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.



MEASURING THE TRUE WEALTH OF OUR COUNTRY: A GENUINE PROGRESS INDICATOR FOR AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND



 

Depot Artspace is a socially conscious creative hub. We employ the transformative capacity of the arts to engage, inspire, and challenge the community. We are guided by the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi: partnership, protection and participation.

In 2006, Depot Artspace hosted a meeting with Dr Ron Colman, world authority on progress indicators. Dr Colman is universally recognised for his work on a GPI (genuine progress indicator). He is head of GPI Atlantic, which created Nova Scotia’s Genuine Progress Index and is currently an adviser to the Royal Government of Bhutan on maximizing the country’s Gross National Happiness.

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ARTS NATION AOTEAROA: DEVELOPING A CREATIVE COUNTRY



Much as I’m opposed to over-utilised, populist aphorisms there’s one that’s particularly pertinent to our previous posting on advocacy and activism. It’s ‘walking the talk’ and the piece by Jermaine Reihana is an example of this as he describes Depot Artspace exhibition Te Kuia Moko, prints of the lost paintings by Harry Sangl. Rather than continuously engage in a fruitless search for the works, Depot with the invaluable assistance of Soar Print produced prints of the originals in honour of painter Harry Sangl’s 97th birthday.

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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.

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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.

 

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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”.’

 

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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…




Walking, one sense at a time #smell



Our latest addition to Arts in Action is a piece by Iryna Zamuruieva that we received from our call out for submissions. Iryna is an artist, arts activist, researcher and project manager, who has developed an urban walking experience project for the CBD neighbourhood. She has designed a series of walks that will encourage the participants to re-experience city in a playful way. Her first sense-walk took place on Saturday 2 June in the Auckland CBD.

“I would like to believe there is another way – a deeply attentive one, the one where the smells are sniffed, sounds heard, textures touched, and tastes are tasted. Walking this way transforms the city space from a transit zone where a route may be just a way from one destination to the other, into a place where a different kind of experience is co-created, different kind of relationships with material or abstract things are made and maybe even curious questions about the things are emerge“…read more…

Photo credit: Iryna Zamuruieva




Standing the test of time and integrity: PACE/ArtsLab



Well-known and widely quoted politicians are often haunted by a past of broken promises which competing parties and mischievous reporters are wont to exploit. George Bush’ famous “watch my lip…no new taxes” is such an example, never to be forgotten or lived down.

If there’s someone who can’t be faulted when it comes to standing by their commitment, especially in the creative sector which is often under-represented and overlooked, it’s Helen Clark….Read More…

Photo credit: Fairfax Media https://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/the-9th-floor/story/201842639/the-commander-helen-clark




Missing the Mark: The choice of locations for sculptures honouring women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.



This year, 2018, marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

While Council is honouring this significant event, we are bemused by their omission of Devonport as a site for a commemorative sculpture since Devonport has been recorded as the first place women voted in Aotearoa, and from 2013 local women have been advocating for a sculpture here. Read More…




The continuing Auckland University Library debacle: Why it’s such an important debate



Since the shocking announcement last month that Auckland University was about to burn books in its specialist libraries there has been a deluge of collective opprobrium at what amounts to an outrageous attack on democratic values and represents the zenith of philistinism.

Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, infers that the objections are misguided, unnecessarily disputatious and tantamount to hysteria in his recent response to the issue in the NZ Herald, April 30, 2018. Read more…

Greer Twiss centre, Peter Siddell and Richard Killeen. Photographer Gil Hanly




Reflections on the implications of size: Pt 1 Small is Beautiful



Why is small beautiful when everything promoted as powerful, spectacular and worthy of respect in society – motor vehicles, buildings, personal appendages, bank balances – seems to mock the statement? Super yachts, super powers and, more lately, super cities all proclaim the glory of size. Read More…




Save the Arts, Our Last Bastion of Freedom



The Depot has a sibling arts centre in Rawene, comprising gallery, café and bookstore, Erewhon Secondhand Quality Books. We travel between places as often as time allows, to pick up and drop off artwork as part of a creative exchange, and to restock the bookshelves.

Books are a big part of this community’s creative hub. The room in which I am writing looks across the road to Rawene’s Community Library housed in the old courthouse out back of which is a police lock-up that maintains the same sense of Spartan sequestration from the 1860’s when it was built.

There’s an elegant irony about the current occupancy of this building, because books, and our easy access to them are a significant aspect of freedom, something we have come to take for  granted over time; at least until it is threatened.

