Should you care? Yes! Is there a way to depose Wayne Brown? Unfortunately no!
Abby Irwin-Jones, Paris Blanchfield, Iatua Felagai Taito, Sam Barnard, Jessica Pearless, Jonathan Organ
“Don’t fucking come and talk to me, write a submission and make it clear that you value it” ~ Wayne Brown, beloved Mayor of Auckland and engineer
Impending cuts to the art’s budget have been the topic on every culture-lover’s lips for the past month, however, the convoluted nature of government procedures (in other words, bureaucratic bullshit) makes the topic inaccessible to most.
A quick rundown: Going into the 2023/2024 financial year, Auckland Council faces a $295 million budget shortfall. Over half of that deficit will be made up with rates increases and loans. The remaining $120 million will be taken from the Council’s funding of services integral to Tāmaki’s foundations—arts, culture, community.
For some of us, this is our livelihoods—ours, our friends, and our families incomes. For others, it’s our futures as art practitioners after finishing our study. For all of us, it is the lifespan of our after-uni events, our community hubs, our favourite local artists and spaces. If you believe that this won’t affect you, take a look at the budget proposal and try to imagine an Auckland without those services being financially accessible to you, or without those services existing at all.
Don’t just take our word for it, we’ve spoken to those with a deep understanding of the matter; people who care about the cause and want to help you care too.
It’s important for all of us to be educated, be empathetic and most importantly, be proactive. We implore you to utilise the submission guide at the end of this article. Do something of value for once, ya filthy art-loving animals!
Paris and Abby
“Living in a place where the arts and culture are undervalued is not something I want to do.
Since it enables us to communicate with others and express ourselves, art is a crucial component of human existence. In a manner that words cannot, art can express the essence of a culture and its values. Art can be used to maintain cultural heritage in a variety of ways, acting as a record of a culture’s past in addition to being observable representations of Māori culture in Aotearoa. It gives us the means to communicate intricate feelings that are challenging to verbalise. Art can also serve as a vehicle for social commentary—to spread knowledge of significant problems like environmental change, social injustice, or political upheaval. Without this, we won’t see our city continue to be vibrant with art and culture and many galleries will suffer.
Additionally, the emergence of professional possibilities in the arts has benefited not only employment but also the artistic and cultural development of society. There are many job options in this field, ranging from curators and art directors to musicians, authors, designers, and actors. The development of technology has also given artists new opportunities to exhibit their work online and connect with a larger audience. Lack of funding in this area will discourage young people from pursuing careers in the arts, which also has a significant negative effect on the economy of Aotearoa.
For all art students, I implore you to take action where you can to stop the cuts so Tāmaki Makaurau can continue to be a place where arts and culture are seen as a necessity.”
Sam Barnard is a second-year BA student majoring in Art History and Communications, and Gallery Assistant at NORTHART gallery, Kaipātiki.
“We are on the precipice of uncertainty. On a personal level, our vision to continue to create a dynamic, enriching, resilient arts sector for artists, audiences and communities through NORTHART is being thrown into question through the proposed funding reductions from Auckland Council.
The effect of funding cuts on NORTHART will echo far wider into the ecosystem of the creative sector than these initial cuts—which we believe will likely become the status quo. Cuts will impact the creatives we are here to champion, hindering our ability to encourage the many artists, designers, gallery staff, art publications, curators, and writers that we support through our operations.
The creative sector is an industry that is used to being dealt the lower hand, one that is often classified as ‘nice to have’ rather than essential. We challenge this notion and believe that it is time to commit and invest in arts and culture, rather than extinguish its valuable contribution to society. We need a continuum of stability in the arts, to encourage growth, learning and appreciation, to ensure that creativity is a viable, visible option for future generations.
As a community, our next steps are to rise up, to get loud, to provide feedback, to petition those who are responsible for this proposal, to stand strong, to embrace the mana intrinsic to all creatives. To just keep going.”
Jessica Pearless and Jonathan Organ are the Co-Directors of Northart, a public art gallery based in Northcote, Tāmaki Makaurau, and the Directors of Paragon Matter Art Services. Practising artists, they hold respective MFA’s from Elam School of Fine Arts.
“Many Rainbow/Queer/Takatāpui/MVPFAFF+ people use the creative arts to find a sense of belonging, liberation and raising awareness of issues close to them. Such a cut of funding for Auckland’s Annual Budget will decimate the way that art saves lives. And how it touches people’s lives in a way where that intangible feeling remains with people.
