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5 Aug 2022

You're going to want to hear about Whiria te Tāngata

Logo for the Whiria te Tāngata project with 3 shades of orange in a woven W with brown text

As we progress towards our vision of a Waikato Region that thrives with diverse and transformative creative activity, we spend some time imagining different ways we might both support the artists and creative enablers in our communities, but also better understand the positive impacts that having these people woven through the fabric of our society can have on wellbeing.

In addressing that, we had the opportunity to develop an application for the Manatū Taonga Te Urungi: Innovating Aotearoa Fund. An application where we wanted to test how to demonstrate social innovation – a project that provided a tangible small scale example of the way system change might be addressed in the future.

We are advocates for the substantial impact that the arts, culture and creativity bring to our communities. We know that there is a need to support community wellbeing through creative activity as a pathway to encouraging meaningful arts experiences, increased cultural literacy, and creating space for celebrations of creativity as a tool for resilience. In this we are looking at strengths-based investment in creativity that is focussed on outcomes rather than outputs.

To share some of the ideas in perhaps more complex terms, we see this innovative project as being something that provides a way of re-imagining a sector that isn’t constrained by current structures. It explores some of the possibilities that could exist outside of the gig-based economy, project-based funding models, and capitalist/commercial systems that, in a way, force our creative practitioners to navigate a balance between sustainability and accessibility that doesn’t regularly support ongoing community-embedded creative practice. In order to explore future possibilities we are demonstrating a smaller version of potential systemic long-term change. We want to enable the rippling benefits of arts activation to flow through communities supporting social cohesion, wellbeing benefits and a sense of place.

So, having said all of that, what is this project we are talking about??


Whiria te Tāngata (weave the people together) is a multi-community artist in residence pilot to enable artists to practice and develop work with and through their communities. This residency includes support such as wraparound mentorship, collaborative pathways and ongoing evaluation.

What does that mean?

This is an example of systems change around creative enablers in our communities. It is looking at new models of patronage for artists and creative practitioners who are delivering work with and for the diverse communities of the Waikato. It is connected to international examples of pilot programmes that are exploring ‘guaranteed income for artists’ or ‘artist wage‘ or ‘artist UBI‘ type initiatives. It is looking to demonstrate the community impact that is possible when artists are supported to do their work. It is serving to weave into the wellbeing impacts that having accessible local creative activity can achieve.

It is a targeted Waikato-based pilot that will be supporting 10 emerging artists in 10 diverse communities, who will be paid for one year to deliver their creative activities with and for their communities. Alongside receiving a stipend for the year, each artist will be paired with an experienced artist mentor who will also be paid for their service in supporting the growth of the emerging artists.

This is a test case for the sustainable creation of a new pathway for artists within the creative ecosystem. It would be a unique environment, informed by national discussions and international examples, to frame a pilot programme for artistic activity within specific communities from the Waikato region.

It is a project that is inspired globally, connected nationally, framed regionally, and activated locally. It is designed to strengthen connections between artists and their communities, to activate those communities through creative practice, and to transcend across communities and artforms to establish a collaborative community of practice to support the practitioners.

What is next?

There will be more information to come about the project, how it will work, and how it will connect with Waikato communities.

Keep an eye on our website and social media (@creativewaikato) for more information as it is available.