The arts are important in strengthening the city and communities. Arts advisors are available to provide advice and are interested in fostering partnerships and collaborative projects.

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Toi Ōtautahi – Strategy for the Arts and Creativity in Ōtautahi Christchurch 2019-2024

Live performance in Christchurch

Mā te pohewa mā te auaha hoki, ka whakapuaki ngā kura e huna ana.

With imagination and creativity, a hidden jewel can be revealed.

Toi Ōtautahi/Christchurch Arts is a first for the arts in New Zealand.

It is a new kind of partnership strategy, co-created and to be co-owned with the arts sector and major funding agencies, including

Our goal is to create an environment where creative people want to live and produce work by positioning our city as a place where experimentation and artistic risk-taking are supported.

The strategy outlines a number of ways that our city can support the growth and development of our local arts sector and attract national and international artists to Christchurch.

The result will bring wide benefits to Christchurch by activating and bringing life to the city, improving our people’s sense of wellbeing and identity, attracting visitors and boosting the economy.

Along with our key supporters, we’re working with the arts community and education sector. It’s a collaborative process, and we want you to be involved.

Christchurch City Council is committed to achieving an enlivened and creative city, where the arts are recognised as being essential to cultural and social well-being.

Pou hihiri
Pou rarama 
Pou o te whakaaro
Pou o te tangata
Pou o te aroha
Te Pou e here nei I a tatou  
Mauri ora ki a tatou
Haumi e
Hui e
Taiki e
May clarity be yours
May understanding be yours
Through reflection
Through personal endeavour
Through respect
The virtues which bind us as one
May we be filled with wellbeing
Join
Gather
Unite

Toi Ōtautahi – Strategy for the Arts and Creativity in Ōtautahi Christchurch 2019–2024 [PDF, 592 KB] aims to support the development of local artists, generate new opportunities for employment and artistic expression and participation, as well as improving the quality of the built environment through public arts.

Arts advisors are available to provide advice and assistance to artists, arts organisations and the wider community, and are interested in fostering partnerships and collaborative projects.

Council provides a range of funding mechanisms to support arts and cultural projects, creative organisations and businesses, including: 

The Council is committed to local Māori arts practice and language development.

Māori arts celebrate our unique past and are making an invaluable contribution to the city’s rebuild. Council has legislated responsibilities to Māori which includes ensuring there are opportunities for Māori to participate in public life.

Promoting and developing traditional and contemporary Māori arts practices and language in Ōtautahi Christchurch is an important component of this and is given effect through Council’s Arts Policy and Strategy.

Arts and culture have a major role to play in the rebuild and revitalisation of our city.

Creative life is being brought back to the central city with a number of anchor projects in the central city that will draw on the rich natural and cultural heritage of the city, and provide Christchurch with world-class facilities, including:

Council is also encouraging developers to enhance significant building work underway in the city through a hoarding rebate scheme.

Funding opportunities

Fund  Application dates Description
Creative New Zealand Arts Grants(external link) 19 April to 21 May 2021

Creative New Zealand Arts Grants offer short-term project funding for New Zealand artists, arts practitioners and arts organisations (including groups and collectives).

This funding enables more sustainable careers, encourages innovation and the development of arts practice, and provides opportunities for diverse communities to access the arts.

The fund is open to all art forms and grant amounts range from $5,000 to $75,000.

Toi Tipu Toi Rea – Emerging Māori Artist Fund(external link) 22 March to 23 April 2021

The Toi Tipu Toi Rea – Emerging Māori Artist Fund supports emerging Māori artists or practitioners at an early stage of their career to undertake an arts project.

Offered as part of Arts Grants rounds 3, 5 and 7, the rounds may close before the closing date if the maximum 200 applications are received.

The fund is now open for applications and grant amounts range from $5,000 to $10,000.

Have your say on the Long Term Plan for Ōtautahi

Have you made a submission to the Christchurch City Council’s Long Term Plan 2021-31(external link)? Submissions are being accepted until 18 April.

This is your opportunity to shape what happens in our city over the next decade.

What you need to know about funding

Playing for laughs

Otautahi Favourites

Ōtautahi has a long history of comedy – from the first television broadcasts of McPhail and Gadsby’s ‘A Week of It’ right up to the current crop of stand-up comedians – the city has always enjoyed a good laugh.

Despite this, it might surprise you to learn there are just two full-time comedy clubs in Aotearoa, one in Auckland and now one in Christchurch.

The Good Times Comedy Club, is the brainchild of local stand-up comedian, Snap. In what will be a familiar story for many creatives, he had great expectations when he originally opened the club in January last year, but then Covid-19 hit.

“I had to hustle,” says Snap. “We had to do a crowdfunding campaign originally to get the club going and then once Covid hit we had to find investors to get it back up and running but luckily there are a lot of people who are really supportive of what we’re doing and the comedy industry in Ōtautahi is pretty significant now and it all fell together.”

