Words from departing trustees

As the Creative Bay of Plenty board has a change of guard, several of the departing trustees (Suzanne McNicol, Caroline Gill, and Thoje Hood) have left us with these words of wisdom around arts governance and why arts advocacy is so important.

Brief introduction about yourself

Suzanne McNicol: I was born and raised in Matua until I was 14 when my family moved to Auckland. I moved my family home to Papamoa in January 2017 and love living by the beach.  My career is based on marketing and leadership roles in media, then the private and NGO sectors. Professional highlights include launching music TV channel C4 for MediaWorks in 2003, expanding the fundraising and digital marketing platforms for Breast Cancer Foundation NZ and writing the business case and launch of the Gender Tick in 2018. After running my own consultancy for nearly 11 years, I accepted a permanent role in April as Director of Marketing and Communications for Rotorua Lakes Council and I am LOVING it.

Caroline Gill: I am a mother of two, a great supporter of the arts and a secondary school dance drama and physical education teacher. Early this year I became deputy principal at Sacred Heart Girls’ College in Hamilton. 

Thoje Hood: I am a property investor and professional director, and have had interest in different industries which I have helped develop and grow in Christchurch and here in Tauranga. I have always had a strong sense of community, a need to give back to my community, and have a huge amount of compassion for industries like the arts because it is hard to show the value and impact they have on us all.

What has been your personal journey/relationship with the arts?

SM: This is a really hard one to answer! I was a very early reader and was literally caught reading a label on a jar camping at Rotoiti when I was six. I absolutely love the written word and how a great author can transport you to somewhere outside your lived experience. I worked in music radio and TV for 8 years and went to lots of gigs which I continue to do. For me, you just can’t beat a great live act. Performers who give the audience so much more than they get from listening to an album / stream.  Memorable examples are Lloyd Cole, Grant Lee Buffalo and Teeks as well as Fat Freddies Drop and Tiny Ruins. I delivered a brand ambassador programme of New Zealand’s leading and emerging hip hop heroes for Boost Mobile (Telecom) in 2004 and met Andrew Spraggon (aka Sola Rosa)  through that work. This led to me managing his performing and digital revenue streams for a couple of years and I remain a huge fan of his work.

CG: Teaching appealed to me as a career from an earlier age so being able to combine my passion for education with my love of the arts made for a win-win. My journey has progressed from being an onstage performer in my childhood to creative roles off stage such as choreographer and director, supporting my daughters to pursue their love of dance and then into governance roles for Tauranga Dance Incorporated, Dance Subject Association of New Zealand, and Creative Bay of Plenty. 

TH: I have always had a passion for arts and culture. I was brought up with music, played instruments, by a mother who writes and sings. I have enjoyed being involved in the arts via friends of mine, one being an artist in the highly successful Paradox Inside exhibition at Tauranga Art Gallery. I enjoyed experiencing the local dance community, where I learned salsa and Kizomba until Covid hit and impacted the entire community. I was especially pleased to see our telecommunications boxes being painted by local artists for the Chorus Cabinet Art Project. This is close to my heart because sixteen years ago in Christchurch, I gifted my commercial building’s external wall (on the busiest intersection in the city) to a local graffiti artist. A group of artists then proceeded to paint all the power boxes in Christchurch.

What does effective and successful governance look like in arts and culture?

SM: Same as for most governed entities really. Operate as the conductor not the first violinist which means staying out of the operational detail and empowering your team to do the mahi that matters. As a board, we put a lot of time into setting our strategy which is reviewed annually against our operational focus and this provides a good yardstick for assessing opportunities when they come along. If its core business then we try to prioritise that. If it’s something that’s not being met by other parts of our sector locally then CBOP will consider a pilot programme with the aim of handing it over to another lead agent to build and extend. The ADULF was a great example of that and I’m excited to see how this can be extended to involve schools, additional local artists and more buildings in 2023. Anecdotally, I know from sitting on other boards that  – while you want to operate at the strategic level – it’s also normal for individuals to open their networks and their wallets to support passion projects and this should be encouraged.

How do you think an organisation such as CBOP can improve our engagement with schools?

CG: CBOP could improve their engagement with Kura across Tauranga Moana and Western Bay of Plenty by promoting the talents of rangatahi across our region as well as advocating for the value of the arts for creativity, critical thinking, confidence, connectedness, and wellbeing. 

How is philanthropy important in supporting arts and culture?

TH: Philanthropy for the arts is incredibly important and I am very grateful to be a part of a family who have supported the arts in Aotearoa for a very long time and still do. For too long the creative sector has been underfunded and undervalued for what it can bring to a city and its community.

How did your role in our board and the work with our trustees support your own work?

CG: My involvement in the board has supported me both personally and professionally. Being able to make active connections and build relationships across the wider community has been invaluable for professional networks and remaining in touch with what is happening around the region. My role on the board also supported my personal leadership growth. Gaining insight and strengthening my skills and competencies in governance have been invaluable and easily transferable in my work as a school leader.

Why is the work CBOP does important?

SM: Despite success stories like Katherine Mansfield, Ralph Hotere, Jane Campion, Lorde and many others, I feel that New Zealand’s media has kept our popular culture grounded in rugby, racing and that Number 8 wire narrative. You only need to see the 12 minutes that is given to these disciplines on the news every night to have that validated. While this has improved a lot in the past twenty years thanks to the rise of citizen journalism and independent media, the role of championing arts and culture to local, regional and domestic audiences remains with advocacy and enabling agencies like Taumata Toi a Iwi, CBOP and independent trusts such as Taonga Tauranga. CBOP’s work is important as it takes an agnostic view of the many disciplines that contribute to arts and culture and aims to focus on the wider benefits of a thriving creative sector for residents and visitors to Tauranga Moana. So – to use a sporting analogy – we play the ball not the man!

CG: The work Creative Bay of Plenty does to support the development and growth of the arts and culture sector is important to the vibrancy, economic growth, and empowerment of Tauranga Moana and the Western Bay of Plenty.

TH: Creative Bay of Plenty is a critical organisation for Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty because it is now in a much stronger position to be the conduit between the arts and culture community and everyone else. It plays the role of promoting how important the arts are to our community. Creative BOP also gives a huge amount of support to the community to upskill, connect, and find funding that allows them to show their talents and be recognised for them.

What would you like to see in Tauranga/WBOP’s arts and culture sector over the next 5 years?

SM: Partnerships in our city have been crucial in moving both CBOP and creative identity forward over the past five years. Top of mind are Tauranga Art Gallery, The powerhouse that is The Incubator under the dynamic Simone Anderson as well as commercial partners like Simpson Grierson. Last but by no means least, CBOP is grateful for the leadership and vision of Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council under James Wilson, Gareth Wallis and David Pearce. So, I’d like to see the mahi toi  expanding through the existing networks and the development of new ones.

The whakatauki speaks to that is Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. Translated it means my strength is not mine alone but the strength of many.

Personally, I’m excited about our new Performing Arts Centre that will provide local audiences with more opportunities to see local and international shows and I’m looking forward to seeing more artworks of all forms in our city scape thanks to a refreshed public arts policy and potentially some corporate philanthropy through development contributions.

TH: To see the arts grow and develop. This will allow the entire community to enjoy more music, arts and shows in the city we live in. Creative Bay of Plenty and the arts community have a very important role to play in bringing the life back to our city and making it a vibrant place. We need to educate and encourage stakeholders, funders, and the community to understand the value art has on our city through experiences of what the arts have on offer.

CG: To become a thriving Aotearoa arts and cultural hub.

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