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25 Oct 2023

Caring for our Creative Communities

Written by Dr. Aimee Anderson-O’Connor
Creative Development

For Creative Waikato, serving the Waikato region is at the heart of our mahi, and our soul lies in our vision: to have the people of Waikato thriving in a region abundant with diverse and transformative creative activities. We know that arts, culture, and creativity are key to our communities’ wellbeing, and that our region is rich with generous, skilled, and hardworking creatives, artists, cultural enablers, and kaitiaki. 

All across our wide region, our creatives and creative groups do good things for our communities. They provide creative activities, facilitate events, run workshops, activate public and community spaces, bring people together, create, hold and share stories, and bring beauty into our lives. 

They work their magic with what they have, from town halls and offices, garages, stores, lounges, galleries, theatres, parks, kitchen tables, studios, and libraries. 

Some are regularly paid, while others are not. The majority volunteer time, resources and skills to give back to our communities.

The past few years have thrown us a number of challenges, including a pandemic that saw us physically grounded in place, and the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle. This time saw Creative Waikato continue to work on a number of projects which support, celebrate, connect and advocate for our creatives and creative groups across the region. This includes Kotahitanga, Creative Acts of Kindness, Creative Development mahi, and Cultural Activation in the South Waikato.

However, we know that you can’t beat just being there in person, and we are excited to be back on the road, putting faces to names, and meeting new creatives and creative enablers kanohi ki te kanohi. 

When we know what creative goodness is going on in the region, we can celebrate this, and share the impact of your work with decision makers. When we have records around what events are happening and what key groups and artists are supporting communities in our towns, we can help to tell your stories, and show how integral creativity is to community wellbeing. It allows us to direct opportunities to those people who we know are already doing the mahi. It also allows us to help to connect new people with existing ecosystems, expanding our networks, and calling people into arts, culture and creativity. We want you, our Waikato creative community, to know that we are behind you and for you.

On the Road
Our Waikato region is large and diverse, and no two places are the same. We are spoilt, and have it all here: from inland towns on main highways, to beachside bays. So far, we have been visiting: Ngāruawāhia, Ōtorohanga, Matamata, Cambridge/Kemureti, Taumarunui, Putāruru, Te Aroha, Te Awamutu, Tokoroa, Kāwhia, Paeroa, Te Kūiti, Huntly/Rāhui Pōkeka, Morrinsville/Morenawhira, Waihī, Piopio, and Raglan/Whaingaroa. On our itinerary for the next week are Ngatea, Thames/Pārāwai and Coromandel Town/Kapānga, with still more towns to come. Each of our towns have unique strengths and opportunities, as well as challenges.

We are heading out, boogying to music from Waikato and beyond, and checking weather warnings, and navigating road closures and fallen trees to get where we need to be.  So we can offer sneak peeks of the ArtReach workshops that will launch in the new year, knock on doors, check out local arts spaces and community venues, and asking you, the creative communties, what you are proud of most in your town. We have set up in town halls, libraries, community houses, sports clubs, impact hubs and plazas. 

The marks of creatives are everywhere. Theatres and town halls and galleries and studios and pubs. Posters and flyers and brochures, Facebook community pages and events listings. Public art: sculptures and murals and music which tell the history of these places, and share about the vision for our future. Opportunities for creative Play in public spaces and parks. 

Our basket
We are holding spaces for folks to come together within and between different arts groups, to talk about strengths and challenges, and reflect on the good that they do, every day. We have offered resources to build skills in a number of different areas, including strategic planning, audience development, project planning, promotion and storytelling. We have shared information around funding, creative careers, big systems structures, advocacy, and what we do at Creative Waikato more broadly. We have been keen listeners, brainstorm buddies, sounding boards, and are available to offer feedback and follow up support.

We are listening
We met with groups and creatives who have been serving their communities for decades. These are folks who volunteer their time and give back to their communities. They are passionate about the need for connection, and shared about how creativity helps their own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of the wider community. We heard that the social aspect is essential.

Our creatives and creative enablers are generous, and working hard. Their work is key to creating iconic local events, contributing to town pride, attracting folks to town, and helping to make their towns rich, interesting places to be. We heard about groups who team up with local causes, and make the same ten dollar notes circle the town many times. We heard that creativity is happening everywhere, and that the majority of folks have creativity in their lives. We heard that for folks who are feeling isolated, creativity can light a fire and make a place home. A lot of our creatives work quietly and humbly, using limited resources to make magic happen.

The more connected we are, the more we can support arts, culture and creativity in the Waikato and beyond. When we work together, we can make big-picture change, for a Waikato that thrives with diverse and transformative creative activity. 

Help us to reach new folks. 

Pass on this article to anyone who might be interested. Or chat to a friend or two about Creative Waikato, let them know about our E-News, or our social media @creativewaikato or website, or a project of ours you might have seen. Keep an eye out for our next trips across the mighty Waikato region, and the ArtReach suite which is launching in the new year. We will bring the biscuits and the tea, and we would love to see you.

‘There are many unseen committed, invested and active pockets of super creativity around the Waikato. It’s inspiring.’ – Leafa Wilson