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.



Survey for Creative Employment Programme




Image: Revolution Creative & Artslab at employment expo

SHAPING CREATIVE EMPLOYMENT IN AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND

In May 2020, during Covid-19 Lockdown, the Government announced $7. 9 million to support creative job seekers, building on the most successful aspects of the former Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (PACE) programme.

At Depot Artspace we decided to develop a survey that asked creatives across all practices what they wanted from a such a programme.

Methodology: a short, sharp, accessible survey to encourage participation, allowing for commentary should respondents want to go into detail.
Questions were directed at the components of a programme that would assist creatives to a sustainable practice and employment.

12% of those contacted responded to the survey, which is a good outcome.
There were 6 questions, each one relating to the content and form of the programme components. An outline of the results follows:

1. How important is it to have access to a programme supporting creatives to achieve sustainability/employment? 93% responded it was either very important (75%) or important (18%).

2. All of the listed programme components were seen as very helpful, rating between 65% and 80%.

3. All programme contents also rated highly, between 68% and 100%, with Portfolio, CVs & Cover Letter preparation being regarded largely as ‘somewhat helpful’.

4. Programme service qualities were all regarded as important with empathy being a significant factor in all aspects of the delivery.

5. Of the practical outcomes it was important for respondents to have work that allows them to spend time on their creative practice as a result.

6. All personal outcomes was regarded as important, with confidence and networking featuring as important.

Of the surveys submitted, 66% of respondents took the time to expand on their answers. Many of the comments were positive and others provided the opportunity to add new material to the programme or address issues differently.

 

For further information, this article by Henry Oliver, former editor of Metro Magazine gives you a perspective on what PACE meant to him.

thespinoff.co.nz/politics/29-05-2020/what-the-pace-scheme-did-for-me/




Re-Framing the Future



 

DEPOT ARTSPACE: REFRAMING THE FUTURE

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
― Buckminster Fuller

Covid 19 has catapulted us into the unknown. We are trying to make sense of the future and the political, economic and social landscape provides no clear or recognisable signposts. The horizon is so far indistinct and generates insecurity and trepidation. For many of us certainty is more important than possibility, even though it’s littered with the casualties of a flawed system.

Before our need for the known totally takes hold, we should ask how we could reframe the future so that it actually works for this planet and its inhabitants. The world we want began to reveal itself during Lockdown as we celebrated a reduction in pollution, clean air and oceans, less human detritus in the form of cars, waste, less unchecked knee-jerk consumerism, and increasingly more social conscious-ness which includes consideration for others and the environment.

These Covid 19 conditions may be the common denominators of a new world order. To experience peace, goodwill, wellbeing and environmental recovery requires a new vision with creative thinking at its core.

In reframing the future, Depot Artspace, and creative centres like ours may have the edge on other sectors of society. We are acclimatised to the constancy of change, including the unreliability of income and are consequently adaptive, innovative and resilient. We are influenced less by the structured status quo and more by the impetus and inclination of people to find meaning apart from this, for this has been our kaupapa from inception.

In 2002, we wrote in LOUD that ‘wealth is externalised in ownership. Quality of life has become a measurable phenomenon and the human values by which we live are dictated by external imperatives.’

We recognised then that creativity formed the foundation of a new world, and Post-Covid in particular this has increasingly become the view of others.

“Creativity will save the world. People will look to our poets, our artists, our musicians, our dancers, our inventors, our architects, our engineers, our writers and designers to redefine humanity’s purpose post-Covid-19.

Because, at the end of 2020, it will not be business as usual. It will be something completely different. We will have no choice but to adapt to and redefine the changes coming our way, big and small.

But adapt and redefine we must. There will never be a greater opportunity to lead the world forward, and not from a political front but a creative front. It’s not just our job, it’s our existential duty.” The Role of Creativity post-Covid-19, Rohan Reddy

At Depot Artspace, community and sense of place, inclusiveness and accessibility, attributes intrinsic to the environment of support for creatives, are increasingly valued. When other changes may be required because of circumstances beyond our control, they will remain non-negotiably, as the framework of wellbeing in an otherwise fragile world. Under these conditions, creativity will always find form here.

 

Article by Depot Artspace Creative Director Linda Blincko




COMMUNITY IS THE FUTURE



 

As lockdown passes the halfway mark, what have I learnt from it?

