Thursday, 20 September 2012

Christchurch Craft Two Years On - Part 1.

Part One: To mark the recent two year anniversary of the first earthquake, Jenna-Lea Philpott reflects on the state of craft in Christchurch in this first edition of a six part series.

Earlier this month, we marked the two year anniversary of the first earthquake to hit Christchurch and the wider Canterbury province. At 7.1 on the richter scale, the earthquake of September 4th 2010 will forever be etched in my memory. As with thousands of others, it marked the beginning of a surreal period of my life. In the next two years I would live through another four earthquakes (each with a different faultline) and more than 11,000 aftershocks. I would enrol with the Red Cross as an earthquake refugee following the February 22nd 2011 earthquake, as I lived in the north east of the city and experienced loss of phonelines (two weeks), power (two months), sewerage (three months), running water (seven weeks), as well as other things previously taken for granted such as an internet connection, and access to supermarkets, post offices and petrol stations. I know only too well how hard it has been for some residents to come back from the brink, and how important the support from other New Zealanders and from all corners of the world has been in the reovery process. Personally, I will never forget the generous support from corporate New Zealand in the form of food donations, nor the handmade banana loaf from Invercargill in my food parcel with a sticker on the outside in lovely old handwriting stating 'You are not alone. We are thinking of you at this time and walking every step of the way with you.' That small gesture meant so much - it spurred me on and made me so proud to be a New Zealander.
New work by Christchurch ceramicist, Cheryl Lucas.

No doubt about it - these have been surreal events. Not once in a lifetime events, but apparently once in 20,000 year events. Cantabrians lives have been changed forever and the sheer scale of the rebuild becomes apparent when one drives into the central city and encounters the Red Zone. Streets remain closed off to the public to this day, due to unsafe buildings still in need of demolishing. The central city is unrecognisable. If it wasn't for the street signs it would be impossible to know where you are with so many landmarks having disappeared. And the aftershocks continue to be felt.
As with other industries, the craft sector suffered extensive loss of infrastructure. Gone are the old heritage buildings offering cheaper rent that fostered a myriad of individual and shared studio spaces. Home based studios have also been lost in many cases. The Arts Centre with its working studios, galleries and markets is unlikely to be operational again for many years - this heritage building may once again offer tourists a more intimate look at New Zealand through the materials and skills of its crafts artists after many years of repair. 

The loss of so many gallery spaces has also been keenly felt. There is also the loss of meeting spaces, teaching and learning spaces, and the impact that this has had on social connectedness, so valuable in times of recovery. The disruption of creative practice, learning opportunities and public exhibition opportunities is still keenly felt.

New work by Alan McAuliffe who recycles brick in this necklace.
Given the range and scale of issues facing the city, and the diverse nature of the craft sector, it was always going to be a struggle for craft infrastructure needs to be included in the public sector's redevelopment plans. Weeks after the most devastating earthquake on April 27, 2011, Craft Aotearoa called a meeting to identify the key issues that those in craft and visual arts were experiencing. The notes from this meeting were circulated widely to central and local government agencies, and to Arts Voice Christchurch after it was formed, in an effort to ensure that craft sector infrastructure (dominated by privately funded enterprise) was included in public planning processes. These meeting notes formed the basis of Craft Aotearoa's submission to Christchurch City Council and our subsequent presentation at the Central City Plan hearings. It is poignant to re-read the minutes of this meeting as there has been little resolution of concerns raised at that time, and no clear vision going forwards as yet: 

Key concerns raised on 27 April, 2011:
  • whether there would be suitable, purpose designed exhibition and studio space made available as part of the city's rebuild;
  • whether new spaces would be affordable for the majority of craft practitioners;
  • the need to retain audience and clients in both the short and long term;
  • how to generate income in the short term and where to sell;
  • the need to compete for limited space in the short term and how to fund this with limited or no income;
  • losing emerging and experienced craft practitioners to other cities creating a gap in the richness of the visual disciplines infrastructure;
  • access to COCA art gallery as a space for emerging craft practitioners and artists.

