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Diversity, partnership and innovation celebrated at Arts Access Awards

A prominent broadcaster, a solo theatre maker, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and a partnership that ran a creative writing workshop for writers, the public and prisoners were all winners for Wellington at the national Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards last night.

The annual Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards, presented in Parliament by Arts Access Aotearoa, are the key national awards in New Zealand celebrating the achievements of individuals and organisations providing opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts as artists and audience members.

They also recognise the achievements of an artist with a disability, sensory impairment or lived experience of mental illness.

Richard Benge, Executive Director of Arts Access Aotearoa, introducing the awards, said that one in four people in New Zealand – more than one million – live with a disability or impairment.

“That’s a lot of people, who all have the right to enjoy the arts as artists, participants, audience members and gallery visitors,” he said. “We celebrate the achievements and contributions of people and communities who make Aotearoa New Zealand a rich, diverse and creative country.”

This year’s major award, the Arts Access Accolade, was presented to Beth Hill, programme leader for arts, self-directed learning and living skills at Northland Regional Corrections Facility, recognising her support for the work of Arts Access Aotearoa in providing access to the arts for prisoners.

The accolade winner is selected by Arts Access Aotearoa’s staff and board (unlike the other award recipients, which are selected by a judging panel).

Beth Hill with Kelvin Davis, Minister of Corrections. Photo by Vanessa Rushton

Richard Benge said that without Beth Hill consistently pushing boundaries to ensure access to the arts at Northland Region Corrections Facility, Arts Access Aotearoa would not have developed its Arts in Corrections programme to the quality it is today.

Beth Hill was also awarded the Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award 2018, for her leadership in the use of the arts and education as transformative tools for men in Northland Region Corrections Facility.

The other award recipients came from around New Zealand.

Kim Morton and the team from Ōtautahi Creative Spaces in Christchurch were awarded the Arts Access Holdsworth Creative Space Award 2018, for a focus on artists and their pathway to mental health and wellbeing, innovative programmes and community partnerships and leadership in providing evidence-based research on its outcomes and value.

Beth Hill and Kim Morton after the Awards presentation. Photo by Mark Cubey

Waitakere Alternative Education Consortium, Target Alternative Education Centre and Creative Collaborative from Auckland were awarded the Arts Access Te Auaha Community Partnership Award 2018, for an outstanding partnership project. Humans of Hendo, in which young people used photography and storytelling to make meaningful connections with people in the Henderson community, followed concerns about youth disengagement and violence in Henderson, including the murder of a dairy owner.

Auckland Arts Festival was awarded the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2018, for its onging commitment, innovation and refinement to making the festival accessible to diverse audiences and building new audiences for the arts. Its Accessible Programme, which offered 14 accessible events at the 2018 Festival, attracted more than 425 disabled and Deaf patrons at special prices compared to 47 in 2017.

Jesse Johnstone-Steele of Auckland was awarded the Arts Access PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award 2018 for his outstanding artistic achievements and contributions, and his pivotal role in Touch Compass Dance Trust since its inception in 1997.

Hawkes Bay Regional Prison and St John’s College were awarded the Arts Access Corrections Whai Tikanga Award 2018, for a partnership project between secondary school students and young prisoners that explored the young prisoners’ creative potential by making rimu platter boards, and developed a successful business model within a tikanga framework.

Lynn Freeman of Radio New Zealand was awarded the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Media Award for her commitment to reporting on the diverse arts and artists of New Zealand over nearly 20 years, most recently as the presenter of RNZ’s weekly arts show, Standing Room Only.

Lynn Freeman was the only Wellington-based award winner, but three Highly Commended certificates were presented to Wellingtonians.

Jacob Dombroski received commendation in the Arts Access PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award category, for his talent and commitment to his craft, and wowing audiences with his solo work Big J Stylez (which also won him the NZ Fringe Festival Grand Design Award 2018 earlier this year).

The Royal New Zealand Ballet was commended in the Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2018, for its programme of events that made ballet accessible to people who might not otherwise get the chance to experience it.

Write Where You Are, New Zealand Festival and Rimutaka and Arohata Prisons were commended for in the Arts Access Community Partnership Award category, for the Prison Voices project that delivered a safe, valuable experience with many positive outcomes for all involved, in particular for the men and women in prison.

Ricard Benge of Arts Access Aotearoa. Photo by Mark Cubey

Other Highly Commended certificates went to:

Touch Compass (Auckland), Arts Access Holdsworth Creative Space Award 2018, for its pioneering role in integrated dance and challenging people’s perception of what dance is and who can do it.

Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre (Auckland), Arts Access Holdsworth Creative Space Award 2018, for the impact of its music therapy programmes and outreach partnerships.

Jade Morgan (Dunedin), Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award 2018, for his use of martial arts and tikanga at Otago Corrections Facility to inspire positive change, and for offering education opportunities to released prisoners at Otago Polytechnic where he works as a lecturer.

George Massingham, (Hawkes Bay), Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award 2018, for his leadership in enabling tikanga-based arts and cultural programmes to flourish at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison.

Suzanne Cowan (Auckland), Arts Access PAK’nSAVE Artistic Achievement Award 2018, for a professional dance career spanning 19 years as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and academic, becoming the first contemporary dancer with a disability in New Zealand to gain a PhD in dance.

Bundy Waitai and Arrin Clark (Northland), Arts Access Corrections Whai Tikanga Awards 2018, for their cultural programmes at Northland Region Corrections Facility that empower prisoners to reconnect with their culture, gain a sense of identity and make positive change.

Arts Access Aotearoa advocates for people in New Zealand who experience barriers to participation in the arts, as both creators and audience members. Its key stakeholders are people with physical, sensory or intellectual impairments; mental health service users; and the community and professional arts sectors.

It’s also the key organisation in New Zealand facilitating the arts as a tool to support the rehabilitative process of prisoners.

Arts Access Aotearoa receives core funding from Creative New Zealand and has a contract with the Department of Corrections to support and advise on its arts activities and programmes.