Fighting for the funding pie
Local arts and cultural organisations are bracing themselves for tough funding challenges ahead as belts tighten and costs rise.
Often deemed as a luxury extra, local arts and cultural leaders argue their offerings are vital to the mental health and wellbeing of a community under pressure. They’re hoping they won’t be overlooked as the pieces of the funding pie get smaller.
Former Queenstown Art Society president Kay Turner says it can “feel like a lolly scramble” getting funding for the arts as there’s never enough to go around.
“We’re already in a tough funding situation and the word is out there that it will only get tougher. It’s a real concern,” Turner says. Places like Te Atamira need funding to exist and attract national travelling artists and exhibitions. It’s also become a vital community hub for creative connection with a number of new local initiatives starting up. “It’s so important that we retain funding for these as the arts is essential for our community’s health and wellbeing as we’ve learned during the past three years. Creativity can be therapeutic.”
Initiatives like ‘Make Space’ and Natasya Zambri’s current exhibition ‘Hidden Identities’ focusing on migrant stories can be offered free because of funding. Turner and Zambri also worked together on ‘Bottle People’ last year through which local migrants told their stories through the arts. Zambri and other volunteers also worked on the Lilliput Library art project, which brought all the migrant communities together. “It’s these small grassroots funded initiatives that bring people together and provide that connection.”
Street performer Lucca Rodrigeuz, of Taste of Art, encouraged self- expression and using dance to express loneliness through street performance in September. “These things are just starting to get some traction in our community and it’s all this connecting that’s vital for wellbeing,” Turner says. “Queenstown needs this as we’re quite elitist, whereas we have these amazing artists like Natasya and Lucca who are established in their own country, but they come here and have no voice.”
Even organisations like the Art Society need funding to survive. Volunteering has changed so much that there isn’t the support for volunteers, so the Society needs to employ marketing help. “Otherwise, we’re not seen."
Te Atamira director Olivia Egerton says it’s huge that Queenstown was recently announced ‘Number 2 Most Creative City in New Zealand’ just behind Wellington and ahead of Nelson and Auckland so it’s vital the community hangs onto arts funding.
There were major concerns surrounding the reframing of Creative NZ funding, but its recent announcement was “quite positive”. “Starting in March next year there will still be a big focus around the regions,” Egerton says. “We’ve learned through Covid and the cost-of-living crisis that arts and culture are essential to that feeling of community and belonging.” She says creativity fosters community and a sense of belonging in a place that’s often transient, drawing all languages and cultures together. At Te Atamira they’ve seen wonderful connectivity at groups like the Senior’s Multi Art Programme with generous funding coming from Te Whatu Ora and Margaret O’Hanlon’s weekly singing, drawing and dancing workshops - free and accessible to all.
O’Hanlon’s been around the arts long enough to know that it’s unsustainable to rely 100% on funding. “It’s always a back-up measure. I’m very much reliant on ticket sales as I don’t qualify for big grants,” she says. “I’m not a great proponent of making funding your platform that you exist upon or there’s a real lack of growth.” Big productions are not pulling in the revenue the way they did in the past as people don’t have the money, so entertainers don’t have the money, she says.
QLDC relationship manager arts and events Jan Maxwell says local arts funding hasn’t decreased and Creative NZ has assured it won’t touch the Creative Communities Scheme despite the recent overhaul. “For many individuals the funding process and requirements were quite daunting and they’re looking to make it more accessible to apply,” Maxwell says.
She’s quite confident that Creative Communities locally will be able to continue to support programmes that people want to start with grants of about $2000 to $2500. “If people collaborate with others they can reduce costs. It’s about being more savvy with applications.” She’s urging people to apply for grants. “We want these projects to continue and sometimes we don’t get that many applications. I hate giving the money back,” Maxwell says. Queenstown Lakes receives about $42,000 a year from Creative NZ and about $68,000 this year from CLASS (Central Lakes Trust).
Central Lakes Trust art support has increased slightly this year due to local population growth.
Natasya Zambri of Tahuna Kollektif at the opening of Hidden Identities now on at Te Atamira
Creativity fosters community connectivity and wellbeing