The recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle depends not on money alone – though of course it plays a major role. Much depends on what is done to rouse the spirit and ensure the will remains strong to salvage what is lost. So, we invited some of the various culture ‘voices’ in the Bay – the practitioners and the visionaries – to share their thoughts on lifting our spirits.


Kim Thorpe Photo Florence Charvin

Co-owner of Black Barn Vineyards / F.A.W.C Legend

It is often said that the most emotionally significant art comes out of angst. Many a great book, song, performance, poem, and painting has needed a healthy dose of sorrow to get its point across.

But with Cyclone Gabrielle, that’s all way too soon. I have a feeling that the region’s emotions were even more wrenched and tested by the cyclone than they were by Covid.

It is inevitable that some good will somehow come out of bad. Some things that weren’t great will be better, while other things might just fade into history. And yes, in time we might sing and paint and write about that pain in ways which will hopefully give both comfort and discomfort to future generations.

But how do we get from here to there? How do we move forward and celebrate life again – and when?

I would boldly suggest – about now. Even those who have suffered the most must be moving through the emotions from shock to monotony – often with a decent dose of pessimism attached. We all need some hope and some indications of brighter days. For many, that might not be art – it might just be a kind word, an offer of help or a laugh at a stupid joke.

But art and performance and entertainment can play a significant role here in lifting our spirits.

On top of this, our country’s concern at what we’ve been through is palpable. The offers of help and supportive ways to cheer us up need to be captured as these too will fade away as normality slowly returns.

There is no shame in what has happened to us. We should look up, accept the offers that are coming our way and embrace them. Be that benefitting from the amazing nationwide fundraiser ‘Cooking up a storm’ created by Al Brown from Auckland to singing along to Maggie May at the Mission.

At Black Barn we and our artists quickly decided March was not a time for fun, but we collectively have a feeling that about now is.

Our Bistro opened again for the first time in over a year on April 14. Reservations were chaotic. Similarly, Lorde and the Dance Exponents were rescheduled to be back at the amphitheatre shortly after.

While it might be too soon to look back with insight on the ravages of the cyclone and turn that into art – hopefully it is not too soon to start picking ourselves up, facing forward and letting in a smile. 


Pitsch Leiser and Andy Heast Photo Florence Charvin

Andy – Chair Arts Inc. Heretaunga
Pitsch – Community Arts Development Manager and Festival Director (Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival) at Arts Inc. Heretaunga 

Our Kaupapa is to make things happen for our community no matter what!

During the 3 years of the pandemic, the team at Arts inc. Heretaunga went to extraordinary lengths and, against the odds, managed to deliver an enviable and uplifting programme of exhibitions and events to our community. Precious few arts organisations across Aotearoa delivered as much during this time and all the hard work paid off, culminating in last years’ programme which proved to be the biggest to date.

Arts Inc. Heretaunga works across most arts disciplines and our work in 2022 included: • The Exhibition Programme at the Hastings Community Arts Centre,
• the Hawke’s Bay Arts Guide and Trail (in partnership with CAN),
• the return of the Blossom Parade,
• a ‘Taster Series’ and
• the main programme for the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival
• an exciting new initiative, the Big Apple Project.

All were designed to raise the spirits of those that took part whether they were participating artists or audiences. The result? A positive impact on our wellbeing, bringing back the vibrancy and pride we all share in Hawke’s Bay. 

There was a price to pay though, the year on year, unrelenting challenges meant that by the end of 2022 fatigue and burn out penetrated our stalwart team and we looked to 2023 to recoup, and plan a more sustainable future. 

How wrong we were. Cyclone Gabrielle has presented us with an even bigger challenge for 2023 and beyond. 

So, what is our response? 

It is still early days and there is much to discuss with our stakeholders over the coming weeks. Securing funding will be challenging set against a backdrop of competing priorities. That said, the importance of the arts and creativity and the positive impact it can have on the well-being of the community is well understood. And now is even more important. There must be respite built into the recovery. And it will need to be as accessible as possible – more free community programming with the remainder heavily subsidised. We hope our funders share this desire, appreciate the importance of the activities that we deliver to the community and continue to support us. 

