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Judith Tizard

3 November, 2000

Opening of Burwell House, Artist's Residence, Invercargill

Hon Judith Tizard MP
Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
MP Auckland Central

Friday, 3 November 2000

Opening of Burwell House
Southland Art Foundation

Invercargill

Thank you, Gwen, and greetings to everybody here today.

As Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, I was delighted to receive the letter asking me to take part in this event. That letter suggested that the opening of Burwell House 'is very important to the arts community of Southland'.

And indeed it is. But by coming I am also signalling that central government sees occasions such as this as important in national terms.

The government I am part of is committed to the development of strong vibrant regions. As my colleague Hon. Jim Anderton has often said, you can't have a strong national economy unless the regions of New Zealand are economically strong.

Regional economic development needs foundations in strong, confident senses of individual and regional identity - foundations for engaging people and motivating their participation. Here the arts are essential. If culture is about who we are, then the arts are how we say who we are, so contributing immensely to personal and regional identity.

Supporting our artists is one way of enhancing the lives of all New Zealanders.

I must mention to Mr. Anderton that since 1996 the William Hodges Fellowship has promoted the region of Southland in a particularly imaginative and important way!

The restoration of Burwell House, to enable it to house artists holding the William Hodges Fellowship, is a significant development for the cultural landscape of our nation. I find it exciting to observe projects of this nature - projects that demonstrate with overwhelming clarity that culture is not something that happens just in Auckland or Wellington.

Culture is alive and well in the regions, and here in the beautiful region of Southland, the William Hodges Fellowship sets an example that many other places might do well to follow.

The project we are celebrating today is all the more special because we don't always, as New Zealanders, recognise our artists' work or value them highly enough. We don't necessarily appreciate what they enable us to be. We haven't been all that good at allowing them to get on with their job of making art, and thereby ensuring that we continue to enjoy art's benefits.

This government has set about addressing this problem. We have sent a signal that says that arts, culture and heritage have a higher priority in central government than ever before.

There are three reasons for giving art, culture and heritage high priority. One is that of their intrinsic benefits. Our communities need art, and they need artists. Artists use their skills and perceptions of the world in the creation of meaningful works. As well as pleasing us in aesthetic terms, their work tells us things about ourselves - as individuals, as New Zealanders, and simply as people. Artists inform, and in turn, inspire.

Secondly: arts, culture and heritage have yet to reach their full potential to contribute to the wealth of New Zealand. Worldwide, the creative, cultural and heritage sectors are among the key growth industries of the 21st century. Cultural and heritage tourism is a huge generator of national income elsewhere. And New Zealand with its large pool of talented people has the potential for its creative industry sector to do exceptionally well and make an even larger contribution to the economy.

And thirdly, arts and culture help define New Zealand as a unique, dynamic and creative nation. The world is an ever-smaller place. Boundaries and borders are ever less material. But there is no corresponding loss of that innate desire for a nation to know itself as distinctive and special. As a Minister of the Crown, I'm proud to help lead a nation that is distinctive and special. As Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, I think we need to make sure that our cultural policy reflects and reinforces our distinction.

So the government has been pleased to inject significantly increased funding into the arts, culture and heritage sector. It has also increased the policy capacity of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage so that it can assist us in thinking creatively and constructively about how best government might engage with the cultural sector in the future.

But no government, however committed, can 'do it all'. Support for arts, culture and heritage is best developed as a partnership - a strategic partnership in which the needs of all parties are acknowledged and respected.

The William Hodges Fellowship is an impressive example of a number of groups - the Southland Art Foundation, the Community Trust of Southland, the Southern Institute of Technology, the Southland Museum and Art Gallery and, I am very pleased to note, Creative New Zealand - working together. Their co-operation brings real benefits for art and for artists, for the development of the region, for students of art, and for all those - in Southland and elsewhere - who value a flourishing cultural sector.

The range of impressive artists who have held the fellowship testifies to the fact that it meets a very real need.

Too often we think of the lifestyle of artists with a romanticised sense of their requirements. The notion of the poor but talented artist in the garret - turning out works of genius while living on two-minute noodles and not even noticing that the phone has been cut off - is hackneyed but difficult to erase from the public consciousness, or from some public policy analysts' minds.

The fact is that deprivation, worry and insecurity are not the necessary handmaidens of creative production but get in the way of artists fulfilling their potential.

So the William Hodges Fellowship does something special and important : relieving artists from worry about income for a set period of time; providing them with studio space, and materials, and the opportunity to live and work somewhere new ; and engage with art consumers and art students and the public.

Today we celebrate another stage in the development of the Fellowship - the establishment of permanent living space for the incumbent Fellow.

It is appropriate that this building, so important in heritage terms, will house people who are making some of the most important artefacts of our future heritage - and house them in comfort and style while they do it!

Many people have worked hard to make this happen, I know. I offer my congratulations to everybody who has been associated with the creation of the Fellowship itself, and with the making available of this house. I appreciate your efforts, as will future generations of artists and Southlanders.

As Associate Minister, working to develop and implement cultural policy, I spend a lot of time finding ways of opening new doors to a better cultural future. Some of the doors I try are gratifyingly straightforward to open. Some, it must be said, stay stubbornly closed. Most are responsive to a little bit of jiggling!

It is very satisfying to today move beyond metaphor, to the opening of a real door - one which is representative, nevertheless, of a most worthwhile project. I am pleased indeed to formally open Burwell House.

  • Judith Tizard
  • Arts, Culture and Heritage