 

A big thing, as I travel around my local bubble and observe signs of a regenerating environment, that I’ll be taking greater care of this living planet which has been so sadly taken for granted.

 

The other thing is, the aspects of life that make it meaningful. A big part seems to be our engagement with others, and also a sense of place, turangawaewae. Distance chatting has become de rigueur, the new phenomenon, with dog life, supermarket behaviour and the weather, good sources of conversation and exclamation. In other words, feeling like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves, but where we have place, which is community.

 

Depot Artspace was built on this basis 25 years ago, and it remains the substance of its life and work. It’s a grassroots community, concerned about its artists and audiences and meeting their needs through keeping its ear to the ground. We believe, more strongly than ever that community is not just important, but is our new future. The qualities we increasingly find meaningful in our lives are the components of community.

 

We have documented this outlook in the many Depot Press publications, and modelled it in our work with creatives across all disciplines. That’s why we’ve created the Love My  Community logo. It represents what is really important in this world and in times to come. Community is a microcosm; it’s the world writ small, and if we live with love in it then we’re making a big difference in the world.

 

We’re going to explore and develop this theme as we move through lockdown and beyond, because we’re committed to being part of a new world. In the meantime, here’s a link to Depot Press where you can see what we’ve been talking about https://www.depotpress.co.nz/

 




SUBMISSION TO THE DEVONPORT-TAKAPUNA LOCAL BOARD PLAN 2020



A Face to the Future: Depot Artspace Perspective on the Creative Community Post Covid-19

This submission to the Local Board’s Annual Plan was prepared before Covid-19 required NZers to Lock down, leaving many community organisations and small businesses uncertain of, and in many instances fearful for their future. It has been reiterated by government and business leaders that there will be a ‘new normal’, although its form has not yet been described. However, prior to Lockdown Depot Artspace had been considering its direction with regard to the changing shape of the creative sector both internationally and locally, in all spheres of practice, employment, service delivery and audience engagement.

Our submission raises these issues as we contemplate a more relevant, responsive and subsequently viable future which is actually synchronistic with the future following the current crisis. In this submission, we address the efficacy of a local focus, built on Devonport’s rich early history, its creative whakapapa, small business infrastructure and strong sense of identity.

This full submission can be downloaded here: LOCAL BOARD Plan Submission 2020




LETTER BY JOHN MINTO



WHEN A CRISIS SIGNALS THE NEED FOR CHANGE

 

We have included this letter on the Arts In Action page, because we believe that alternative views by  people with a long history of involvement in creating a more equitable society need to be given a platform.  John Minto has a significant and respected reputation for actively and passionately working for social justice in Aotearoa.

 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.  The world needs a new vision of what is possible, ‘that can galvanize people around the world to achieve higher levels of cooperation in areas of common concern and shared destiny.” Buckminster Fuller circa 1965

Nigel Brown. 2012  Exhibited at the Depot during the exhibition, ‘Sum of the Parts’

 

 

23 April 2020

Open letter to government – Redirecting the post Covid 19 government spend

 

We are deeply concerned at government proposals to spend the bulk of our post-Covid 19 investment on large infrastructure projects to match corporate priorities.

Earlier this year before the pandemic, the government announced a $12 billion infrastructure spend with the biggest chunk to go to roading projects and there seems no change in direction with a committee, headed by former Fletcher Construction Chief Executive Mark Binns, to evaluate and recommend which “shovel ready” projects should proceed.

While there are large New Zealand-wide projects which should be funded (eg revitalisation of national and regional rail) it is essential that the lion’s share of the post-pandemic spending be invested in local “public-good” projects across the country.

The corporate sector, representing big business, is desperately keen for New Zealand to return to “business as usual” to ensure a smaller group of wealthier people can continue to enjoy the benefits of economic development at the expense of the rest of us, especially our lowest-paid workers in essential industries.

However, it was clear well before Covid 19 that “business as usual” had failed most of us. Despite the existential threat of climate change, for example, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise year by year as policy decisions have favoured economic growth over human welfare. Similar unacceptable failures are evident in biodiversity, fresh water, rivers and streams, poverty and inequality, health, education, housing, mental health, incarceration rates etc

If we go back to “business as usual” we will simply carry forward the myriad of social and economic problems from the pre-pandemic era, in particular the shocking levels of poverty and inequality which have disproportionately damaged Maori and Pasifika whanau and entire low income communities.

