Changes are in the air for the Hawke’s Bay creative sector following the recent announcement of $425,000 allocated to this region by Manatū Taonga, Ministry of Culture and Heritage.
Granted to NgāToi Hawke’s Bay last month, the money will support a creative sector-led, regionally supported initiative, designed to grow the capability of our cultural and creative sectors. This financial boost will bring to life the Toi-Tū Hawke’s Bay strategic framework through projects that support creatives and creativity in Hawke’s Bay in this Covid-crazy world.
The term ‘Ngātoi’ encompasses artists, filmmakers, photographers, community practitioners, composers, potters, sculptors, writers, actors, dancers, weavers, singers, carvers, performers, and other creators that feed our spirits, telling our stories and reflecting our region and the communities within it.
Ngātoi are an integral part of our nation’s culture and identity. In most indigenous languages, there is no specific word for art; this is viewed as everyday life. Indigenous cultural frameworks are encompassed in the definition of ngātoi Māori and Moana Oceania (Pacific Peoples).
What is the Toi-Tū framework?
In 2018 Hastings District Council commenced a review of its Arts & Culture Strategy, engaging with the sector to identify needs, aspirations and direction.
The feedback from the sector was clear – any approach needed to be sector-led and regionally-focused, rather than to be driven by Council.
HDC agreed to this and that saw the delivery of ‘Toi-Tū Hawke’s Bay’ in 2019 as a guidance framework to support creatives and creativity in Hawke’s Bay. It was deliberately developed as a framework, not a plan, recognising that it would be brought to life by multiple entities and creatives across the region in their own way, within a coordinated framework aligned with common goals.
The funding investment is great news for Hawke’s Bay and when put alongside the appointment of Megan Peacock-Coyle in the new and expanded role of Arts and Culture Manager at Hastings District Council, it is evidence that our local authorities and the government are seriously preparing for an arts infrastructure here that has never existed before.
The approach is highly collaborative and seeks to deliver outcomes at regional, entity and individual practitioner levels with project participants engaged as co-designers in affirming needs and driving solutions.
Establishing partnerships with pivotal cultural and creative sector leaders and organisations will be a key to developing a regional infrastructure that is sustainable.
Backing the application to Manatu Taonga for the funding were Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi, our four territorial councils, Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre, the MTG Hawke’s Bay, the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival, Ngāti Kahungunu Rūnanga Arts & Culture Board, Te Wānanga Whare Tapere o Takitimu and Hawke’s Bay Tourism. The intent of the programme is to expand this network and activate partnerships.
Jacob Scott, on behalf of NgāToi Hawke’s Bay, says, “Beyond the intrinsic value of arts and culture, the range of arts outcomes we present stretches across four domains: cultural, environmental, social and health, and economic. The work in the background has been going on for years and now has to be the time to get some positive traction for all concerned.”
Mayor Sandra Hazelhurst acknowledges that some of the success of this application can be attributed to the networks of Dr Dick Grant, recently resigned chair of Ngā Toi Hawke’s Bay (2017-2020). “His understanding of what is required to qualify for government creative funding has been invaluable,” she says. Grant contributed much to the governance structure of the fledgling organisation. Prior to his involvement with Ngā Toi HB, he had been chair of Creative New Zealand from 2013 to 2016. “Dick has done a good job in getting us off the ground,” says Jacob Scott who led the application by Ngā Toi Hawke’s Bay to the Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Megan Peacock-Coyle is also part of the consultative team that developed the Toi-Tū Ngā Toi concept and in her new role she will continue working toward the adoption of Toi-Tū across the region. She advocates with national and local government and other cultural entities, while driving the establishment of an arts and culture division within Hastings District Council to raise the profile and support for arts and culture internally and externally.
In her new role she remains manager of the Toitoi Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre, has oversight of the Hastings City Art Gallery and is rapidly gaining a broad understanding of the Hawke’s Bay art scene in order to better support the arts sector.
“Toitoi, Hastings City Art Gallery, City Activation, the Arts and Culture strategy, already encompass the Toi-Tū principles. We are examining how the arts serve the community – what are these different groups doing and is there a shared distribution in order to deliver our strategic priorities; the Toi-Tū principles are feeding into the HDC 10 year strategic plan,” she says.
This holistic approach to integrating arts and culture into the broader region is a significant philosophical shift and there’s strong evidence that the community is ready for it.
“Since the reopening of Toitoi in February 2020, the numbers attending shows and events have proven the council’s proposition that the Opera House and events centre is more than just ‘hall for hire’,” says Peacock-Coyle. “It’s also apparent by the high level of participation by our art makers, performing artists and practitioners and by attendances at art exhibitions here in Hawke’s Bay, so it’s not just an opinion coming from the council, the evidence is there.”
Given such widespread interest in the community and recognizing that the economic benefits of the creative sector have been widely underestimated for many years, it could be said that while these initiatives are welcome and exciting, they’re also overdue.
As a country, we’ve been missing some key factors in this discussion. For example, creative industries contribute approximately $17.5 billion to New Zealand’s GDP (NZ Institute for Economic Research, 2020), and 64% of New Zealanders agree that the arts contribute positively to the economy (Creative New Zealand, 2020).
“The support we’ve received from Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture & Heritage is a game changer for our region,” says Scott. “It’s time for a reframing exercise – to sit down with the key stakeholders, the arts sector, the local bodies and entities who have defined who and what they think we are and what we have needed for so long.”
He continues: “Toi-Tū is a culmination of many years of work that has been developed here in the Bay by locals and even though it has gained traction in other regions throughout Aotearoa, it has struggled here. It’s high time for a change, everyone knows it, so let’s have a go at doing it.”
Many projects already embody the Toi-Tū values, integrating art and culture into the planning. We see examples in the way Toitoi Arts and Events Centre and the Hastings City Art Gallery operate, in the Creative Communities Scheme focus on diversity, accessibility, and inclusiveness. Others include the installation of seabirds at the Napier Airport and the Whakatū road project, where artwork reflecting its cultural history is currently being prepared, to be revealed shortly.
“It’s about building communities with a connection to the whenua and moana in a number of ways,” Scott explains. “We need to be creating spaces and places that people value and want to care for, fostering a connection to social, natural and built environments, and helping to embed indigenous knowledge around the collective and by creating a sense of place, belonging. Change is a reality that we need to front-end with some intellect and bravery.”
A new day?
With the exception of anchor cultural facilities and events that have continued to deliver great value to our region, investment into our cultural and creative sector from central and local government has been light … and could be characterised as a series of ‘sizzle then fizzle’ endeavours. So there is much to look forward to.
However, expectations should be appropriate. The announcement of the Manatū Taonga grant to Ngā Toi Hawke’s Bay is very recent and there is still more work to be done. When Ngā Toi Hawke’s Bay has gained traction in its newly funded role, BayBuzz will revisit this investment and look at the outcomes being generated.
To be continued.