The Devonport-Takapuna Local Board’s vision, as set out in its Plan is that each distinct community has a “strong, unambiguous identity” in which residents take pride and which capitalises on its individual strengths. The Plan then outlines priorities which assist in the recognition of this vision.
The Depot’s concern is that, in a community rich in artists and creative people and with a dynamic arts scene, the arts are almost completely ignored.
As part of its Cultural Mapping project the Depot has produced a map of lower Devonport which pinpoints the creative people who have lived and who live here. The map is a dense thicket of names and we have so far only scratched the surface. They include musicians, composers, painters, photographers, potters, glass artists, authors, playwrights, architects, fashion designers, furniture makers both established and emerging, and they contribute immensely to this rich and vibrant urban village. In one street alone are two glass artists, an esteemed historian and author, a recognised heritage architect, a social analyst and author, an award-winning playwright, the award-winning creative director of a large advertising agency and an administrator of a significant NZ writers’ centre.
As well as the people there are many and various arts venues: the Vic, the Michael King Writers’ Centre, the Bunker Folk Music Club, the Depot including ArtsLab, Depot Sound and a variety of other creative Depot projects, along with a number of retail galleries. The local arts scene is also lively and dynamic with performance, live music, exhibition openings, open days and street art. Devonport has its own long-standing classical chamber orchestra and an art house music group, the only community recording studio and the most iconic live music venue, the Masonic, on the North Shore. And this village is just a part of the Local Board’s domain. The Rose Centre, the Lake House, Bruce Mason Centre and the Pumphouse comprise more of the Devonport-Takapuna busy arts scene.
Yet in the Local Board Plan there is no mention of supporting the arts and the creative community, despite the statement on Page 45 that “the Board recognises the key role of the arts in our area.” In fact, the word art/artistic appears only twice in substance of the plan, on pages 18 and 25. If something has an acknowledged ‘key role’ how can it be so manifestly ignored? Why, when the arts have such a significant history and a vital presence in Devonport, has our local board neglected to recognise them in any but a cursory, off-hand way?
This contrasts significantly with the Waitakere Local Board Plan where one of the key priorities is “Supporting Our Communities and the Arts” and is headlined “We value the creativity of our local residents.” P.20. The arts are regarded as contributing to both community building and economic development. The Plan goes on to outline the venues, people, public art and arts events it supports and the form of support it will give, which is significant. The arts are valued and integrated into the Waitakere area; they are visibly and actively supported.
The Depot’s submission to the Plan acknowledged the Board’s stated priorities regarding heritage and the environment, and with regard to developing the distinctiveness of each local centre pointed out that “Devonport has a significant creative profile, both current and historical, with its arts centres, galleries, studios, writers’ centre, cinema and theatre, folk music club ,its writers, poets, painters and that this should feature more explicitly in the plan when discussing the attributes of Devonport to be enhanced. (P.14) Currently there is little focus given to the arts as a significant characteristic of the community. (1&2)
Any strategy developed for Devonport should include its rich arts scene, past and present and should be targeted as much to locals as to tourists in order to enrich the community’s own self-awareness.”
We also made suggestions about the inclusion of the arts in each of the priorities; we discussed the arts’ contribution to the economy, to building a strong sense of community, and to local identity.
Although the final plan has been produced we consider that, without acknowledging and supporting the arts more clearly and directly, it remains incomplete.