As it stands now, Arts Inc is moving ahead with the following:
• The Exhibition Programme at the Arts Centre will continue to offer the chance for quiet reflection amongst great work created by our exceptionally talented local artists. Alongside our colleagues at CAN, work is already underway to launch the 2023 Hawke’s Bay Art Guide (and associated Art Trail in October) promoting our local artists as the region begins to recover and visitors return.
• The iconic Blossom Parade returns on September 26th as a free community event.
• The Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival will return in October, with a focussed series of performances, events and exhibitions. Given the devastation across the horticulture sector, progressing the ‘Big Apple Project Part 2’ is currently in abeyance. The project’s success last year was outstanding. Part 2 could be seen as a beacon of hope, renewal and healing. However, we need to assess if there is community support and whether there would be the necessary resources made available before we could proceed.

What has been accomplished since Gabrielle hit is immense. It was made by the community working together ‘no matter what’. But it is a fraction of what is needed to move forward. Working together, Arts Inc. Heretaunga’s part in the recovery will continue to support our arts community to uplift the spirits of our community. 


Kate Mackenzie Photo Florence Charvin

Artist / Twice winner of W.O.W

For a long time, I have been painting about new paradigms, changing mindsets and human adaptation. The realisation that this is where the rubber meets the road makes me delve deeper into this narrative and I can’t ignore a powerful beacon that has lived inside my head for as long as I can remember. It is the power of “hope”, but I see this word as a verb, because we all must play our part in keeping it alive.

When invited to share my perspective on the years ahead I asked myself whether I had suffered enough to be qualified to write something. My family were the lucky ones and I questioned why we were spared and was our purpose to be supporters for those in need? ‘Survivor-guilt’ has become a common term. It has been heart-warming to see the guilt translated into kind acts of tangible and spiritual help for our flood victims and I have to say this community spirit is giving me hope.

Alas it is early days, and we know this support is a drop in the ocean to what is required, with the future so uncertain for many.

I worry about the coming winter as we hibernate into our homes and support begins to wane. This is why I believe art and culture is required more than ever. Live music and public art displays can create a magnetic force to gather the camaraderie. Art has a way of uplifting our mood and inspiring us to see new perspectives. It prevents society from being boring and bland and shows beauty in all its many forms.

Art can be about history and history tells us that beautiful regions like Hawke’s Bay and Christchurch can overcome natural disasters and be a means of reinvention and innovation. I confess, I like to reimagine our new utopia with sculptures proud within the landscape that work with nature and represent our history. Some images are far-fetched but the process of dreaming big is part of the healing.

However, I wonder whether this rose-coloured ideology is too soon? I think it is ok to accept our current reality. If we expect the rebuild to be long and difficult then our hopes will be realistic. If we accept that people will have on-going struggles it might help us to remain empathetic. If we continue to have hope, then we can stay positive and pro-active … even if it is periodic.

Our bridges need rebuilding and I see this as a metaphor for other things….we don’t want more destroyed. Besides all the big budget decisions that need to be made my hope is that our relationships are also valued as a means of navigating the future and that is why I think art is important in this big picture. I write this piece while the faint sound of music drifts from the village domain. It reminds me of normality and gives me hope.


Jamie Macphail Photo Florence Charvin

Impresario, Small Hall Sessions

The essence of the Small Hall Sessions is twofold; we bring original artists to small community halls, and in doing so we bring people together.

Of all the arts, to me it is music that has the most visceral and immediate emotional impact. The first notes of a beautiful song can wash all thoughts from my mind, my response is always emotive, rather than intellectual.

In sharing the experience of listening to music played live with others, especially in a small and intimate space, that response is enhanced, your reaction is still a singular one, but you’re part of a collective, united with others.

