Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Depot responds

Thank you for taking up discussion on Over the Net regarding our recent newsletter (no press release was issued) outlining the lack of CNZ support for the Cultural Icons project. There are some good points raised in your blog post, please accept this (rather lengthy) response to it:

We are aware of the lack of diversity in the project – both in discipline and culture - this has arisen for a number of reasons: We have not selected or prioritised but have undertaken the interviews according to recommendation and subject/interviewer availability. Because we envisaged the series as ongoing (we were inspired by Radio Pacifica which began in 1946 and has something like 50,000 interviews in its archives) we intended to include everyone who should be included.

We agree with your observation that the Cultural Icons so far included in the programme show a noticeable lack of Maori/Pacific Island cultural contributors represented. Our funding application highlighted this in the project aims we hoped to achieve with support from CNZ:

“These outcomes will assist us in our overall project aims to:

Develop the diversity of Cultural Icons interviews and programmes available online by including high quality arts practitioners from throughout New Zealand’s cultural and ethnic communities. This will help to raise awareness of culturally diverse art in an easily accessible, enriching and unique platform This new series of interviews/programmes will specifically highlight New Zealand’s visual artists.”

Initial funding for the project was from the Auckland Regional Services Trust (ARST), hence the Auckland focus. It was used to establish the website, format, initial interviews (predominantly of writers in residence at the Michael King Writers Centre). Now, with a multi-media platform worthy of such a project, industry support and a growing and appreciative audience we require further support to develop it further, to including cultural contributors from outside of Auckland, from many disciplines and from diverse cultures.

The other consideration we needed to make in the application was the structure of applying for support through Creative New Zealand. There is no category for ‘multidisciplinary’ projects and no avenue for applying for support for the project as a whole entity (other than Investment Funding in which an organisation is required to have a history with CNZ – The Depot has been unsuccessful gaining CNZ support for any project for 15 years!) We were recommended by CNZ to apply for 20 x Visual Arts interviews only. Then, in the next round, we could have applied for 20 x Literature interviews and so on.

As you identify, the project and its development have been affected/directed by available sources of funding. We are continually looking for funding and will apply to any source where the project fits the criteria. For example, we recently received some funding from Auckland Council’s Arts North team to interview 5 ‘icons’ in the north of Auckland and have asked locals to nominate ‘icons’ in their community. Another application seeks support for Maori Cultural Icons from the same districts – here we work with marae and local communities calling for their nominations of Cultural Icons. And yet another for a Cultural Icons Sculpture Series.

We also have a number of women on whom we are waiting to commit themselves to an interview. We have found that women are often more reluctant than men to be interviewed and are also, for some reason, less available; for example, Maureen Lander has been on our list for some months, as has Alison East. Jo Drayton is booked to talk about Frances Hodgkins in February. (A new segment of the series involves significant artists who have died and we have a panel to be organised for Colin Mccahon, and Janet Frame’s niece to be interviewed when she is next in Auckland)

Our goal is to secure funding that enables us to carry out as many interviews as our community recording studio will accommodate and as our time to edit and download will allow. We feel perhaps that seeking sponsorship could be the best avenue for this and for ensuring that the great and rich diversity of cultures and disciplines, and gender balance, are represented.

The Depot has for fifteen years has honoured and sought to actively represent its philosophy, an aspect of which is inclusiveness, from which the Cultural Icons series originated.

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