We cannot move forward with people and families on low incomes struggling with high rents while paying a higher proportion of their incomes in tax (through income tax and GST) than those who will gain the most benefit from the proposed corporate-led government investment to “get the economy moving” again.

Meanwhile, local and regional councils across New Zealand are struggling with huge infrastructure deficits from over 30 years of “user pays” policies and privatisation of assets. In everything from sewage to fresh water supply, council rental housing and public transport, to name a few, our local infrastructure is in poor condition.

We have an opportunity with this unprecedented pandemic event to refocus government investment on local “public good” projects which will lead to stronger local communities and sustainability rather than projects which benefit the big end of town and take us in the opposite direction.

The benefits in doing this are many. We can fund projects that are of social benefit at socially appropriate wage rates. These can help future-proof local communities, reduce emissions and pollution levels and take a big step towards sustainability.

Local employment on local projects also brings new opportunities for partnerships with local iwi and urban Maori groups, for example, to dramatically reduce unemployment for those struggling already and who will be hardest hit by the post-pandemic recession.

Many more changes will be needed. Rent controls, a wealth tax and a liveable universal basic income need to be part of the mix.

Without this proposed change to local “public-good” spending priorities, local and regional councils will continue to struggle with rate increases well above inflation and crumbling local infrastructure while at the national level we will be told we must face higher taxes and austerity measures into the future to reduce government debt. It’s time we began reshaping the economy to work for people rather than the other way around.

However, our proposed change in focus for infrastructure spending has an unseen obstacle.

Our biggest political parties, National, Labour and New Zealand First have a heavy dependence on corporate donations to run their election campaigns and will therefore tend to support corporate priorities rather than doing what is best for New Zealand as a whole. We must not allow this to happen.

We need a “new normal” in our economy which focuses on strengthening and empowering local communities to work towards a more sustainable future. It can start with post-pandemic government spending.

 

Na,

Initial signatures:

Annette Sykes – Maori lawyer and veteran human rights activist

Mike Treen – National Director Unite Union

John Minto – Christchurch Progressive Network

Bronwen Summers – Community activist

Joe Carolan – Socialist Aotearoa

Warren Brewer – Community activist

Jen Olsen – Community activist

Andrew Tait – Community activist

Paul Hopkinson – Community activist

John Edmondson – Community activist




GROUNDHOG DAY IN THE CREATIVE SECTOR: DECADES OF ACTIVELY GOING NOWHERE



“You want a prediction about the weather?…….. It’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to last you for the rest of your lives!” Phil O’Connor, in Groundhog Day, 1993

Jerry Howlett: Ascend, 2019 (diorama – mixed media)

Groundhog Day refers to a 1993 film where a TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event, is caught in a time loop, repeatedly reliving the same day. He does this for 10 years until a revelation causes him to break this pattern and consciously move on.

We met recently with two policy advisors from Ministry of Culture and Heritage (MCH) about Artists Resale Royalties, an issue being revisited after more than twelve years when the Labour Government produced a detailed discussion document including international research and analysis and referencing the changing creative landscape of Aotearoa.  New research is being undertaken, a new report will be written by MCH policy advisors and once completed will be presented to Government for consideration or to the public for consultation. In the meantime, 81 countries have adopted ARR.

https://mch.govt.nz/sites/default/files/ResaleRoyaltyPublicDiscussionPaper.pdf

One of our team members also attended a workshop in Wellington where the needs of creatives were discussed with a view to supporting sustainability by providing appropriate career and business development services. This discussion has also been ongoing since 2007 with a raft of initiatives researched and posited and in some instances added to policy – for example, Creative Internships and the reintroduction of PACE (Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment). In 2009 we met with the founder of a recently established UK agency, Creative and Cultural Skills, invited to NZ to discuss internships and apprenticeships, and the potential for establishing a creative sector Industry Training Organisation (ITO). While this agency has since provided and brokered 1000’s of apprenticeships in the UK, NZ has made no commitment to such a service, despite policy promises and ongoing research identifying the need. https://www.thebigidea.nz/stories/advocating-for-the-arts

Creative NZ completed a survey on the needs for artists, which identified three priorities:

  1. Fair reward – working towards:
  • ensuring lower-paid creative professionals are paid in line with technical professionals
  • lifting pay to the point where creative professionals start to feel it is a fair reward for their work.
  1. Sustainability – working to make the careers of mid-career and established creative professionals more sustainable through more continuous creative endeavours.
  1. Emerging creative professionals – working with the sector to find better ways to support creative professionals at the start of their career.