The differences in conversations within the halls as people arrive and greet one-another and during intermission or after the show are noticeable. At the beginning they tend to be more formal and restrained. But by intermission the discussions are far more animated, the laughter louder, the barriers appreciably broken down.

Both aspects are critical right now. Allowing ourselves to feel the emotions at the same time as being buoyed by those around us, is a significant experience.

Hawke’s Bay has an abundance of talent in the musical sphere, from songwriters to opera singers and players in demand on the world stage. I decided that there would be no better time to bring them together, to uplift their spirits by giving them the opportunity to perform for their community. So, for May we are celebrating Hawke’s Bay Music Month in sixteen community halls throughout the region, with a different, diverse collection of our local original musicians each night.

The challenge has been in combining commerce with culture, at a time when people have been severely impacted economically. I would love to do them for free. But thanks to the support of the three councils and the New Zealand Music Commission and the Ministry of Culture & Heritage, the Small Hall Sessions have received grants which do make them viable. And the need to rely on ticket sales alone, although still necessary, is no longer an essential. Seeing your audiences so uplifted at this time makes those grants clearly worthwhile.


Megan Peacock Coyle Photo Florence Charvin

Arts & Culture Manager, HDC / Board Member, Creative New Zealand Advisory

The cyclone has impacted so many. It has certainly changed lives and made us realise how vulnerable we are to climate change. In the past 12 months there have also been many interruptions to events, both indoor and outdoor, around New Zealand, due to wet weather, cyclones and storms. But arts, events and creativity continue. We re-frame, we pivot, and we re-imagine. Many artists in Hawke’s Bay were directly affected by Gabrielle – they lost their studios, their tools, their incomes, and their homes.

Recently we took a trip to Christchurch to talk to practitioners, artists, organisations, and council about their arts recovery after the earthquake. We specifically asked about what they would do differently, how they looked after their people, and if their timing was right.

It was exceptionally interesting and a realisation of how raw that disaster was, and still is, for the people who lived through it, and stayed afterward. We heard amazing stories of projects which came out of the disaster, uplifting their communities; we heard about projects within organisations to ensure the wellbeing of their staff and families; and we heard about new businesses and organisations which started because of the need for arts recovery.

What they all said, though, was that we should talk to our communities who are directly affected about what they need. Do they want to leave their communities to experience arts and events? Do they want to have something to look forward to? What we came away with was to not assume we know what they want, to allow people to grieve at their own pace and be quick to respond once they are ready.

Obviously, this cyclone has created a deficit in many budgets, so getting local funds to focus on arts recovery is about appealing to the many generous doners out in our community and across New Zealand. We had a Creative New Zealand hui in Hastings several weeks ago, with the emphasis on discussing their current process of funding artists, practitioners, and organisations to deliver to their strategic vision. It was a productive meeting with a definite lean toward regional funding and self-determination. What comes out of this hui around the country will change the way funding is distributed to the arts, culture and creativity sector to ensure inclusiveness and equity for everyone.

At Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre and Te Whare Toi o Heretaunga – Hastings City Art Gallery, we will continue to provide opportunities for people to come together, meet, discuss, and enjoy arts experiences.

One particular and exciting event at Toitoi which did just that was The Worm, by acclaimed Auckland theatre company Nightsong, at the end of April. This free show was for ‘adults aged seven years and over’. Nightsong and many of the donors and patrons, along with PANNZ Tour Makers (Performing Arts Network of NZ) brought this mammoth production, with very well-known actors performing four free shows, to Hastings for our schools and our community. It did just what we feel the community needs – provide a chance for anyone who wants to take a break, to relax and enjoy some music and have a good laugh.

That’s where Toitoi’s cheeky comedy festival Laugh Your A** Off will be the perfect pick-me-up in July! This is Toitoi’s annual boutique comedy and cabaret festival that features stand-up comedy, cabaret, circus, burlesque and guarantees some wild and wonderful interactive experiences. It runs for three days and even though we are mindful of keeping shows accessible and affordable we always focus on getting top comedians and performers. 