At the hearings, Craft Aotearoa stressed the public good (and benefit) in providing some infrastructure for the city's craft sector. For example, revitalised central city living, tourism generation, and economic development. We advised that as a minimum, those in the craft sector just wanted to get back what had been lost and ensure there was a place for craft in the future of Christchurch, that future generations would know this was a city where they could learn and develop their craft practice, and that the opportunity now existed to develop a dedicated craft gallery space in the South Island adding to the city's cultural precinct.

Christhchurch Central Recovery Plan
For the first seven months of this year, we waited for the government's response to the Central City Plan. At the end of July, the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan was released to the public, outlining the following anchor projects: The Frame, Earthquake Memorial, Te Puna Ahurea Cultural Centre, Papa o Ōtākaro / Avon River Precinct, The Square, Retail Precinct, Convention Centre Precinct, Health Precinct, Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, Performing Arts Precinct, Central Library, Residential Demonstration Project, Metro Sports Facility, Stadium, Cricket Oval, Bus Interchange, and an Innovation Precinct.

Whilst the performing arts and music sectors will receive new facilities in the central city in the coming years (very good news), there is little mention of facilities that will encourage craft practice and possibly the design and wider visual arts to recover and flourish. Little wonder that craft practitioners and business owners, gallery owners, and numerous guilds and industry groups have been increasingly questioning the city's commitment to recognising and supporting the recovery of craft in Christchurch. The reality is that without vision, without inclusion, and without evidence of public sector endorsement and support, the outlook for craft is less promising. At best the recovery will be slower than it need be - and that is a tragedy when one considers the innovative work that is beginning to emerge (watch out for our next blog in this series which looks at this in more detail).

Finally, the Maori whakatauki (proverb) included in the government's Recovery Strategy for Greater Christchurch. Section 15: Cultural Recovery states: Kia mau ki te kura whero - hold fast to the valued treasures. It begs the question - what are we all doing to support our valued treasures in Christchurch craft?
(For our international readers, Greater Christchurch has a population of just under 460,000 people, and includes New Zealand’s second largest city. It is the gateway to the South Island and is its most significant centre of economic activity.)

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Craft Aotearoa & Kete Launch Photos & Speeches

Chairperson Penny Eames 

Thankyou all for coming to the launch of Craft Aotearoa and also Kete - especially to those who have come from around New Zealand to be with us here tonight for this very special celebration.Welcome Kevin Murray and thank you for your endorsement of Craft Aotearoa. We are very happy you could join us.

Deborah White, Whitespace Gallery.

We received apologies from the Honourable Christopher Finlayson, Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage and MP for Christchurch Central, Nicky Wagner.

Thank you to our lawyer Phillippa Wilkie of Chapman Tripp. We were excited to be accepted into the Champan Tripp pro bono programme, and to receive our registration with the Charities Commission nine months later. Phillippa researched internationally and steered us through the process of ensuring our aims and objectives will benefit the wider public.

A BIG thank you to the following organisations for helping us to promote our national craft research project:

Kete Craft & Design Fair, NZAFA, Wellington.
Asia Foundation New Zealand 
Auckland Studio Potters
Australasian Craft Network
Centre for Fine Woodworking
Craft 2.0
Creative Napier
Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic
Form Gallery
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
Hearts in Crafts
Iwi Art
Lopdell House & Gallery
Museums Aotearoa
National Association of Woodworkers NZ 
Quadrant Gallery
Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui
Toi Maori Aotearoa
The Big Idea
The Christchurch Textiles Network of Guilds 
The National
Wanganui Glass Group 
and many others!

Also a wide range of individuals including Moyra Elliott, D Wood, Jillian de Beer, and others.

We really appreciate all your feedback and support and look forward to exploring collaborative projects with you in the future. Get in touch with us if you are interested in elevating craft practice in New Zealand and fostering the retention and development of craft skills. We are interested in collaboration opportunities that maximise the use of funding and investment.

