Arts in Action

We live in a fractured and fragmented society where disparities between prosperity and well-being are increasingly evident, where our planet and its natural resources are under threat and where a globalised environment alienates us from a sense of place, belonging and identity.

The arts provide an independent forum and medium through which it is possible to analyse and address issues of concern to humanity and our planet, and in doing so, to celebrate our power to act and to speak out. The arts are a final bastion of freedom.

Arts in Action is created by Depot Artspace, an open and inclusive creative community in Devonport, Auckland.



ADVOCACY AND ACTION: GRASS ROOTS ACTIVISM FOR CHANGE IN THE CREATIVE SECTOR



Peace posters workshop based on Nigel Brown’s peace painting

 

These days advocates outnumber activists and nowhere is this more evident than in the current creative sector. Academics, bureaucrats, politicians and other self-ascribed experts jostle for a place as harbingers of change but doing does not seem part of their change vocabulary. Hence, the wheels of progress move exceedingly slow. The plethora of reports produced over many years, decades even, about the same identified issues attest to this. As grassroots activists we advocate for a recalibration of the  bureaucratic machine.

A couple of treadmills Depot Artspace finds itself returning to are creative internships and artists’ resale royalties. In both instances 12 years have ticked by since they featured on the political radar.

Artists Resale Royalties Aotearoa: In 2007 Judith Tizard, Associate Minister for Arts and Culture in the Labour Government, produced a discussion paper on artists resale royalties, https://mch.govt.nz/sites/default/files/ResaleRoyaltyPublicDiscussionPaper.pdf which was hotly debated and subsequently shelved despite quite a few submissions from the arts community. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/wanganui-chronicle/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503426&objectid=10954660

As the secondary art market began to build momentum and became a major source of arts sales Depot Artspace revisited the resale royalties idea and in 2014 produced a publication, Artist Resale Royalties Aotearoa (ARRA) advocating for the introduction of a scheme along the lines of those currently operating internationally (1). To give form to its advocacy the Depot ran a Pre-loved Re-loved exhibition where 5% of the sale price of rehomed artworks went to the artist or their estate. With government and ministry interest in the scheme remaining dormant, we revised our publication in 2017 and have recently organised another exhibition, once again drawing to attention the value of ARRA legislation. Impetus was drawn from the sale of a Colin McCahon work for $1.35million, and the benefit that this may have been to the McCahon estate, especially since while he was alive, McCahon’s family were largely impecunious.

Now, 12 years after the previous discussion paper, another has been produced, this time by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise, as part of the review of the Copyright Act. This issues paper raises artists’ resale rights in paragraphs 153-155, a single paragraph in an otherwise robust discussion document. (2)

As another review, and call for submissions, is undertaken, more than 70 countries around the world have resale royalty schemes, from Austria and Azerbaijan to the Ukraine and Venezuela.


Above: Jean-Louis Forian, Un Tableau de Papa! (One of Father’s Paintings!), lithograph. The popularisation of this artwork drew sympathy to public campaigning for artist resale royalties eventually leading to France becoming the first country to introduce Artists Resale Royalties in 1920. In the image a visibly dishevelled man (hair in face, head hung low, collar upturned against the cold) and a young girl (a street seller as indicated by the basket) gaze into a window from the street and as the title suggest the young girl proclaims ‘one of father’s paintings!’. The title and the image working together to clearly illustrate the plight of impoverished artists and their families.


 

 

Creative apprenticeships and internships: This is also the story with Creative Internships and Apprenticeships. In 2007, Tom Bewick of Creative and Cultural Skills UK was invited by MCH to visit NZ to discuss with various arts and culture organisations the introduction of apprenticeship schemes for the creative industries. While enthusiasm abounded in the sector and research was commissioned in 2008 which “highlighted the extent of the challenge facing the sector in terms of addressing both skills shortages and skills gaps” (3) the issue went AWOL.