These potential funding cuts will be so damaging for our Rainbow community. Particularly for our Rainbow intersectional community of those that are Pasifika. As stats show that they are likely to deal with more discrimination than their white counterparts. The regional contestable arts are not a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” as it allows those that are underserved to garner funding to tell raw and authentic stories.
It’s about amplifying diversity and expressions of those that get silenced or discriminated against. Facing homophobic and transphobic rhetoric, feeling ostracised by people due to your authenticity and leaving you worried constantly. The creative arts allows the bridging of hope for our Rainbow community as young and seasoned Rainbow creative artists seek camaraderie with one another. Whether it’s in dancing altogether for a cultural group, voguing, writing plays, producing and directing shows—the list goes on. We need art as a means to escape, heal, reconnect and find light as a result of those murky times.
Cat Ruka, Executive Director of Basement Theatre states that in terms of economic difficulty, the arts always get sliced first by those in power. If you’ve immersed yourself in the arts, then you’ll understand that it isn’t just performance, but an embodied lived reality that shows truth in whatever the story is. We need to challenge the heteronormative status quo—to allow more Rainbow artists to tell their stories.”
Iatua Felagai Taito (He/Him) BA, PGDipDanceSt, MDanceSt, Transitional PhD student Graduate Teaching Assistant for Te Wānanga o Waipapa – School of Maori Studies and Pacific Studies, Professional Casual Staff for Dance Studies & University Marketing.
How 2 Make A Budget Submission 4 Dummies
Deadline: Tuesday 28 March, 11pm
Te Taumata Toi ā Iwi have created a one-stop-shop for help with your submission at: StopTheCuts.co.nz
Q Theatre has created submission guides based on how much you give a shit, with 2 minute, 5-10 minute, and 10+ minute options where they tell you what buttons to click! qtheatre.co.nz/aucklandcouncilsubmissions
The DAMN collective fights for better working conditions and stability for the artists of Aotearoa. They are providing accessible coverage and resources related to the Budget Proposal. @dignityandmoneynow
It may seem like a daunting project, but it’s even easier than a 2% Canvas MCQ that you’ve left until 10 minutes before the deadline. Open book, un-invigilated, no required reading beforehand, and no one cares if you discuss your answers in Discord or stick the question into ChatGPT. You can put in as little or as much effort as you want, and we’re here to break it down step-by-step:
There are seven questions in the submission form, and you don’t have to answer all of them. Questions One and Five are the ones that directly relate to arts funding reductions. The rest you can leave blank, or you can do your civic duty and provide informed opinions on all aspects of the budget proposal—the feedback form is your stage, so take this moment and savour it!
Question One: What is your preference on the proposed operating cost reductions? Tell us why, and which reduction you would not proceed with, if any.
Answer: Do not proceed with some reductions and instead further increase rates and/or debt.
Why: The submission form outlines the proposed areas of funding reductions—the ones relevant to arts and culture to mention are: Tātaki Auckland Unlimited (Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Zoo, Auckland Live venues and stadiums), regional services (such as arts and culture programmes, regional events, and community empowerment), local board funded activities, and contestable regional grants. It can be as simple as “I do not support funding reductions to these areas”. But this is the most important question regarding arts reductions specifically, so make it your own. There are copy and paste answers provided by the websites above which can be personalised. Make sure to place yourself in the context of Auckland’s arts community—are you an artist or aspiring to be one? A lover of live events? How important is it to you that Auckland is a sustainable and thriving creative hub? Outline the impact this lack of funding would have on you and the wider community.
Question Five: Local Board Submissions
These questions will differ depending on your local board (if you’re unsure which board is your local, there is an address checker on the form). But it is an opportunity to provide specific feedback about the venues and programmes that are local to you, such as: libraries, community centres, parks, council venues, and the programmes and events hosted at these places. Some of these places face permanent closure, so make their importance known.
Uploading Supporting Documents
Maybe you’ve edited some sick memes of Wayne Brown burning Auckland to the ground. Maybe you’ve penned a choreographed slam poem lamenting the death of human connection to Vimeo and you believe the higher-ups of Auckland Council need to see it. But best of all, maybe you’ve filled in Stop The Cuts’ letter template available on their website to include with your submission. Regardless of what response you’ve created, this is the place to put it.
And that’s it! You’ve done your bit to work towards a future with no begging rounds with the koha jar, no pricing people out of events just to be able to hold them, and no sleepless nights writing desperate applications for funding allocation. From those of us that need art to live and live off our art, we thank you for your service.
The Submission Form and Budget Proposal can be found at: akhaveyoursay.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz