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Arts sector needs our support after Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown

Creative New Zealand have launched a nationwide arts advocacy campaign with a tagline, #TFA or Thankful for the Arts. This week I was asked to select an artwork from the Hawke’s Bay Museum’s Trust Collection that makes me thankful for art. It was an interesting provocation and I enjoyed thinking about artwork in this way.

I chose a painted sketch by Charles Heaphy. It shows an encounter between a European ship and two large waka taua. The sketch is drawn from a bay overlooking the scene where Heaphy would have experienced this world changing event.

I talked about how it gave me a window into our history that pure documentary simply couldn’t get close too and how history of early New Zealand seems so much more tangible when it’s told visually. But most importantly it’s the human perspective that art represents which connects us with the experience, making it more understandable. 

Through the lockdown period it was artists who provided much of the commentary that helped us to make sense of things and get through it all. Through them it was possible to see the world through the eyes of others and understand a bit better what it is to be human, now.

In saying this, we’ve all been painfully aware of the impact of the lockdown on the arts. Performance artists in particular are looking to the future, when venues are open and functioning to capacity, bringing audiences back in numbers.

The lockdown was also a real challenge for visual artists. During this period exhibitions closed down or postponed indefinitely. For some, profitable commissions cancelled.

These exhibitions are the result of months, if not years of work and there’s an undoubtedly an economic impact for the artist, whether it be lack of sales or exposure lost.

In the most part, for MTG Hawke’s Bay we’ve maintained the exhibition schedule by pushing dates out a little and while level 2 is an opening up of access, we’re looking forward to returning to full visitation in the near future.

We’re also very aware that for a while to come, most of our visitors will be New Zealanders travelling locally rather than internationally. We are responding to this change by emphasising local artists and the Hawke’s Bay Museum’s Trust’s own collection in our future programme. We’ve been able to be relatively nimble in doing this and see this as an opportunity to really tell local stories in a richer way.

As the greatest proportion of visual art is made to be experienced physically, alternatives to exhibiting in public spaces during the lockdown have not been easy to identify.

For this reason, Creative New Zealand has made 16 million dollars available to the sector to support urgent needs for artists, who’ve had public commissions cancelled or have lost immediate income.

The funding is also there to encourage organisations to initiate projects within the period of the covid19 disruption. CNZ have been forced to do a major rethink on their priorities and have been brilliantly responsive but this will undoubtably impact on CNZs funding strategy further down the track.

Local territorial authorities across the country also, will be realigning their priorities and the long-term implications will affect arts funding for better or worse. In addition many private businesses, collectors and benefactors may no longer be able to support the activity of artists due to loss of income or a need to tighten their belts.

When artists needed support through the lockdown, local and central government organisations came to the party. However undoubtably the lockdown was the easy bit. As the financial implications of the crisis hit home, and local and central governments have increasing demands on their resources, artists will need support to continue being productive.  

So now it’s time for us to show the arts some love and play our part in nurturing the arts. We can support artists by buying work, participating in their initiatives and supporting their endeavours. You can also check out ‘Boosted’, which is a fundraising website, where you can give to projects that need a bit of help getting off the ground. The beauty of it all is that by supporting the arts you are fuelling wellbeing, identity, creativity and economic growth…and having a hell of a lot of fun on the way.


Image Caption: Artwork by Charles Heaphy (b.1820, d.1881), Untitled, Sailing ship approaching the shore.  Unsigned. Undated.

17 May 2020

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