It surfaced again ten years later, when in 2018, MCH initiated research with a view to writing a report on needs in the creative sector. We suggested they get their skates on as a report based on a survey of professional practising artists initiated by CNZ in 1999, took 4 years to process with the results published in 2003. http://www.creativenz.govt.nz/assets/paperclip/publication_documents/documents/205/original/portrait-of-the-artist.pdf?1335144486

So, as you see, action is not the forte of bureaucracy, which, given its increasing size, is ironic rather than surprising. The bigger something gets the harder it is to move around or make change.The nature of bureaucracy is to exist for its own sake. The people it was set up to serve become superfluous to its existence. Advocacy, let alone action, is counter to its sustainability. Hence the continuing experience of stasis, disguised as action in the form of report writing whose recommendations, to be taken up by other agencies, generally go nowhere.

As a grassroots creative enterprise in touch with its community and with an ethos of service Depot Artspace continually finds opportunities, and remains tenacious in its endeavours to meet identified needs. Advocacy coexists with a commitment to action; in the face of lethargy, action often escalates to activism.

Depot Artspace therefore initiates necessary services even when they fly in the face of caution or initial under-funding. We believe that quality of service and delivery eventually results in support. Especially when we back it up with robust research. For example, while creative apprenticeships have languished in Aotearoa since our meetings with Tom Bewick, Helen Clark, Maryan Street and other MPs, the UK has powered ahead with tens of thousands of apprenticeships for 18-24 year olds now in place since 2008.

We have new plans to activate this initiative as part of our goal to not just put our creative sector on the map, but to make a new map. We agree with influential designer and futurist, Buckminster Fuller, that to really change something, we need to “build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” He also stated in the 60’s – and it’s yet to come – that the world needs a new vision of what is possible.

That’s why we’re passionate about the change that a fully activated creative sector can bring about. It can facilitate a new way of seeing the world and making resources accessible to everyone. That’s why we’re passionate about creative apprenticeships, about PACE and all other initiatives able to fortify and grow the creative sector.

So, when you come along to Depot Artspace you can get stuck into what you believe in and advocate for, and be a part of real and meaningful change; grassroots is where it starts and grows from.




KEEPING PACE: WHY THE REINTRODUCTION OF PATHWAYS TO ARTS AND CULTURAL EMPLOYMENT (PACE) WILL HELP SAVE THE CREATIVE SECTOR



It’s now over a year since the Labour led government was voted in, with an agenda for the arts and culture which created a lot of optimism. At Depot Artspace we were particularly enthusiastic about the reintroduction of PACE and the initiation of creative apprenticeships/internships, especially after the drought in support for the creative sector over the previous decade.

Depot has offered PACE since early 2002, although in 2010 we were unable to apply the acronym to our programme, changing the name to ArtsLab. Before that, we ran our own creative industries mentoring scheme for 3 years, funded by J. R. McKenzie Trust (Arts Incubator Mentoring Scheme, AIMS) for which we won a Civic Award.

When Labour set up PACE in late 2001 it was hailed as the first time a government had invested in a career path for creatives. Initially it ran in 13 regions throughout Aotearoa, from Whangarei to Dunedin, and the Depot was amongst the first committed providers to deliver a programme that responded to both the general needs and regional demographics of creatives.

Over the years, some programmes dropped away and others strengthened as they developed a greater understanding of their creative milieu and provided robust services accordingly. Another factor in their success was the support of their regional W&I offices, which included adequate resourcing and referrals.

I believe these programmes could have survived had they received more structured support, rather than floating in an ether of ignorance, both public and institutional, about the value of the creative sector. We heard from some of our creatives that W&I staffers regarded PACE as a luxury option for an over-indulged and unproductive part of the working population, and would often fail to refer them to the programme. Here in his article on PACE Adam Goodall, quotes in his introduction the experience described by award-winning actor Nisha Madhan.

‘Nisha Madhan graduated from Unitec’s Performing Arts School in 2003 and was told to go straight to Work and Income. She’d been receiving an unemployment benefit for two years when friends started whispering, there’s this Work and Income scheme, but it’s for artists and it’s called PACE. An actual artist’s benefit. You had to do battle with your case manager to get on it, but this dragon’s hoard existed

“I had to fight pretty hard,” Nisha remembers. “I had to show lots of evidence that I’d been to auditions, that I’m a working actor, that I had independently produced shows myself and I’d informally set up a theatre company. I remember it being a pretty dirty fight with my case manager.”’ (The Difficult History and Precarious Future of PACE, Adam Goodall, 2018)

Nisha fought the dragon and won and subsequently arrived at our PACE programme. She describes below her encounter with the Depot’s PACE Coordinator. ‘She got a PACE supervisor, a man named Lynn Lawton. “This guy was fucking amazing,” Nisha continues. At their first meeting, she’d laid out the evidence of her grind yet again and then told him, “Don’t worry, I’m gonna go and do a trial at a café.” Lynn did a double take. “WHAT? Why are you doing that?” “Oh, you know, because I’ve gotta have a job.”“No no no,” Lynn replied. “You’re already doing a full-time job. That’s what this money is for. This isn’t an unemployment benefit.”