These outcomes were identified in much earlier research and formed part of Labour’s Arts Policy from at least 2011. Depot Artspace has been both advocating for and delivering services that address each of these issues since 1999 when we set up a mentoring scheme for creatives and most recently an online platform, Revolution Creative www.revolutioncreative.co.nz that supports sustainability.

In her newly released book Promises, Promises Claire Anderson addresses the question of why political parties continue to repeat promises, even over decades, that they never keep and asserts we continue to be wooed by the dream of what might be.

https://adamsmith.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/qa-political-promises-with-claire-robinson/.

And so, while the strategists and policy makers busily beaver away revisiting, reviewing, revising and reproducing reports that address the needs and hopes of creatives identified over decades, the creative sector continues to languish. 

Since 2002, we have:

  • Run Helen Clark’s innovative PACE/ArtsLab programme. For 18 years we have proven the value of professional development for creatives as we continue to run the most comprehensive and successful arts employment programme in Aotearoa.
  • Successfully run and brokered apprenticeships and internships and subsequently advocated for a national scheme supported by an ITO to ensure regulated and recognised training. From 2007 we lobbied for an internship scheme and a creative ITO that would establish training criteria and outcomes for the sector. In 2009 we were invited by MCH to meet Tom Bewick who headed a new UK- agency, Creative and Cultural Skills, set up to develop, deliver and broker creative apprenticeships.  Ten years later we are no closer to this objective while CCS has run and supported 1000’s of apprenticeships.
  • Documented and made public the successes of internships, along with the extent of exploitation when they are not regulated.
  • Advocated for legal assistance for artists and established a Creative People’s Centre where legal information was freely available online.
  • Supported the call for Artists Resale Royalties to assist sustainability by undertaking research and producing a book on the subject. 

 

We appreciate the 2017 post-election imperative of Mark Amery regarding government’s commitment to the arts, but we doubt whether even the sector itself can activate necessary structural change, at least for as long as we put faith in promises. 

If this new government really values the arts, it now needs to start acting with real vision to its potential to impact across society at every level. That requires assistance from those who know the potential of the arts – the sector itself – to shape and activate that vision. Mark Amery 2017 Advocating for the Arts on The Big Idea

So we have our reference to Groundhog Day, where the life of the hapless star is a nightmare of repetition – and approximates our own efforts at making a difference  to creative sector sustainability, except that our nightmare has being going on for much longer.

Jerry Howlett: The Fall, 2019 (diorama –mixed media)




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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STATE OF THE ARTS: CHANGES IN THE ART WORLD 2018



The Depot has been in the art world for twenty-one years now and continues to remain sustainable by being perspicacious, predictive and proactive.  We have been researching the changes in the art world.

STATE OF THE ARTS

We first discussed the state of the arts in 2003. We explored the notion that an increasing preoccupation with fiscal matters led to the commodification of almost everything; that our society was one where, as Oscar Wilde famously observed, “everything has a price and nothing has value.”   Included now in this commodified world, with its concomitant characteristics, including conspicuous consumption and investment potential, are the arts.

We noted that the shameful sale of Colin McCahon’s “Storm Warning” in 1998 by Victoria University to a private collection presaged in both the act and the substance of the work some of these major social trends, which finally filtered into the NZ art scene.  McCahon bequeathed the work with the expectation it would remain on public display. The text of “Storm Warning” prophetically read:

‘YOU MUST FACE THE FACT The final age of this world is to be a time of troubles. Men will love nothing but money and self.  They will be arrogant, boastful and abusive, with no respect for parents, no gratitude, no piety, no natural affections, they will be implacable in their hatreds. PAUL TO TIMOTHY.’

 

Storm Warning, Colin McCahon 1980 synthetic polymer paint, unstretched canvas

In a lecture titled “Money, Power and Contemporary Art” (2004), Los Angeles Gallery Director Robert Shapazian** warns that “within the world of contemporary art, works of art are traded like a commercial article….Art has become an ornament to power, celebrity, big money and control.”