International guest speaker Kevin Murray and Craft Aotearoa trustees.
Thank you also to our 570 ‘likes’ on Facebook page, and the 1,800 people that visit the Craft Aotearoa Blog each month. We love your feedback and keep sending us photos of your work as we do receive international buyer enquiries from time to time.

Thank you to our presentation partners this year – Handmade 2012 here in Wellington, Objectspace in Auckland, and the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic. Finally, thank you to the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts for supporting the launch of Craft Aotearoa. We are delighted to be launching alongside Kete, a brand new craft and design fair in New Zealand.

Founding Director, Jenna-Lea Philpott

Kia koutou. Thank you all for coming this evening. I believe we have 350 people here tonight, a fantastic turnout. I’d like to acknowledge this wonderful waterfront location and the generous support we have received from the NZ Academy of Fine Arts. It is so exciting to have you all here with us as we officially launch Craft Aotearoa Charitable Trust, and I would like to share a Maori whakatauki published by Kura Gallery last week, in honour of this moment:  

Ma te whakaatu, ka mohio
Ma te mohio, ka marama
Ma te marama, ka matau
Ma te matau, ka ora

By discussion comes understanding, by understanding comes light, by light comes wisdom, by wisdom comes wellbeing. Craft practice embodies discussion, understanding, wisdom and wellbeing. 

Mia Hamilton on show at Kete.
Thank you to my founding trustees Penny Eames and Warren Feeney for all their support the past two years and welcome to Peter Methven, our new Trustee and Treasurer. Of course, we wouldn’t be standing here today without the support of Phillippa Wilkie at Chapman Tripp, who believes in the values of craftsmanship and the role of craft in our society. I have greatly appreciated all her support – particularly during our phonecalls which were often undertaken during various earthquakes!

Thank you also to Emma Ward from Creative New Zealand for her ongoing support, even in matters such as helping to keep me informed and to reconnect with others in the weeks following the February 22nd earthquake when I was without power, phone coverage, running water and sewerage.

When I returned to New Zealand at the end of 2009, I became conscious of the gap in national craft support. Whilst working in the UK, I was employed to manage the development of a UK wide skills plan for craft, also known as the UK Craft Blueprint. Launched at the House of Lords, this document outlined issues that have also been commented on in a New Zealand context.

Textiles Platter by Dr. Jessica Payne
Thank you to the 654 people who took part in the recent 2012 New Zealand Craft Survey. As the most recent major national craft research project to be undertaken in New Zealand, we are looking forward to developing a profile of the NZ craft sector and are now working towards publishing a NZ Craft Action Plan encompassing these results in 2013. In the meantime, here are some of the headline results:
  • Nearly 50% of respondents belong to an online craft community and 40% to a craft industry group.
  • The research found the most popular method of craft engagement is attending craft markets and events, closely followed by attending craft exhibitions.
  • 56% buy and collect craft objects and 70% prefer to buy from a dedicated craft & design retail store.
  • 30% of respondents exhibit and sell their work internationally
  • Nearly half the respondents describe their skill level as mid-career
  • More than half believe the range of training and professional development opportunities are either insufficient or not great. This has not been helped by the demise of community education classes.
Riding Stool by Designtree.
As part of the research, we included questions specific to Christchurch and Canterbury and found that 60% have been forced to find new space to make and to show new work and 40% are concerned about how to continue their craft practice in Christchurch at this time. The biggest concern is how the craft sector is being positioned and supported as part of the redevelopment of the city. (This outweighed concerns about access to local exhibition opportunities, funding support and other options).

Lamps by Designtree.
As Penny (Craft Aotearoa Chairperson) said, we are looking forward to establishing projects in response to these results and we welcome offers of collaboration and support, both financial and personal.
Finally, thank you to Form Gallery and Elfi Spiewack who loaned me this beautiful necklace to wear tonight and also to my fiancée Ray, who couldn’t be here tonight but has been wonderfully supportive as I have worked on setting up Craft Aotearoa these past two years.

More photos available at: