be said, perhaps the sweetest moment from this is also the biggest gong - these photos from Dame Miranda’s Instagram page sharing the moment she told her mum Kate that she was joining her in the Damehood ranks.





While many were on the beach - or hiding from the rain in baches - a big departure was announced.


The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) confirmed the retirement of Artistic Director Patricia Barker after five and a half years at the helm - which will take effect after the season-opening Tutus on Tour which starts next month.


It’s back to the states for Barker with her family where she will take up a place on the board of Seattle-based contemporary dance company Whim W’him, will continue to support dance education internationally, and has been invited to work with the Czech National Ballet Brno, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Youth America Grand Prix and others in 2023.


Her time at RNZB saw the transition out of the St James Theatre - and back in once the earthquake restrengthening was complete -  as well as the commissioning of 12 new main stage ballets from New Zealand-based or born choreographers including six ballets with original scores by New Zealand composers. 



Barker (above) states, “I turn 60 this year, and with 43 years working in classical ballet, 14 of them as an Artistic Director, it is time to pass the baton to the next generation. 


“I am proud of what has been achieved during my leadership of the RNZB. It came with its challenges by way of a global pandemic and a not-so-temporary change in our home and rehearsal space. We remained a resilient organisation through it all and worked to a brighter, more fruitful future. I wish the organisation every success and look forward to attending a performance in the US next time the company tours or the next time I visit New Zealand.”


While the hunt begins for her replacement, David McAllister former Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet, will step into the role on an interim basis from March.




But in Whanganui, there was news of the opposite varier - the announcement of the Sarjeant Gallery’s new Director.


Andrew Clifford. Photo: Tatiana Harper.


The gig has gone to  Andrew Clifford - who is currently Director of Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery.


Whanganui District Council’s general manager, community and customer experience, Marianne Cavanagh, states “Andrew’s experience opening Te Uru in a new purpose-built facility and forging its new identity is perfectly matched to the next steps for the Sarjeant Gallery – seeing the redevelopment through to completion, overseeing the transition from the gallery’s temporary premises to the new, earthquake-strengthened and re-envisaged gallery and establishing a the Sarjeant as an exciting new destination – for our community and visitors alike.”


Venice Biennale


Creative New Zealand (CNZ) dominated art community headlines and discussions for much of 2022 - and not for the right reasons.  But there was a piece of good news in the eyes of many that was delivered under the cover of Christmas chaos.


CNZ has made a long-term commitment to New Zealand having a presence at the world’s pre-eminent arts show - the Venice Biennale.   


Yuki Kihara's Paradise Camp at the 2022 Venice Biennale. Photo: Supplied.


Arts Council members unanimously agreed with findings from an external review that the Venice Biennale creates an exceptional opportunity for New Zealand artists and the wider arts community, and that Creative New Zealand should continue to support the 2026, 2028, and 2030 Biennales.   


The review included input from more than 30 leading industry stakeholders and groups including former Venice Biennale Commissioners, former New Zealand representative artists at Venice, patrons, arts leaders, project teams involved in the delivery of the Biennale, and members of a Ngā Toi Māori Think Tank. 


The Arts Council has also recommended CNZ formally partner with another organisation or consortium to support New Zealand artists to participate in the next three Venice Biennales from 2026 - with an Expression of Interest process starting this year.


“On the basis of the review recommendations, the New Zealand presence at the 2024 Venice Biennale will be different to other years. Over the next six months we will work with a variety of individuals and groups in the arts community to determine the programme for 2024,” declares Gretchen La Roche, CNZ’s Senior Manger Arts Development Services. 


Aotearoa dominates the silver screen


While we seek out the sun in this part of the world - the Christmas/New Year period sees the Northern Hemisphere look indoors to battle the cold.


Hence what’s on at the Movies is a bigger deal - and the two biggest deals of the past month both have strong New Zealand ties.


Dominating the US and World box office has been Avatar: The Way Of Water, one of the many movies with the franchise that has been shot here in Aotearoa. According to the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), more than 2400 New Zealanders worked on returning Pandora to the big screen including 1400 crew. Nearly 800 extras, 114 stunt artists, 46 New Zealand cast and a pool of 36 interns and apprentices were contracted on the production. 


And just behind it in the movie rankings - despite being on a VASTLY different budget scale - has been clever horror flick M3gan - a modern take on Chucky horror/comedy - bringing with it TikTok viral sensation.


And behind it all, Kiwi director Gerard Johnstone - with the film shot inside 30 days here in Aotearoa.



Yes, they had the Hollywood machine behind it, but we should never stop celebrating the fact that creatives in this country are so highly sought after - and they’re able to do their work from right here