We see very little let-up in this fiscal focus on the arts, but we have observed significant changes which relate to the ways and means art is marketed and sold, some of which unfortunately exclude the artist from any personal financial benefit.

  • The secondary arts market is going mad, with sales by auction houses reaping millions of dollars and sidelining artists, and the galleries which have supported them in the past. No rewards accrue to artists whose works are on sold at auction.
  • A work purchased at auction may also be a fraction of the cost a dealer gallery will sell it for. In some instances a work by a well-known artist may be less expensive than that of an emerging artist, which has significant implications for an emerging arts scene. Our publication, Artist Resale Royalties Aotearoa, ARRA, revised 2017, documents research into the possible income of artists who would receive a royalty if their work sold on the secondary markets and on that basis advocates for a resale royalty.
  • There is also a proliferation of other means for selling work, such as a variety of online sites from Trade me, which is non-selective and enables the artist to list their own works, to Ocula, a fine-arts, on-line gallery. On-line art sales are more prolific than when we first addressed this subject in 2004. This is also true for art fairs run for both charitable and commercial purposes.
  • Also there’s a far greater blurring of what defines ‘art’. YouTube, digital media, blogs etc. and greater links between art and design encourage the concept that anyone can be an artist. Also art’s becoming increasingly a life style/leisure activity like cafes, wineries etc. Venues for seeing art are opening up – artists are opening their studios and houses for showings and home galleries are on the rise too.”

Here at the Depot we constantly question how, under such circumstances of change, we can best meet the needs of artists. Galleries are no longer a great source of sales, as we witness through the closure of art galleries both locally and internationally, and as artists take their creative sustainability into their own hands. The establishment of personal websites with online sales facilities, the connection with the organisers of school and other charity art fairs are means by which artists are building their own audience and potential buyers.

As a result the Depot realises it may be able to support artists more effectively in the following ways:

  • Offering professional development services to artists; assisting them to design websites, to draw audiences to their websites, to prepare artists’ statements that attract and interest audiences, and to offer advice on materials, technique and marketing.
  • Providing workspaces where artists are able to work on projects and to collaborate.
  • Offering opportunities for participation in shows that do two things:
  1. Build a community of support for artists; they are not alone and nor is their profession without recognition and value.
  2. Develop and promote the creative critical mass that showcases the local community as rich in the arts which contribute to its identity, vibrancy and economic sustainability.

In a recent article, titled The Future of Art Galleries, Mark Adams notes that many galleries are attempting to build a sense of community. “One trend I have noticed recently is how galleries will sponsor workshops or an in depth demo from their artists.  They have become more than just an art gallery, but built a community where people can buy art, learn how to make art, or just talk to people about art.” http://markedwardadams.com/blog/64141/the-future-of-art-galleries

We are aware also that the arts contribute more to society than an additional economic stream. The arts are kept alive in our society not by the incentive of an income but by the passion and calling of artists. If the production of art were governed by the profit motive it is unlikely that the arts would feature significantly in the lives of so many practitioners. And how much more impoverished would we be both as a culture and a society if this was the case. Thus, to value art on a dollar basis or to be is to under-value it at any price, for the arts emanate from and are an expression of the human spirit which is itself definable in what it creates.

In “The Story of Utopias” (1922) visionary social philosopher, Lewis Mumford, made the following observation: “A community whose life is not irrigated by art and philosophy, is a community that exists only half alive. The fundamental values of a true community are to found in poetry, art, music and the free use of the imagination…the production of non-profit-making goods, the enjoyment of non-consumable wealth. Here are the sustaining values of a living culture.”

These words, like those on McCahon’s “Storm Warning”, are harbingers of dire possibility when we neglect who we truly are and succumb to the gross and transient pleasures of commodity fetishism in which art also becomes implicated; the victims of a world-wide phenomenon.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri’s Warlugulong was reportedly bought for A$1,200, but in 2007 it went for
A$2.4m ($2.2m) at Sotheby’s in Melbourne, an auction record for an indigenous work

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*Commodification is a process “in which something enters freely or is coerced into a relationship of exchange, a transaction enabled by an instrument of payment…..Parties in this exchange identify themselves as owners.” Rainer Ganahl “Free Markets: Language, Commodification and Art”

**Robert Shapazian has master’s and doctorate degrees in literature and fine arts from Harvard University. He has worked extensively with artists, museums, curators and private art collectors.




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…