By Eric Holowacz, Creative Bay of Plenty General Manager
No matter how you slice it, the past year has been a paradigm shifter, a series of unexpected revelations, and a strange unfolding of history that continues to play out. We all remain embedded in the mystery—emerging from time to time with acts of creativity, kindness, and humanity. As we travel the uncharted territory of epidemic, and find our way into 2021, the arts are needed now more than ever…
For most communities across Aotearoa, it’s been a year of change, self-preservation, and ongoing thoughts of wellbeing. The defining word, embraced across New Zealand and at every level of government, has been resilience.
Imagine a town or city that doesn’t care about its stories, that isn’t creative, that can’t express itself through music, literature, theatre, film, or visual arts. You’ll have a mundane and uneventful place—and a community incapable of understanding itself or finding true resilience…
Here at Creative Bay of Plenty we don’t like being boring and uninspiring—and we love a good comeback. Every day we work to build more interesting places, connections, and experiences. Our small team and board have learnt a few things doing that in these unpredictable times. The world will continue to bring us its mysteries no matter what. Wellbeing is not just a buzzword—it’s intertwined with our ability to be creative and recover from crisis. And change really is a constant.
So why not take these paradigm shifts, recognise the power of the arts, and make our region the most creative and interesting place in Aotearoa? Why not be a triumph of resilience?
But how do we get there?
The active ingredients are pretty simple: ideas, people, partnerships, and a slate of arts programmes and services. In the coming year, we’ll gather for Creative Communities Lunches, celebrate local artists in our recently launched online Creative Directory, and interview them with our Creative Patapatai series. We’ll work more closely with local and central government, expand regional grant-giving programmes, and offer an ambitious batch of new professional development workshops across the coming year. And to nurture the next generation in the Bay of Plenty, we’re expanded our arts scholarships and training support.
In 2021, with wonderful partners across our region, we’ll also explore new festivals and civic events, develop an Artist in Residence programme, and invite you to a regional arts and culture conference to hatch more plans. In partnership with Te Tuhi Mareikura Trust we’ll outline new Māori arts partnerships, encourage cultural wellbeing with Creative Side Effects, and work with our two Councils on ground-breaking public art opportunities. This community will confirm its comeback by working together and being fearlessly creative. That way, resilience comes naturally.
Part of what we do at Creative Bay of Plenty is meet the challenges of life with art—helping us traverse these shifting landscapes with colour and story and human expression. And it takes hundreds of local artists, cultural organisations, mana whenua, civic leaders, educators, venues and festivals, and you.
Between Katikati and Pongakawa and Waihi Beach, we share the work to make the world more beautiful, to understand who we are in the Bay of Plenty, and to connect one another in meaningful ways. I have no doubt that the Western Bay will emerge from the pandemic more creative, endlessly kind, and remarkably human—because we have the power of the arts.
That sounds like an extraordinary new paradigm to work towards as we leap headlong into a 2021 ripening with arts, culture, and heritage. And no matter how you slice it—this world has never needed that more.
Meri Kirihimete me te Hape Nū Ia.
Image: Jess Lowcher for Creative BOP