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20 May 2022

Art, Diversity, and Celebrating Difference

Pink image for article titles art diversity and celebrating culture by Dr Jeremy Mayall for Pink Shirt Day

Creative expression is a tool we can use everyday to understand ourselves and others. It is a process we can work through that embraces new ways of thinking and encourages a diversity of understanding about how different things and ideas can connect and be woven together. 

For Creative Waikato, we know it is important to celebrate our creative community that thrives on difference and diversity. There are so many different approaches to art, so many different people creating art, and such a wealth of diversity in the experiences that inform how artists tell their stories. Ultimately, we exist to support the continued development of a Waikato Region that thrives with diverse and transformative creative activity. 

With that being said, it is important today to really highlight the strength in our diversity – both the diversity in our team, as well as the diversity in our wider community, as we acknowledge Pink Shirt Day for Friday 20th May. 

Pink Shirt Day is about working together to stop bullying by celebrating diversity and promoting kindness and inclusiveness.

It’s about creating a community where all people feel safe, valued and respected, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion or cultural background.

On Friday 20 May 2022, we ask Aotearoa to Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!


So, as we work together to create a safe community, we can each take a moment to celebrate the things that make us different, and to think about how we can take a curious and open mind into the ways in which we engage with creativity in our communities. We can make an effort to connect with people who have a different life experience to ours. We can choose to find shows, exhibitions, stories, and more that celebrate those voices and make that a part of our creative activities. We can all be upstanders not bystanders, and lead our lives with kindness.

This approach to celebrating diversity and inclusion has been at the heart of our Kotahitanga: United Through Creativity project. In that project we wanted to demonstrate, through the artistic voices of our diverse creative community, that together, through art, we can care for each other. This project highlights the response of 28 Waikato artists to this core concept. The online gallery serves as an accessible tool to demonstrate through art and culture we find things that we can experience individually to remind us that we are together. We are connected. There are many different types of people and there are many different types of art. We want to see more of this creative expression in our communities, schools and workplaces. 

We have previously talked about the creative process as being an act of kindness. It is an act that serves ourselves, and our families, and our wider community. As such, it is a useful contributor to wellbeing, to our sense of self, and to our general happiness. It can also help us to find connections with our communities. 

One of the interesting things about being an artist and having a continued creative practice, is that this process can provide a pathway to celebrating our points of difference – to celebrating the things that make us “weird”. That is not to say that it is always easy to feel comfortable in the weird, but it is often in those “weird” things that we find what make us unique. We find the source of that creative magic that really amplifies the visions and stories we want to share with the world – in whichever creative form they may take.

For me, embracing weirdness has been a big boost to happiness. A way to understand how I can make my world a more interesting place. I have also found collaborating with a diverse collection of creative minds to be incredibly inspiring and intriguing. 

And yes, it is true that your inner voice may resist this idea to begin with.  We are conditioned to conform. We have seen examples of societal pressure to be part of the crowd. But there is so much more to our future selves. And the truth is, everyone is a little bit weird. Just some people have become very skilled at hiding it. It would be great to see a future where we can feel safe to be ourselves and to have that be understood as the strength that it is. 

Celebrating differences gives us space to create. It opens our minds, and ultimately creativity starts with an open and curious mind. This is how we can create futures and imagine new possibilities. These processes thrive in diverse environments. Because of this, it is vital that we have safe spaces in our communities that celebrate diversity in all its forms and promote kindness and inclusiveness. Spaces where we can feel comfortable to be ourselves

So, today, and in the days moving forward, celebrate the diversity that surrounds you, and let’s encourage one another to proceed with kindness. Let’s be upstanders and remember to ‘Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying’ in all our creative spaces throughout the Waikato.