Anna Pierard Photo Florence Charvin

Co-Founder, Prima Volta Charitable Trust and Festival Opera 

“Since it is so likely that our children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are making their destiny not brighter, but darker.” C.S Lewis 

In a world where each day can bring more challenge and uncertainty, the antidote isn’t distraction. We are endlessly distractible, and certainly now more than ever, but there are no answers in following a course of temporary relief where we should be seeking permanent resolution. For those who know the value of the arts, who have been deeply affected, challenged, transported and uplifted, they recognise that distraction is the very least of the services that the arts can provide.

A week ago, a young woman described to me her love for attending live performance. She commented that she felt invigorated, inspired by the courage of actors and singers and dancers. It was truly touching to hear and I found myself wondering why.

Artists and those that engage with them and their performance understand the nourishment and vitality that sharing in a creative space can bring. It feels like renewal. But it’s often a surprise to hear just how powerful the reach can be. At a time when “people who have been affected by…” is always the start of a sad story, it’s good to hear how being ‘affected’ by the arts can be an almost sacred experience.

A community that celebrates and invests in art and creativity, in good times and in bad, this is a community that recognises the restorative and unifying nature of ‘entertainment’. This term I don’t mind at all, though its origins are often underappreciated. It comes from the Old French ‘entretenir’ meaning to hold together, or support. Now isn’t that something? Maybe we have forgotten that when we come together to be entertained we are held together. And when we’re together, we’re stronger.

Since we know that our children will feel pain, we need them to see and experience live art so that they can understand and heal both themselves and others.

We need to bring them to the stages and theatres where they can be inspired again and again by those seemingly heroic feats in themselves and others, and celebrate what makes us all gloriously human at times when acts of nature feel so inhumane.

“In the dark times, will there be singing? Yes, there will be singing about the dark times.” Bertolt Brecht


Hamish Saxton Photo Simon Cartwright

CEO Hawke’s Bay Tourism

Places that appeal to me most are places that generally have a strong leaning towards the arts.

Personally, I’m probably most interested in design, architecture, galleries and collections, and public art/sculpture. To me, these are elements that give a place heart, soul, character – a sense of place, confidence, celebration, and a sense of belonging. I wonder, if we were to cast an artistic or design lens across our region’s activities and developments, whether our buildings and roads and suburbs and public spaces and communities would look or feel different to the way they do now.

I lived for a few years in Toronto, the world’s most multicultural city, a city not known as a must-visit nor attractive metropolis, but it was a city with a strong arts culture. It has an active ethos of philanthropy – and therefore engagement, a regulatory requirement for public art in building or construction developments, and a profusion of access and involvement that ran the full gamut of what could be considered art. Toronto is also considered one of the most liveable cities in the world.

I think that communities with a strong sense of celebrating and encouraging artistic endeavour are likely to have a greater chance of being more interesting, authentic, with a clear and confident story relating to “place”. Know thyself.

Art, in its myriad forms, has the potential to tell a story of origin, of development, of struggles, and of belonging. Each work of public art, each practitioner, each patron, each venue, each gallery or performance has the ability to showcase, nurture, or build a regional kaupapa, spirit, community, following, culture and character.

I was told of a US study to ascertain the core indicators of a community that “thrives rather than dives”, that found as its number one indicator for a prosperous community “an active arts scene with a focus on jobs and development of the arts beyond just the necessary”.

Sounds like a great place to live. Sounds like a great place to visit. But does it, or could it, sound like Hawke’s Bay?


Kaye McGarva Photo Florence Charvin

Artist / Owner Muse Gallery

We have been working with several of our artists who have lost their studios in the cyclone, which has been both mentally and physically taxing for them and us.

In the beginning I was personally dealing with feelings of grief and shock but was stirred into action by seeing (photographer) Richard Brimer’s posts on social media. He was delivering food made by Craggy Range kitchens to the evacuation centres and at the same time documenting the devastation with his camera. Richard really captured the magnitude of the disaster as well as the amazing spirit of those working on the frontline; something we as a community can be rightly proud of.