Nisha’s career has continued to flourish. ‘The former Shortland Street actor  claimed the Community Spirit Award as recognition of her mentoring work throughout the community. As well as crafting her own award-winning show at the Fringe Festival, Madhan helped five others develop their own works as well as directing and producing multiple other works throughout the year.’

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=12176303

Creatives across all disciplines have been introduced to this programme, and their collective experiences are of support, of being valued and of feeling they have a creative turangawaewae, a sense of place where their practice is acknowledged. Isolation, fragmentation and lack of confidence are the significant issues in the lives of creatives we have committed to addressing; you could say this part of our own Wellbeing Index identified through our work in this sector over 20 years.

“It’s hard after you graduate from art school. It almost feels like you are left alone. When I graduated, I didn’t know exactly what to do and where to start. It’s easy to get depressed and lose belief in your own work. As I attended meetings and workshops I gained confidence. Artslab taught me how to get in the real world and encouraged me and helped me believe in what I was doing. ArtsLab is the transition between art school and the real world. Things you should know but are not taught at arts school are covered by ArtsLab.” Past ArtsLab artist – painter. http://www.depotartspace.co.nz/artslab/

In seventeen years of offering PACE/ArtsLab the Depot has supported more than 2500 creatives into employment, career development and further training, with many making their way sustainably in their field, and some becoming internationally recognised. Two celebrated bands from these shores are now based in Los Angeles and the UK and before Christmas one of their group called in to the Depot to say hullo and since PACE they haven’t looked back. Success they achieved is due to their passion and hard work and the support they received from a programme that believed in them.

We worked out over these years our PACE programme has saved and earnt the government more than $28,000,000 in taxes and revenue, not to mention the immeasurable benefits to our cultural identity. Not a bad return on an investment of around $3,000,000 over seventeen years.

The 2017 Labour Party Manifesto states:

We have a shared responsibility to ensure all NZers can participate in the arts. A strong cultural and creative sector is vital to our national identity and economic development.

PACE ticks a lot of boxes. In fact there’s nothing else in the creative industries to date that has made such an impact on the lives of so many creatives.

Keeping PACE under these circumstances is imperative.

 

 




DEAR BARACK OBAMA: A LESSON FOR LEADERS



When Barack Obama took office he committed to reading 10 letters a day from the 10,000 he received daily from the American people, becoming the first president to put such a deliberate focus on constituent correspon­dence. ‘Late each afternoon, around five o’clock, a selection would be sent up from the post room to the Oval Office. The “10 LADs”, as they came to be known – for “10 letters a day” – would circulate among senior staff and the stack would be added to the back of the briefing book the president took with him to the resi­dence each night. He answered some by hand and wrote notes on others for the writing team to answer, and on some he scribbled “save”.’

Starting in 2010, all physical mail was scanned and preserved. From 2011, every word of every email fac­tored into the creation of a daily word cloud, dis­tri­buted around the White House so policy makers and staff members alike could get a glimpse of the issues and ideas constituents had on their minds.

“I think I understood that if somebody writes a letter and they get any kind of response, that there’s a sense of … being heard,” he said. “And so often, espe­ci­ally back in 2009, 2010, 2011, a lot of people were going through a lot of hardship.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/ng-interactive/2018/aug/18/barack-obama-reveals-how-letters-from-the-american-people-shaped-his-presidency-interview

This is an empowering initiative; to know one letter can make a difference, that observations, concerns and sentiments of a citizen, often deeply felt, are not simply by-passed or put in a too-hard basket.

Here is the letter I would send to Jacinda Ardern if Labour took a leaf out of Mr Obama’s book.

