17 Jun 2021

Kiwis 'find refuge, escape or healing' in arts during pandemic - study

9:33 am on 17 June 2021

The arts have been a powerful tool to help Kiwis get through the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.

Anyone up to 18 years old can take part in the art project.

Nearly a third of New Zealanders in the research agreed arts and culture supported their wellbeing. Photo: 123rf

Conducted by Creative New Zealand, New Zealanders and the Arts - Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toi showed that positive attitudes towards the arts had hit an all-time-high.

Nearly a third of New Zealanders agreed arts and culture supported their wellbeing.

Creative New Zealand Pacific Arts senior manager Makerita Urale said many have used the arts as a means of escape from Covid-19 anxieties.

"Arts and creativity for many New Zealanders became, under a time of global crisis, a place where they could find refuge, escape or find healing," Urale said.

Auckland-based artist Leki Jackson-Bourke said art was a crucial outlet for the Pacific community to express difficult emotions.

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Leki Jackson-Bourke Photo: supplied

"It gives us the ability to have conversations around difficult topics and dialogues that we might not necessarily have," Jackson-Bourke said.

"I feel it's definitely the place where we can push the boundary in terms of cultural stuff, because we come from quite conservative cultures, there are things you can't talk about, things that are taboo, and art allows us to talk."

The study found Pasifika and Māori engagement with art was above the national average of 75 percent.

Urale said she was not surprised by this finding.

"There's a beautiful quote that we use in our research, this is a quote from a man who is Pasifika from Otago. He's 60 to 69 years old.

"He says: The arts are my stimulus for all my senses, they uplift me in most ways and are such an important part of my life. That worldview is a lot stronger, possibly in the Pacific community."

Arts and culture would play a vital role in rebuilding the country's confidence, she said. And half of those surveyed thought the same.

"There seems to be a very good understanding in Aotearoa that the arts and culture supports our identity as a multicultural nation, and that creativity is part of how we're going to improve our economy."

Jackson-Bourke, who is of Tongan, Niuean and Samoan descent, said art was also helping many recover from the loneliness felt during the country's lockdowns.

"The biggest thing about Covid and during the lockdown was separation - people were separated from each other," he said.

"I think the arts are crucial in uniting people together and bringing us together to find common ground and preserve a vision. It's so important that we invest into the arts."

Kāpiti Coast art therapist Olivia Marsden said art enabled people to connect to their trauma in a healthy way.

"It can be really great to express emotions that are hard to put words to - so pain and trauma. Trauma, it changes our physiological self, the anxieties you can feel in your stomach," Marsden said.

"So it can be quite cathartic to actually sit alongside that and express it and get it outside."

The study also found a dramatic and positive shift in the attitudes of young people. More than 85 percent of girls and 73 percent of boys said being creative made them feel good.

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