29 May 2020

Artists and musicians mostly 'thrilled' by new govt funding for arts

7:53 pm on 29 May 2020

Many artists and musicians are welcoming a $175 million government package aimed at protecting 90,000 jobs.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern toured Napier Museum before announcing a multi-million dollar arts package. Photo: Tom Kitchin/ RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the funding today from Napier, where she is spending the long weekend.

The package includes a jobseekers programme and four new employment funds for the cultural sector.

The arts sector, which contributed $11 billion to the economy, had been "decimated" by fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Ardern said.

Without government intervention, 11,000 jobs could be lost in the next year, she said.

The funding includes $7.9m to help 2000 artists find work over four years; $70m to support creative projects; $60m in a contestable fund to drive digital exports; and $20m to help artists sell their work.

Napier artist Freeman White said the cash on offer today was a good step. A fund through Helen Clark's Labour government helped him in the early stages of his career.

"It was absolutely fundamental to allowing me to spend the time that I needed when I was developing my career. Hearing this package announced today I just think it is positive."

But fellow artist Martin Poppelwell was a bit more wary of what might be created with the money.

"It will undoubtedly be a very useful amount of money injected into the arts... but the outcome could be a lot of very bad art," Poppelwell said.

"I will quote Ernest Rutherford, 'we didn't have any money so we had to think.'

But Poppelwell said he was still supportive of the fund, and trusted facilitators knew how to support the right projects and institutions.

There will be $16m to support musicians to create new music and tour, which is now more possible as gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed.

Ardern was keen to get to her first gig, saying she would like to support Nadia Reid's 100-person concert announced earlier this morning.

Nadia Reid

New Zealand singer-songwriter Nadia Reid. Photo: 2019 ALEX LOVELL-SMITH

She might have a hard time getting a ticket as Reid's gig sold out within five minutes of tickets going online.

But the musician said she was thrilled with the name drop from the prime minister, and even more thrilled with the government's support for a sector that had suffered.

"All of my touring was cancelled in a matter of 24 hours... and I feel that people, including myself, are going to be much more mindful about where their money goes."

Ardern said she hoped by helping the arts, the government was also helping the wider economy.

"Someone who comes out to see a show is likely to use accommodation, to use transportation, to go and enjoy a restaurant and have a meal."

There was more good news for artists, with Ardern saying it was "very likely" some of the restrictions on mass gatherings would be lifted in coming weeks, and there would be no restrictions on gatherings once the country entered alert level one.

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