Creative arts should cultivate city business

PAUL BARLOW
Last updated 14:56 21/03/2014

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OPINION: As a creative person in Hamilton, it's far too easy to point a finger at large, faceless or deliberately nasty people and blame them for the incorrect perception that Hamilton is a cultural wasteland. The truth is Hamilton remains a vibrant, creative place despite some active attempts to strip back the creative sector. It's also a place where the locals often come out in support of creativity - and that grassroots support is what makes Hamilton a great place to do something creative.

This is all speaking from experience. I recently undertook production on a web series here in Hamilton, a comedy about working behind the counter. What I discovered was that the support for locally made stuff is there - we just need to find it.

Some of the places I approached, like United Video in Frankton and Dinsdale, Derbyshire Audio Visual and Ventura Inn on Clarence Street, were great - incredibly helpful and supportive, even at the last minute when hunting for accommodation thanks to an unforeseen extended shoot schedule. They came to help, no questions asked - hell, even in Auckland we got some great support from Quest on Queen Street. Not because of the content of what we were making, but because supporting something creative is a great thing to do.

And I know I'm not alone here when it comes to moving image creation. I'm constantly hearing about "good guy" companies and organisations, like Kiwi Rail, which is opening a long-unused railway station underground for Waikato-based feature film Shepherd. As someone who uses this medium, this is encouraging - knowing that others support this sort of endeavour.

On a larger scale, though, perhaps this synergistic relationship could be explored further for the betterment of Hamilton's creative sector. And now is the perfect time to look into it, since we're in a political environment where the arts don't get much attention, either regionally or nationally.

In these times of belt tightening and right-leaning politicians who want to save money by funding only the most basic services and needs, artists need to look in new places and at new ways to reach their goals and create their works. We're actually relatively lucky here in the Waikato that we have organisations like Trust Waikato, WEL Energy Trust, the Perry Foundation and the Gallaghers.

But now is also a great time for local businesses to maybe reconsider their involvement in the creative sector. Not only is there the obvious benefit of feeling good about helping out people, but there is unlimited potential for a positive response to a business's involvement in the arts.

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Of course, some partnerships make sense. Take Dulux as an example. It supports New Plymouth's Get Up Festival - an event where the CBD is painted by local artists, creating public works everyone can enjoy. Dulux reaps the benefit of being a supporter of local creativity. Arts partnerships provide a great way to think outside the box in terms of how your customers interact with your business. Look at the Detroit Symphony orchestra as a great example of this - its primary sponsor is Honda.

Sure, a vehicle sponsor makes sense in that instruments and musicians need to be moved places. But the message it gets across is that Honda isn't in competition with the US-based manufacturers, it's there as a partner to them. It sees this creative organisation, the orchestra, as something of worth to the community. And it must be doing something right, because Honda US started production in Detroit at the same time the US companies of Ford and Chrysler were begging for government-funded bail outs.

So why can't we look here in Hamilton for new and exciting partnerships between private enterprise and public creativity? It could be great way for both groups to build new audiences, spread new messages, build communities and encourage each other in exciting new ways to make sure Hamilton's soul survives the current belt-tightening going on.

- Waikato

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