Arts Foundation reception

Speech to recognise key founders of the Arts Foundation, Government House Wellington
17 Apr 2012

Nga mihi māhana ki a koutou.  Warm greetings to you all, nau mai haere mai to Government House.

I specifically acknowledge: Fran Ricketts, Chair of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand and your fellow trustees and patrons – Kia ora koutou.

It is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House for this reception to honour three trustees of the Foundation, Sir Ronald Scott, Brian Stevenson and Richard Cathie.  Each has played a significant role in creating and running the Foundation. 

It’s my intention to be brief in my comments because I’m sure you, like me, would like to hear from Sir Ron, Brian and Richard.

The story of the Arts Foundation is intertwined with that of Government House and the Office of Governor-General from the Foundation’s beginning.  Our predecessors, Sir Michael and Lady Hardie Boys, hosted many of the working party meetings that led to the establishment of the Foundation, which Michael launched here in 2000.  Dame Silvia Cartwright presented the inaugural Icon Awards in 2003 at the St James Theatre in Wellington.  Sir Anand and Lady Susan Satyanand hosted the 2008 Award for Patronage for Roderick and Gillian Deane, and the Satyanands also hosted the 2011 Icon Awards. 

The three men being honoured tonight can rightly be described as “patient gardeners”.  They helped plant and tend a seed, and then nurtured it to the point where it is blooming as one of New Zealand’s foremost private trusts that honours and supports our country’s artists and their endeavours.  All three came to the project with a substantial background in the arts and arts administration, philanthropy, community activities and business.

As the then Chair of the Arts Council, now Creative New Zealand, Brian was keen to find new ways of encouraging private support for the arts.  He engaged Sir Ron to investigate creating a foundation.  Sir Ron helped bring a number of individuals into a working party that met at Government House, including Richard Cathie who chaired the working group.  Sir Ron and Richard were founding trustees, and Richard was the Foundation’s inaugural chairman.  Brian joined as a trustee a little later.  As the saying goes, the rest is history!

The Foundation recognises and promotes things that are important to New Zealanders – art, artistic expression and people, our artists.  Since it was founded, the Foundation has honoured some 130 artists with awards, and given more than $3.5 million to support New Zealand artists.

Its awards carry significant standing and they are prestigious.  The awards cover all forms of artistic endeavour, expression and creativity.  They recognise artists at different points in their careers, from those who have not yet arrived through to those with a lifetime of achievements.  The awards have also recognised those who have made outstanding philanthropic contributions to the arts.  A number of you from each of those categories are here tonight.  Media interest in and reporting of the Foundation’s initiatives have raised the profile of the arts in New Zealand, and that is a good thing.

Frances Hodgkins once famously exclaimed that one should never to talk to New Zealanders about art!  Now, whether that was a compliment or otherwise, more than 50 years after her passing, I’m sure she would think differently of us.  Our conversations about artistic endeavour show we have evolved.  We recognise and hold art, in all its colours, sounds and shapes as adding vibrancy to our cultural heritage, our society and our well-being that defies a simple explanation or monetary value. 

And so it is that we honour tonight the three trustees, one of whom, Sir Ron, is retiring.  While, others have been involved, their contribution to the success of the Foundation and our appreciation and conversations about art deserves special recognition.  Philanthropic endeavour is littered like many gardens with examples of plantings that are brought to life with a hiss and a roar, and then enter a slow and often terminal decline.  Organisations that grow and succeed need wise counsel and careful and patient care.

That the Arts Foundation has continued to grow and prosper is in no small way due to the commitment, perseverance and leadership shown by Sir Ron, Brian and Richard.  As Patron of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, I want to thank you for your endeavours, singularly and collectively. 

Notwithstanding that he didn’t wish any special note to be made, I want to acknowledge Sir Ron, given he is retiring.  I think his contribution to the Foundation and arts and culture in general (including sport) has been superb. 
And on that note I will close wishing all of you gathered here tonight good health - Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

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