JACINDA ARDERN
MINISTER OF ARTS, CULTURE AND HERITAGE
PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS, WELLINGTON
14 NOVEMBER, 2018

Dear Jacinda,

I am writing to you in your capacity as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, a portfolio you have held for more than a year. Before that, during Labour’s time in opposition you were the spokesperson for that portfolio from 2011.

When Labour won the elections of 2017 it had a strong Arts, Culture and Heritage platform and we were looking forward to PACE (Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment) being reintroduced and creative internships established.

Jacinda Ardern speaking at Labour’s Arts Policy Launch,
the Depot, 2011, with Arts spokesperson Steve Chadwick

Building Careers
We will ensure the long-term sustainability of the cultural sector through investment in tertiary education and professional development for artists, and a strategic focus on areas of anticipated future growth. Labour will: · Work with education providers, employers, Creative New Zealand, and other invited parties to support the development of measures that support early career cultural workers · Establish ‘Creative Apprenticeships’ as a New Zealand Apprenticeship option for the creative industries This will allow people to combine training and paid employment to acquire a recognised qualification through a mix of on-job and off-job learning · Re-establish the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (PACE) scheme.

PACE has always been an effective programme when targeted to the demographics of the region it is delivered in. During its halcyon days under Helen Clark, Artists Development Agency established by Antony Deaker in Dunedin and Standing Ovation in Wellington run by Biddy Grant are shining examples of programmes whose success grew from the knowledge of the creative sector in their region.

Biddy Grant ran Standing Ovation, which had the Wellington Pace contract.
“It was really, really successful. There were some years when Standing Ovation got the most people off the benefit in the whole of the Wellington region that includes hospitality and retail, and whatever. Most people who came were new graduates with little idea of how to make a living from their skills. There were some woolly stories at the start with people whose best claim to being an artist was “I own a guitar” but they were weeded out.” What happened to the PACE scheme? Tom Fitzsimons. 2.3. 2011

Depot Artspace has successfully run a PACE programme since it was initiated in 2001, working across the whole spectrum of creative disciplines to support more than 2000 creative job seekers into employment. We are known for our responsiveness to the needs of individual practitioners in relation to trends in both the creative sector and socio-economic environment.

Consequently, we continue to develop projects that enhance the prospects of creatives and build the sustainability of the sector. Our latest innovation is a digital platform and community hub, a place to go, for creatives seeking work and employers looking for creatives.

And we have contextualised our services in a well-being index where quality of life is a primary indicator of achievement.

With regard to the issues outlined above, I have a number of observations, which I hope you would be prepared to discuss in the near future:

Here are some of your pre-election policy promises:

  1. Labour was in opposition for nine years and had adequate time to research the viability of their policies. PACE and Creative Apprenticeships have been part of your MCH policy since you were voted out of office. Led by Steve Chadwick, Labour even held a policy launch at the Depot, which included these initiatives.
  2. It is now more than a year since Labour took office and still Arts and Culture languishes while research is undertaken to determine the efficacy of existing programmes and alternatives that could take their place. We have been interviewed 5 times with four different configurations of six people.
  3. We can tell you from our own research and experience, not only in Auckland but in the Hokianga, of the needs of creatives across the spectrum of disciplines and in diverse regions, that one of the big issues is isolation; isolation in practising alone, as a creative who has no reference group, and geographically from networks of other creatives.
  4. Given that you are considering the development of a wellbeing index, this could be an issue you give serious consideration to; it does not need another extensive, time-consuming survey to ascertain what is already evident, and reflected in suicide statistics and mental health.
  5. We know that CNZ, which receives 90% of MCH funding, is undertaking a survey on the needs of professional practising artists to ascertain their needs, from which appropriate resources and services will be developed. You may be interested to know that the previous survey, initiated in 1999, took 4 years to process with the results published in 2003.
    http://www.creativenz.govt.nz/assets/paperclip/publication_documents/documents/205/original/portrait-of-the-artist.pdf?1335144486
    If that’s the time frame then Labour will be into its next term before it makes a practical commitment to arts and culture.

 

I’m sorry to sound a little testy, Jacinda, as we know you’re committed, but I think we had great expectations of the creative future under a Labour Government and we really did anticipate you would fulfil many of your policy promises rather than return to ‘the drawing board’.

