Tēnā koutou katoa
These continue to be uncertain times. It feels familiar, but also unusual at the same time. We endorse the necessary measures government has put into place to keep Aotearoa safe. We can see that it is working. We also recognise that the Delta variant has rapidly changed the landscape, particularly for an arts, culture, and creative sector that exists in a perpetual condition of fragility.
We thought it important to share our understanding of significant effects that the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown is having on our sector, and the work we are doing to provide support to the region. Because the scope is ever-changing and the length of time within each level is hard to predict, it means that we are still uncertain of how long the impacts will last, and what the full extent of it will be for the creative sector.
The April 2020 lockdown seemed to provide us with the opportunity to re-think and re-imagine the sector and its infrastructure. It was a time to plan and to re-evaluate the current systems in place – what works, what doesn’t and why. It also saw much needed, targeted emergency funding distributed across the sector. Since then we have seen our local sector thrive with more activity, more audience engagement, and a sense of positivity towards the growth and resilience of the creative sector.
Now, as we face this new variant, and new changes to how the sector can operate, we acknowledge the need for systems and structures to support people through in the interim. This could be through a range of approaches: perhaps that is digital, perhaps it is in more diverse streams of income, perhaps it is looking for different understandings for how innovation can work, and how we can holistically understand the impact of creative practice more broadly for all people as a coping mechanism. But we also know that many art forms only flourish when they are in shared spaces with people, and that support is needed.
Arts, culture and creativity continue to play an important role in the lives of individuals and communities. This is especially true in uncertain times. But it is important that we are working to support the sector to enable it to thrive through periods of restricted activity. It is also important to consider how this impact flows between our professional artists and our flax roots community-led activities, initiatives and programmes.
In April 2020, we saw short-term support set up and offered to our creative sector. This support is necessary again now. Creative Waikato is advocating for support systems to be created that acknowledge any creative and cultural endeavour that is impacted by these changes. Culture and creativity exists amongst multiple communities, not only the professional sector, and we see the importance and relevance community-based initiatives have on our collective wellbeing.
Various creative sector organisations from across Aotearoa are writing to government with calls for specific emergency relief funding; from extending the Wage Subsidy Scheme to live events workers and artists under Alert Level 2, to providing specific funding to Creative New Zealand and other agencies to provide additional financial support to artists and organisations until creative events can resume at full capacity. Creative Waikato supports these initiatives.
We are advocating that this should include support to ensure the sustainability of our many varied groups, organisations, and infrastructure that rely on people in spaces to thrive. It needs to support the delivery of core creative work, not just be for new projects.
Creative Waikato is also encouraging further planning for when the sector can viably re-open. Looking ahead to support creative organisations to deliver the events we know and love. The risk of running these events can become too much in changing scenarios, so it would be ideal to explore mechanisms for underwriting or live event insurance.
Creative Waikato is still offering our sector support. This is a time to work through strategic planning, get advice on funding, strengthen your own processes and activity, or find new pathways for collaboration. We can support these activities. We are also still running our Creative Careers programme ELEVATE, with sign-ups open for ELEVATE & ELEVATE Digital.
As we explore the support needed, it is important for us to remember that not all arts activity can “pivot to digital”. There are additional costs, and far less income, but also many art forms are designed to be in shared physical space – to go online would be to work in a new artform, which isn’t really a solution. We know this and are working to find other avenues to support those organisations and projects who rely on community activation in physical space.
Long term strategy
There is an opportunity here. An opportunity to rethink how arts, culture and creativity are embedded in our society. To think about arts, culture and creativity as a public good. A tool for social cohesion. A mechanism for our many different community groups to share with one another. Humans are natural storytellers, and it is important for each of us to recognise our stories being told on local stages. To feel empowered to share their stories in a safe and accessible space to encourage others on the same journey. This is a small part of the value that having arts, culture and creativity secured within our society and communities into the future brings.
As part of Creative Waikato’s work on the Waikato Arts Navigator, a strategic framework for arts, culture and creativity, we outline how these things can and should be intertwined throughout our society. We know that arts, culture and creativity are powerful levers for positive social change. They show us that we make the world rather than simply inherit it. This is why the vision is for arts, culture and creativity to be embedded more broadly in future opportunities throughout the ecosystem is so important.
Arohanui from the Creative Waikato whānau during the challenging and uncertain times that Aotearoa is currently facing. We hope you are all keeping as safe and well as possible right now. If you are experiencing mental distress or financial difficulties, below is a list of services that may help.
As always, we are here to offer support when needed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team, or to share any observations or feedback from our network so that we can work with you to ensure your voices are heard. Our thoughts are with you all.
Dr. Jeremy Mayall, CEO, Creative Waikato