December Artistic Director’s Note

Dec 4, 2019 | News

Here is my final note for 2019. It feels a little strange that this is also my final note of this decade… And what a decade it has been. It would be putting it mildly indeed to say that the 2010s have been intense. Book-marked by uprisings in Egypt in 2011, and now Hong Kong and Chile – this has been a decade of polarization, of the renewal of hope as people organise for a better world, and of the resurgence of horror as political programs have veered deeply into market-rationalism, cutbacks and austerity. It’s not particularly comforting when a decade winds down with an impeachment trial and increasing concern about environmental crisis. In this decade, with this intense backdrop, arts programs across the world have also experienced tumultuous upheavals. Since 2010 for example, investment in culture in the UK has fallen by £1bn, and is likely to decrease more as the Brexit process unfolds. In 2015 the Australia Council for the Arts experienced a dramatic cut in funding, the effects of which are ongoing. These international trends impact everyone, everywhere – even here in our little part of the world. Especially these two big markets for Aotearoa based artists. Likewise – it is fair to say that 2019 has been an interesting year. Here at Square Edge in 2019, we faced down an uncertain future due to shifts in funding. This meant we were compelled to rethink our role as an arts organisation in the 21st century. And this in turn meant a huge disruption to everything we do. It was a year when we were faced with the stark reality of the end of the 2010s for many arts organisations – adapt or become unviable. In 2020 Community Arts Palmerston North, the organisation at the heart of Square Edge Arts Centre, turns 48. It fills me with a lot of joy and hope to note that we have been successful in overcoming, not just the ups and downs of the 2010s, but also the very sharp upheaval of 2019. We will 100% make to our 48th birthday, renewed and ready for the decade to come. So, I’d like to take a tiny look at the year that was… I started here in May, and it was a wonderful experience to work with the artists that inhabit Square Edge during our first project together – Community. Centre. the art of Square Edge. I think this exhibition and the performances during Community. Live. were a critical moment of regrouping, and a turning point in the way we saw ourselves and the way we told our story. And the art was really good! (I have a piece hanging on my lounge wall to remind me of that show forever). Speaking of good – how good is Art Night? I’m not sure if you attended any of these sessions, but my favorite was What do we even mean by human rights? It was so much fun, and it was super informative, to create a world map on the gallery floor and to watch the attendees move over it, tracking the journeys of themselves, their ancestors and the of languages they spoke. It’s been a brilliant professional experience witnessing events like Art Night empower us to ask big scary questions, in inclusive and engaging ways. What I love about these examples is that they helped us to demonstrate the importance of arts practice in everyday life. A tangible example of the powerful way in which art, artists and arts organisations can contribute to community connectedness, human well-being and good ideas. Examples like these are the reason why we have succeeded in overcoming the challenges of 2019. You can read more in our ANNUAL REPORT. Before the year ends, we will review our new batch of 2020 Projects and Exhibition submissions. This new submission process places a timely challenge to us and to the artists we will work with to be more deliberate and strategic, therefore making the best possible impact into connectedness, well-being and good ideas. We’ve received an exciting bunch of exhibition, project and performance proposals and this means that 2020 is looking like an excellent year for local artists and the community. I’m also super happy to have last week taken on the role of Artistic Director here at Square Edge. Beyond lofty sounding titles, this new role underscores the important commitment Square Edge Arts Centre has made to its core role as an arts organisation first and foremost. A critical commitment for our work to continue to be successful next year. Finally – I want to note how important our Special General Meeting next year is – April 30. We need to be ready for the next 48 years. This means that we need to update our constitution, our membership program and our strategic plan. More to follow in the new year, and you will be encouraged to participate in developing these new tools. But for now, it’s time for a (probably a much-needed) break. It’s time to wind down a year and a decade. To close down a little, and to recreate ourselves anew for the year, and the decade that is to come. Because, challenges await us. And it is a time to reflect. To think back on what has been. I’ve mentioned a few of my favourite moments – so, I’m curious – what was your favorite part of the year? Or even the decade? Kane Forbes | Artistic Director | Square Edge Arts Centre