~ By Kiri Jarden, Principal Arts Advisor, CCC
Identity is one of four pou which form the framework for Toi Ōtautahi, the arts strategy for Christchurch.
The strategy itself was co-designed with the local sector and we have been implementing it since it was created in late 2019.
Obviously the Covid pandemic has meant – as it has for many other arts organisations – that some activities identified in the strategy were delayed, but as 2022 begins, those activities and a whole bunch of new ones, are now getting underway.
I’d be stating the obvious to point out the role arts and culture play in giving expression to who we are, where we’ve come from and what we value. But these are more than just clichés; arts really do give us our unique identity.
There’s no doubt that the last decade has been a challenging one for Ōtautahi, but we are now starting to see a city emerge that acknowledges both its past, and the challenges we’ve faced.
The rebuild of the city has seen a rebalancing of the city’s story with exciting new and materially diverse works of art in the public realm.
In particular, we are now seeing more artworks around the city that celebrate Ngāi Tahu artists and artworks. We can see it in visual arts, in performance and in festivals, that are now incorporating and celebrating a diversity of voice and expression.
Some of this has been the result of legislation which has provided for a mana whenua presence at various design and decision making tables, and some of it has been through a wider desire to see our shared heritage acknowledged and celebrated in a much more visible and meaningful way.
In part, the increase in diverse voices has been driven by the people who lead organisations and who deliver projects within our city infrastructure, but it has also been aided by an arts strategy that prioritises ngā toi Māori, inclusion, diversity and development.
While many appreciate the value of an arts strategy for the city, some may question why it is needed in the first place – and that is a valid question.
When workshopping the Arts Strategy, there were concerns from a number of individuals and groups about whether a strategy can actually deliver – or whether it’s just a bunch of words that sit on a page and say the right things but in actuality do nothing.
This was a major priority for us when designing the final strategy – that whatever we came up with needed to be able to show tangible results. In short, it needed to deliver real outcomes.
Sometimes bringing a strategy to life isn’t always readily visible. However, behind the scenes there’s been a lot of work going on to ensure the strategy is a living thing; that organisations are made aware of it, that we are championing the local creative sector when it comes to funding bodies and decision makers. The Arts Strategy, along with the Community Events Implementation Plan, has also given us the ability to move forward with developing new events. Tīrama Mai, and Go Live! Festival are two such examples.
The Arts Strategy also sits behind a number of new initiatives. In February this year, we launched the Toi Ōtautahi virtual arts Office – a website that is designed to bring together the local arts sector and to provide valuable resources in one place for artists and creatives, as well as the wider public.
In December 2021 we launched a music incubator programme, and we are in the final stages of shaping up a mentoring programme in partnership with Little Andromeda.
We are also working with Te Ora Auaha, the arts and wellbeing network, supporting projects including two artists in residence.
And most recently, we launched our new Screen Incubator Programme.
The screen incubator is a mentoring programme connecting new writers and filmmakers with experienced industry professionals.
The project evolved out of conversations with local producers who wanted more local stories to work with, to test ideas and to create content for screens small and large.
Prior to moving back to Christchurch in 2012 I lived in Rotorua.
I co-directed a short film festival, Magma, and was involved in a local filmmakers group, which has subsequently branded as Steam Box Films, producing television and films locally. Our desire was to create projects where we lived-local stories that engaged local creatives and audiences. That group of writers and producers worked hard over a number of years to carve out a space in an industry that is dominated by Auckland and to a lesser extent by Wellington.
A similar ambition exists here in Ōtautahi. Create more local stories and content so that there are more and regular local opportunities. With advocacy from Screen Canterbury and the development of a new film course and studios at the University of Canterbury taking shape, it is a really good time to get behind the storytellers.
The incubator is designed to support the development of concepts and scripts. Seven local creatives, have been chosen to be supported by six mentors. We have endeavoured to involve mentors with a Canterbury link as well as using our own networks, forging connections and relationships that we hope will endure.
Our mentors are among some of the best in the film and television world in Aotearoa – they include Tainui Stevens, Irene Gardiner, Carmen Leonard, Rob McLaughlin, Nadia Maxwell and Nick Ward – all of whom bring a wealth of experience to the programme.
As we progress, we’ll look to share experiences from the participants in the programme.
This is a pilot, but I anticipate enough interest for us to repeat the incubator over the next two years.
It will certainly be a great thing to see more local stories, written and produced locally. We’re excited about it, and we hope many of you will be too.
If you would like to know more about this or any other project, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Mā te pohewa mā te auaha hoki, ka whakapuaki ngā kura e huna ana
With imagination and creativity a hidden jewel can be revealed