As previously mentioned we’ve talked to a number of researchers in the past 6 months, who are undertaking research and preparing reports which they say will be ready for February, so we’re not holding our breath for rapid change or action. In fact, given their lack of familiarity with the creative sector, we’ve decided to divest ourselves of hope and just get on with the job we do so well; of supporting creatives and the creative sector to develop sustainability.

 

Nga mihi nui,

Linda Blincko, MA, QSM
Creative Director
Depot Artspace

 

 




Grassroots and Change



Kuini Karanui speaks at the Turangawaewae: Sense of Place exhibition at Depot Artspace

‘Grassroots’ is defined as ‘community-engaged’; grassroots are the people in and of a community, as contrasted with those at the top, ‘the leadership or elite of a private or government organisation.’

Depot Artspace is proudly grass roots. From this point it keeps an ear to the ground, the place where people stand – their turangawaewae – and from which, if nurtured, things grow and are sustained.

Over nearly more than two decades, the Depot has developed facilities, services and new initiatives that respond to the needs and interests of the creative community, both local and beyond. These include: galleries; recording and rehearsal studios; ArtsLab, the biggest professional development programme for artists nationally; creative internships research and development; Cultural Icons, a filmed interview series (78 interviews so far) with people who have been significant in the cultural landscape; Depot Press, including ‘The Vernacularist’ journal, W’akaputanga, Turangawaewae/Sense of Place and LOUD magazine.

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GRASS ROOTS ARTS: VISION, RESOURCEFULNESS AND RESILIENCE



Arts and culture have taken a bad beating across the country this year. The following is a litany of losses, both imminent and already undertaken:

  • The closure of the Elam Arts School and School of Architecture Libraries
  • The dire under-funding of Auckland Art Gallery resulting in threats of closure or charging entry fees
  • The cutting of Te Papa collections staff
  • The closure of a number of regional galleries including Manawa, Rotorua Museum and Southland Museum and Art Gallery
  • The threatened cutting of an art history course at Southland Institute of Technology
  • The downsizing of NZ’s biggest architectural firm Jasmax, with significant staff cuts

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The Photographer as Nature’s Friend



It’s no secret that our native flora and fauna are under threat of extinction. From the kauri to the dotterel the extent of loss to Aotearoa of living taonga is heart breaking.

 

A report produced in 2017 by the Ministry for the Environment documents the profound effects on the bird life of Aotearoa and in doing so offers up a challenge to reverse this potential devastation.

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Vision and values in Auckland’s urban design: Shaping a liveable city



Arts in Action envisions a society enriched by the values that influence decision making across all disciplines and forms of practice.

Creative thinking is at the nub of social change because it offers alternative ways of viewing what is often regarded as fixed and non-negotiable, being attached to a dominant ideology.

 

Richard Reid is a visionary architect whose values inform and shape his work. When he returned to Aotearoa in 1997 he added a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture to his degree in Architecture in order to understand and integrate into his practice the natural and social environments of Aotearoa. He established his own practice in 2001 and continues to actively contribute to community and environmental groups, in particular the Auckland Volcanic Cones Society (2003-07) and Ngataringa Bay Society (2007-2011).

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Life, Art and Community: A Sunday with Auckland City Mission artists at Depot Artspace



The Depot Artspace ethos embraces the arts community in all its aspects and attributes. The arts have a universal voice with which all are able to speak. This month we have been honoured to host the artists of the Auckland City Mission whose works are showcasing at the Depot Gallery in their second exhibition.

Clare Caldwell, Visual arts Tutor with the Mission, spent Sunday at the Depot Gallery along with the exhibiting artists, enjoying kōrero (conversation) with interested visitors, and sharing their hearty lunch.

Here is Clare’s colourful story of the day.




Arts in Action: The transformative power of creative leadership



Inspiring creative leadership has the capacity to transform a workplace, a community, a region or a country. The creative mind can provide new insight into ongoing issues that are continually plied with the same unsuccessful solutions. A few inspirational leaders have shown the significant difference that innovative solutions are able to make and Depot Artspace has been fortunate to take part in their initiatives.

“I have wanted to meet Jason Smith from 2011, the time I encountered his work as Senior Policy Advisor for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage where he produced a cultural map of Auckland which was initially displayed on the Auckland Council website.” Read More…