Rotorua creatives are doing what they do best, getting creative.

They've come together to launch the Lockdown Soul Sessions, a chance for art lovers to escape their home, metaphorically at least.

"Art is an essential platform, it is not non-essential," said Cian Elyse-White, director of Aronui Arts Festival.

"I think if we sat for a moment and looked at what everyone is turning to at the moment - Netflix, Freeview, Amazon, books - this is all art. They're all various forms of art and I think that's what's going to get us through this time - is art."


The performances took place on the Facebook page of Aronui Arts Festival - and were streamed live from the performers' homes.

Elyse-White says art is at the heart and soul of Rotorua, and faced with a month at home, the community has wasted no time in connecting with the livestreams.

"We've talked about how we can lift community morale and spirits during this time, and to keep everyone connected virtually during this time where physical distancing is encouraged," she said.

"We've had people shout out on the 'lives' saying where they're watching from. We've also had people private message in saying 'thank you so much for creating this platform, I've been incredibly worried - me and my whānau have experienced a lot of fear, not knowing what's gonna come tomorrow or how long we'll be in this lockdown scenario'.

"They love the fact they can tune in and alleviate from all the worries and concerns in what we call taumahatanga, which is the weight and gravitas of what's happening."

Bobby Howard was the first performer on the Facebook page. Her performance gaining almost 5000 views.

"I think it's good in terms of access to everybody," said Howard.

"It just brings the artist straight to the people where they're at, I think that's good if you want to build that intimacy I suppose, as in artists with their audience.

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"What kind of motivated me to do it was just the need to have a distraction over this time, where people are scared, people are really, really scared. I just didn't realise that."

The local arts community has had to quickly adapt following the alert level 4 lockdown. The Rotorua Arts Village established an online platform for local artists to share their work to the 30,000 followers.

"Obviously we've had to cancel everything we're doing because most of the things we do are all face-to-face and all about quality engagement," said Mary Beth Acres, Rotorua Arts Village.

"A couple of weeks ago I started making a graphic novel of a plan around what we could do around coronavirus and if it progressed, how that might impact us, what it might look like.

"Financially, we've lost a significant amount as an organisation as well, a large part of the income depends on project income, and that's the projects we've had to cancel so we don't get that.

"So that's what Art and Aroha is, so it's functionally a Facebook group where we're posting different content. It's co-created so people in the community themselves post content and share their work, their emotions.

"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback and a lot of people relishing that chance to share what they're doing. Especially in the creative community, you exhibit stuff once it's done, rather than the process of how you get there."

And once they are able to get out and about, the Arts Village plans to deliver "art-solation" packs to those still at home and looking for a creative outlet.

It's a long term plan, but one they are committed to, protecting the vibrant local arts scene while New Zealanders stay at home.

"People really appreciate it," Howard said. "It also validates the need for the arts."

"In this time, where does everyone go to? You go to your TVs or you listen to music to get you through. So it just validates the need or importance of having arts in our lives."

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