Inspired by this, we put together a fundraising show called ‘Down But Not Out’, which came together pretty quickly. It was great to see how many artists attended the opening and the spirit of camaraderie there. It definitely gave the artists a lift to see their work on display, not to mention the opportunity to sell it and at the same time support our community.

From a business point of view, we are putting more emphasis on marketing to those from outside the region while also preparing for the inevitable financial fallout from the cyclone on our local market. The rural sector is a big part of our economy and the wet cold summer as well as the cyclone have made it a difficult year for many. We are still not sure how it will manifest but as a precaution we have cut staff hours and are considering reducing the hours the gallery is open.

We have one artist, Susan Mabin, who lost her studio in the Waiohiki Arts Village when the cyclone hit. She lost what was essentially her life’s work, but by chance we had an installation of hers in the gallery, Winter Map Tūtaekuri 2021. This piece documents the flora on riverbanks by her studio, weaving indigenous species of flax with invasive species such as blackberry and couch grass.

This area will take many years to recover and when it does, is unlikely to be home to the same species of plants again. We think it will provide a beautiful and thought-provoking memorial to our waterways pre-cyclone and be a poignant and uplifting artwork for the public. We are currently in talks with the council to find the appropriate space and will then begin seeking a sponsor to showcase this very special tribute. 


Toni MacKinnon Photo Florence Charvin

Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

One of the biggest revelations through the period of a state of emergency were perceptions of what we see as essential services.

Public libraries are there to support vulnerable community members, such as new immigrants, visitors, people experiencing homelessness or mental illness. They are the main source for many of on and offline information.

Museums are vital knowledge centres for people reclaiming precious items damaged through flooding. MTG Museum for example engaged with local marae who were, and still are, working effectively towards recovery and rebuild. Museums are also places of social connection which is undoubtedly a big part of disaster recovery.

Museums and libraries have an opportunity to carve out a purposeful place and be visible as key players in difficult times. The challenge is ensuring local and central government grasp what it is these facilities do and how exactly cultural institutions add social value.

Reeling from Auckland Council’s proposed budget restructure, Aucklanders know what it is like to face potential funding cuts to arts and cultural events, cuts in local board funding with impacts on council facilities and community programmes and a $15 million cut to visitor attractions and major events.

I wonder how the country can possibly afford to rebuild after what seems to be one disaster after another. We can shout to the roof tops the value of cultural institutions, but when push comes to shove public cultural facilities need to be proudly and loudly playing our part in recovery if they are to be a priority when local and central government budgets are stretched to cover rebuilds. 


Sandra Hazlehurst Photo Florence Charvin

Hastings Mayor

In the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, our communities are still suffering and feeling anxious about their future – it’s going to be a long journey to recovery for many. We are visiting different parts of our district several times each week to share information and support our communities to recover. It’s obvious that for the worst-affected their attention is still very much focused on getting through each day as they face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives.

The arts in all forms have an important role to play in helping people restore a sense of hope and uplift our devastated communities. Many who live in the urban parts of our community are walking in very different shoes to those in our lifestyle and rural areas, and as we continue with our recovery there are opportunities to include the arts and take the arts to our communities. 

This is already happening with the likes of the Small Hall Sessions holding concerts in rural halls, an initiative that has recently received mayoral relief funding. We have some wonderful local arts and culture champions who will bring us together to provide a forum for people to share their stories and their experiences.

Our Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre – is already playing its part. In April they presented a wonderful piece of free whānau theatre called The Worm, brought to us by National Theatre Company Nightsong and the Performing Arts Network of New Zealand, that has already brought some humour and joy that’s much needed right now.

While our community has been devastated by this event, we will build back stronger than ever. We are all in this together and our strong arts and cultural tradition that Heretaunga Hastings has always treasured will help us achieve this. 


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