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Arts Access Awards celebrate artistic contributions

A “clever and quirky artist”, a former comedian committed to social change, an innovative art space engaging with its local community, two festivals and prison arts leaders were recognised at the Arts Access Awards 2014, presented at Parliament by Arts Access Aotearoa on 29 July 2014.

The Arts Access Awards 2014 were hosted by Hon Christopher Finlayson, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, in the Banquet Hall of Parliament, celebrating the achievements of individuals and organisations providing opportunities for people with limited access to engage with the arts as artists and audience members. 

The Body Festival’s 'You Can See Me Everywhere' project involving six Christchurch organisations, was awarded the Arts Access CQ Hotels Wellington Community Partnership Award 2014, recognising an outstanding partnership and community project that promotes diversity, enables inclusion and creates opportunities for disabled people to participate in all aspects of the annual Body Festival.

“There’s nothing to stop us – festivals, events, big organisations – seamlessly integrating people perceived to be living with a disability,” says Adam Hayward, Artistic Director of the Body Festival, Christchurch’s annual festival of dance and physical theatre.

It’s a philosophy that permeates a partnership project between six organisations that’s received the Arts Access CQ Hotels Wellington Community Partnership Award 2014. Called You Can See Me Everywhere, the project was developed in 2011 to provide artistic opportunities and a voice for disabled people in Christchurch.

For the award judges, the project and its partnerships stood out. “The festival has been committed to being inclusive over many years and is constantly finding new ways to engage everyone.”

Adam Hayward says there was a genuine commitment from all of the partners to ensure people were truly included. “It wasn’t about making a token gesture to be inclusive. We talked, researched and included disabled people throughout the process to ensure open dialogue, trust, shared goals and values.”

The six partners are the Dance and Physical Theatre Trust, IHC New Zealand, Jolt Dance, Christchurch City Council, A Different Light Theatre Trust and the Your Studio Trust. A number of informal partners have also been involved.

The Body Festival is the vehicle for delivering the “You Can See Me Everywhere” project. The main focus of the project in the 2013 festival was an exhibition featuring more than 200 photos in the Christchurch City Council. Forty five disabled people were given digital cameras and invited to take photos that captured what the word “dance” meant to them.

At the exhibition’s opening, the Christchurch City Council held an Arts and Accessibility Forum, where people in the disability sector were invited to share their knowledge, ideas and practices.

The 2013 festival also included performances from integrated dance companies Touch Compass and Jolt Dance.

However, the inclusion of disabled people goes beyond performance, Adam says. “You Can See Me Everywhere provides opportunities for disabled people to get involved in all aspects of event management. Performances are just one of the ways to be involved.”

Opportunities included the design of the festival’s volunteer tee-shirts; interactive rehearsals and workshops including people with significant support needs; participation as front of house; and assistance with technical staff.

Michael Krammer, a performer with Jolt Dance, worked as an assistant filmmaker. It was his first time being involved in filmmaking. “It was interesting,” he says. “I enjoyed getting to see what the technical side of the arts is like.”

Andrew Dever, an actor with A Different Light Theatre Company, says he enjoyed being a part of the festival. As well as performing in a soap opera, Andrew participated in workshops and watched other performances and artwork.I would love to be involved again if I got the chance”, he says.

Andrew’s chance will come again in the 2014 Body Festival, to be held in September. Adam says it will build on previous festivals and continue to seamlessly integrate disabled people into all aspects of the event.

An evaluation of the project showed that it had decreased social isolation, created opportunities and built capacity. The disabled community described it as a model that could be used by other arts organisations and festivals.

Receiving the award brings national attention to the project and its message, Adam says. He hopes the recognition will raise awareness about what’s happening in Christchurch and encourage other festivals and events to adopt its approach.

“We want to promote how easy it is to be genuinely inclusive,” Adam says. “The opportunity to take the You Can See Me Everywhere message to the rest of New Zealand is an exciting one that we would love to undertake.”

Other award recipients were:

  • Philip Patston, Westmere, Auckland, presented the inaugural Arts Access Accolade by award patron Dame Rosie Horton, acknowledging his life-long commitment to diversity in the arts and creativity.
  • Robert Rapson, Hutt Valley, awarded the Arts Access Artistic Achievement Award 2014, recognising his outstanding achievements and contribution as a ceramic artist with lived experience of mental illness.
  • You Can See Me Everywhere Project
  • New Zealand Festival, Wellington, awarded the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2014, recognising its commitment to developing its audiences by being accessible to the Deaf and disabled communities.
  • Dudley Arthouse, Lower Hutt, awarded the Arts Access Creative Space Award 2014 for its outstanding contribution in providing innovative opportunities for its artists and interacting with the local community.
  • Hibiscus and Bays Local Board, Auckland, awarded the Arts Access Prison Arts Community Award 2014, recognising its outstanding contribution in working with the Department of Corrections and sponsoring community projects involving the gifting of prisoners’ carvings and artworks to schools, civic buildings and parks.
  • Sandra Harvey, prison art tutor and education facilitator, Northland Region Corrections Facility, Northland, awarded the Arts Access Prison Arts Leadership Award 2014 for her outstanding contribution in using the arts and education as a tool to support prisoner rehabilitation.

Highly Commended certificates were also presented in several of the award categories. These were:

  • Lisette Wesseling, Wellington, Arts Access Artistic Achievement Award 2014, for her achievements as a professional classical soprano and contribution as a voice teacher and braille awareness consultant at the Blind Foundation
  • Circa Theatre, Wellington, Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award 2014, for its audio described and sign interpreted performances
  • A3 Kaitiaki Ltd, Dunedin, Arts Access Prison Arts Community Award 2014, for its contribution to reducing re-offending through the use of tikanga and Māori cultural arts
  • Jason Carlyle, Christchurch, Arts Access Prison Arts Leadership Award 2014, for his contribution to prisoner art as a driving force behind two charity auctions of prison art
  • Wiki Turner, Hawkes Bay, Arts Access Prison Arts Leadership Award 2014, for her commitment to using tikanga, harakeke and te reo Māori to support the healing and rehabilitation of prisoners and young offenders at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison.

Richard Benge, Executive Director of Arts Access Aotearoa, 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. “Tonight’s Arts Access Awards celebrate artistic achievement, and the people and organisations in our diverse communities making the arts accessible to everyone in New Zealand."

Arts Access Awards celebrate artistic contributions

 
 
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