Like many in the arts sector, the pandemic has hit Snap hard, but he believes local audiences are supportive of the stand-up scene and will venture out to see local comedians.

“Stand up audiences are huge nowadays. It’s really a mainstream thing now and it’s continuing to grow rapidly. Most people will know the name of a stand up comedian these days thanks to things like Netflix, so much of its content is stand up now. I don’t think stand up has ever really been on the fringe, but it is really growing all the time.”

Snap entered the world of stand up after a high school teacher suggested he try it. It took him several years to gain the nerve to do it, but once he got onstage, he realised he’d found his passion. While he loves being on stage himself, these days he’s just as passionate about helping other comedians into the business.

“I’m so impressed by the quality of material here. We have some really diverse voices. I think we have some of the best talent in New Zealand,” he explains. “We have always traditionally created a lot of comics in Ōtautahi who have gone on to success - Rhys Darby is one of our biggest comedians and he’s from here– and right now there is a huge team of comics in the city, and so much potential for some of our comics to be massive on the stand up circuit.”

Helping to keep our local comedians in the city is another driving factor behind Good Times, and Snap has big plans in the wings.

“One of the major things we’re doing is that we will be launching a streaming platform this year and given the way the world is going, this may be the future of the business rather than relying on bricks and mortar,” he says. “If we can effectively create a platform for Ōtautahi comics then there is no need for us to risk losing our talent to Auckland. If we can create sustainable careers right here then we can keep our own talent here.”

And there are good reasons for young comedians to build their careers in Christchurch. Snap believes choosing to base himself in the city was crucial to his own career.

“There’s so much I love about this city on a personal level, but as a comedian, this city gives opportunities like no other,” he explains. “There’s no way I could have developed my career in the way I have if I lived in any other city in New Zealand. There’s been space to grow and develop because of the amount of stage time I got and how quickly I was able to become professional - that just wouldn’t have happened in another city.”

Launched at the end of 2019 after extensive consultation with arts communities across the city, Toi Ōtautahi A Strategy for Arts and Creativity in Ōtautahi Christchurch sets out four Pou Arahi: Key Themes for Development and Ngā Hohenga: Strategic Action Areas that will move us towards the desired outcomes of each of the strategic pillars.

Crucially, Toi Ōtautahi creates—for the first time since 2001—a framework for the development of arts policy, funding, and activity at a local government level.

It will take time for this strategy to become embedded within operations, and at this point, implementation requires a deeper understanding of the sector.

One of the key strategic areas is resourcing; ensuring transparency and clarity of processes for accessing funds and resources so that the arts and artists thrive.

In response to this, the Council Arts team developed a survey to map and identify city-wide creative economic activity which went live in December 2020. This survey was designed to give a snapshot for Ōtautahi, to follow on from Creative New Zealand’s national survey of artists (1447 respondents) in 2019.

Our survey received 337 responses and helps give a broader picture of what’s happening in our arts sector. It’s clear from both surveys that creative practitioners are, on the whole, struggling to make a living. 

59% of Christchurch respondents said they were unable to make a living off their art. This is less than the national average of 77% of artists who reported not being able to live off their work.

Unfortunately, this is not a surprising result. Artbeat reported on the results of the CNZ survey last year, and in response Creative New Zealand released guidelines around payment for creatives, recommending a $25 per hour minimum for creative work in any funding applications.

Concerns around the ongoing effects of COVID-19 were strongly reflected in our survey with over 40% of respondents reporting decreased turnover throughout 2020. Meanwhile, over 50% stated their creative businesses suffered during the COVID-19 lockdowns, compared to 13% who experienced a positive impact.

More promising results showed a renewed focus on local and regional markets with 65% of respondents working and producing work for these audiences.

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage is also due to launch their Creative Arts Recovery and Employment Fund(external link) in the coming month, which aims to stimulate arts activity in underserved areas. In terms of opportunities, larger arts organisations are embracing local and national programming with increasingly homegrown line-ups.

When asked which areas of their career they required help with, respondents identified marketing and advice on grant and funding applications as being two areas of concern. This is indicative of a lack of accessible and relevant professional development opportunities post-tertiary study and is something that the government’s recent announcement concerning the reintroduction of a Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment scheme (now called Careers Support for Creative Practitioners) seeks to address.

Pilot programmes are currently being rolled out in Auckland, Waikato, and Nelson. This is also an area that the Council Arts team is investigating, with planned hui and workshops for artists and arts organisations to improve their knowledge around professional practices.

As we work to implement Toi Ōtautahi there are ongoing opportunities to contribute to this discussion, including the Christchurch City Council’s draft Long Term Plan(external link) which is now available to read and submit feedback on and we encourage you to submit a response.

To attend, please register your interest with artsadvisors@ccc.govt.nz. This address can also be used if you have any questions about the Long Term Plan and how to submit feedback.

We would like to thank all of those who responded to our survey – your contributions are invaluable for our continued arts planning.

Articles and interviews in local and national media throughout March that have featured Ōtautahi's art industry: