A growing number of young New Zealanders believe they're not creative, prompting the country's arts development agency to look at fresh ways of encouraging youngsters to give the arts a go and feel good about it.
Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Jacinda Ardern will today release the results of Creative New Zealand's New Zealanders and the Arts: Attitudes, attendance and participation in 2017 survey.
Held every three years, the New Zealanders and the Arts survey is the most comprehensive research done into how we feel about arts and culture; more than 6000 New Zealanders took part in an online survey late last year.
While we're more often thought of as a sporting nation, the research shows we love the arts. A record number of us — eight out of ten — participated in, attended an arts event, or both, in the last 12 months but despite these high numbers and largely positive comments, CNZ cautions some of the feedback indicates there are challenges ahead.
That's especially true when it comes to young people.
Nine in ten of those aged 10-14 years-old want to be involved in the arts, down from 97 per cent in 2014, but of the 751 youngsters surveyed, most said participating in the arts makes them feel more confident, good about life and it helps them to make friends.
CNZ says these overall results are encouraging, but there is a decline in enjoyment and participation as youngsters move into their teenage years and secondary education. Gender also makes a difference with more girls than boys agreeing that doing creative activities make them feel "really good".
Those attitudes extend to how they feel about their own creativity.
Of the 10 — 12-year-olds, 65 per cent rated themselves as very or extremely creative compared to just 50 per cent of 13 and 14-year-olds. There were again gender differences with71 per cent of girls agreeing they are very or extremely creative compared to 47 per cent of boys.
Cath Cardiff, CNZ's Senior manager — Arts Development Services, says these negative feelings could have implications beyond the arts sector and creative industries.
"The gap between the ages, and whether they view themselves as creative individuals, is growing," says Cardiff. "We're not keeping pace in that older age group. What bothers me about this is that the question is 'how creative are you?' It's not, 'are you good at the arts?' nor 'do you see a career for yourself in the arts'?
"If we are seeing that trend, it has implications for the whole of New Zealand and not just the arts because we are trying to become a creative, problem-solving country with young people who can face the challenges of an increasingly complex and fast-changing world. It's a worry if, at 13 and 14, our young people are starting to think, 'I am not creative' or 'I don't know what my creative potential is.'"
Along with the survey results, Ardern is expected to announce details of a new five-year arts initiative aimed at young New Zealanders and says the Ministry for Culture and Heritage will contribute to education reforms announced by Government to ensure opportunities in the arts and cultural sector are recognised in the school curriculum.
As well as youth participation in the arts, CNZ will also use the research to look more closely at regional differences in access to the arts. Those living in main provincial towns and cities — with the exception of Auckland — were most likely to agree they have access to a broad range of arts and culture activities. Wellington city, Otago, Nelson city and Taranaki were the most positive while access was viewed as more challenging in the West Coast, Southland, Waikato and Auckland.
"Yes, there's a lot of activity [in Auckland] but there's also more people," says Cardiff. "Once again, I am extrapolating here but I am thinking getting to things is an issue. There's a huge range of things on offer, no doubt about it, but whether it's happening in the places where people are living, that's something else again."
The survey findings will be shared and discussed today with representatives from across the arts sector at CNZ's Nui Te Korero hui.