Then suddenly horror and opprobrium beset us, such as when we read that books are likely to be culled from specialist libraries at Auckland University. We have been assured that the books will not be burnt, but – before we uncork the bubbly – shredded instead. Of course the means of disposable are irrelevant to the deceased, and to all who protest at such wanton disrespect for the cultural products of civilisation.

And in Auckland City as the visual arts are dealt this similar savage blow, so sport arises triumphant, its centerpiece to be the staging of the Americas Cup in the city’s CBD.

Of sport, world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky says it keeps us in readiness for war; aggressive opposition, strategic moves, following orders, even camaraderie built on overcoming adversaries are all of it associated weaponry. We’re in a society where truculence is part of the fabric of post-Obama politics and we are in desperate need of antidote.

So, as Auckland’s Supercity moves to expunge arts and culture from its annual agenda we appeal to everyone who values freedom to stand up for the arts, for the engaged, reflective, creative mind is the last bastion of freedom.

Photo credit: Save UoA Fine Arts Library from Closing Facebook page.

Author: Linda Blincko (Creative Director)




Eating Big Fish



In the giant ocean small fish swim more safely in schools. There is no desire amongst them to draw attention to their presence as personalities; it would more than likely mean danger, the possibility of being picked off by creatures larger and more predisposed to mischief.

Better to live in a less self-interested manner; in making sure that survival for everyone, not just a privileged few, is easy. Standing out is not an issue for small fish. Read More…




Liberation Arts and its place in Peace Making



Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 – 1964)

Being nuclear free is a defining component of New Zealand identity, celebrated by cities across the country who have adopted peace city status. What a fantastic characteristic to know ourselves, and for the world to know us by!

It is a bold declaration for cities to make because commitment is necessary to bear the fruits of peace. Commemoration is great, and reflection also, but action is essential. Read more…




Liberation Arts and the Creative Revolution



“The essence of a revolution is the direct intervention of the masses in the political life of the nation. It represents a radical break with the normal routine of existence, where the masses leave the key decisions affecting their lives in the hands of the powers that be. Such a break only occurs at a point when the majority draws the conclusion that the existing order is incompatible with their very existence. A revolution is a situation where the masses take their destiny into their own hands.”

Alan Woods and Jorge Martin in “Revolution in Bolivia” 2005

Revolutions are usually messy things and in a ‘civilised’ society not the sort of activity one wants to be involved in, unless it’s a sanitized misrepresentation of the term in which technology or some other corporate phenomenon is promoted as a mass movement that changes our lives.

But this has little to do with being driven by the masses; usually the masses are further manipulated into believing that they are the major beneficiaries of whatever has been sold to them. Read more…




A Small Word



 

Art – such a small word; unprepossessing, uninspiring even. If you repeat it over and over, it sounds like nothing more than stone in a rotating tyre. There is nothing in its form or sound that supplies it with the gravitas that is its just due.

Yet, like 2 words of similar form and substance, I am, it may be compared to a stellar phenomenon, a ‘white dwarf’.  White dwarfs are very small and thus very hard to detect, yet they are very dense, their mass comparable to that of the Sun, while their volume is comparable to that of the Earth.

Art – it’s packed tight with myriad forms which in themselves bear a depth and breadth of meaning and emotion that totally belie its evident size.

That’s why art matters; art, the medium by which human consciousness is free to express or embody itself, is therefore predisposed to constant discovery; its vastness is without horizon and it cannot be constrained by social constructs or ideologies which include notions such as time, dualism and the universe.

In this sense the arts are one of the defining factors of an enlightened civilisation and it is in this sense also that the arts are the antidote for the world’s spiritual poisons. They may have succumbed in some hands to commodification and conspicuous consumption, but in large they remain true to their business of teaching, inspiring and opening fettered minds. Art can change hearts and minds, which is why civilisations are celebrated for their continuing cultural legacy.

Art – because it appears small and innocuous, art endures in its subversiveness and in its capacity for liberation.

– by Linda Blincko (Creative Director)




Arts In Action: Various Peregrinations



This essay by Linda Blincko explores the various dimensions of the Arts in Action.

“At the most fundamental level creating is a natural attribute of living beings. It is continuously in motion, limitless in its permutations and infinite in its possibilities.

That is why, when Depot Artspace took over the old Borough Council works depot twenty two years ago, we began what continues to be a work in progress.” Read more…