Ensuring access to the arts for everyone

A pioneering award for Te Manawa

Palmerston North’s Te Manawa Museum has won the inaugural Arts Access Aotearoa Award at the ServiceIQ 2017 New Zealand Museum Awards held for the first time in the city last night.

Te Manawa received the recognition for an ongoing commitment to inclusion across its programmes and practice through the innovative 2016 exhibition Inspired By and new initiative ‘Noa Open Studio’.

Inspired By, a collaboration with Creative Journeys, saw artworks from the Te Manawa collection exhibited alongside new responses to them from community members who face intellectual disability, mentally challenging conditions, and tragic personal changes after accidents. It gave their creations professional curation and high-quality exposure as an integrated part of the exhibition programme.

Noa Open Studio is a recent initiative, supported by IHC, which allows open and inclusive access to facilitated drawing sessions twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Its welcoming approach allows anyone to take part, and work alongside established and emerging professionals in a unique environment without barriers to participation.

Removing these barriers is something that Te Manawa Chief Executive Andy Lowe says is critical to museums’ survival.

“Museums are for everyone,” Lowe says. “As we develop more inclusive and diverse communities it’s so important that museums recognise their new opportunities for engaging people, and evolve to meet them.

“Access to art, science and history is something we take very seriously,” he says. “Museums have the unique privilege of representing their societies through the treasures and stories that are housed within them. It’s our responsibility to ensure that everybody has the chance to participate, to have their story told, and to feel that they own the space.

“We’re so thrilled to receive this award, and to partner with unique organisations like Creative Journeys, IHC and Arts Access Aotearoa to ensure that Museums stay for everyone.”

This week Te Manawa hosted the annual Museums Aotearoa Conference in Palmerston North for the first time, with the theme ‘Museums of Inclusion’. Hundreds of delegates from across the country participated in workshops and programmes looking at increasing community ownership and participation in Museums and Museum practice, while also focusing on creating spaces that are accessible, welcoming and safe.

Museums Aotearoa is the professional association for New Zealand’s public museums and art galleries and those who work in and support them. New Zealand museums and public galleries care for more than 40 million items relating to New Zealand’s history, culture and creativity. Generating in excess of 1000 public exhibitions and publications and attracting well over 12 million visits each year, museums and galleries are ranked as a top attraction for New Zealand’s overseas visitors.

Image © Alexander Hallag/AH23Photography