Stephen Blackburn, Sophie Jerram, and Andy Lowe have joined the Wellington City Council whānau as the new managers of the Creative Capital team.
With strong backgrounds, connections in and a passion for our city’s creative sector, their experiences stand the Council in good stead for the implementation of Aho Tini 2030, our Arts, Culture and Creativity Strategy. This was developed in collaboration with Wellington’s creative sector in 2021.
Meet Stephen Blackburn, City Events Manager
Stephen Blackburn comes to his position as City Events Manager with a 40-year background in the performing arts, and exhibition design.
He was always destined to be part of the performing arts. His mother was a founding member of the NZ opera company in the 1950s and his father was a founding member of Downstage Theatre Company.
Stephen started as an actor, appearing in the soap opera Close to Home, and in numerous theatre works including the last performance of Unity Theatre before it became BATS. He has worked with all the major performing arts organisations in this city either as a practitioner, producer, or in a governance capacity.
Stephen spent nearly 10 years in the UK designing for theatre and heritage exhibitions across Europe, then went on to work with companies as varied as Royal New Zealand Ballet, NZ Opera, National theatre for children, and most recently as the show producer for WOW.
Stephen is passionate about our city and its artists.
“I see the Aho Tini Strategy as a bold statement on the part of the city to reinvigorate, reignite and re-energise the cultural and creative heartbeat of this phenomenal city," says Stephen. "This will be even more important in the post-Covid environment, which has devastated the sector and particularly the independent practitioners that it relies on so heavily.”
Meet Sophie Jerram, Aho Tini Programme Implementation Manager
Sophie Jerram brings an ongoing interest in community planning, urban design, and bicultural research practices to the role of Aho Tini Programme Implementation Manager.
Sophie has worked as a consultant to various organisations, including the Wellington City Council, the University of Auckland, and the Faculty of Creative Arts & Industries as a member of Toi Taiao Whakatairanga.
As co-founder of Letting Space, the Urban Dream Brokerage, the Vogelmorn Community Group, and the Wellington Independent Arts Trust, she has always been an advocate for shared space in urban centres and widening the threshold for creative practices.
She has spent the last few years researching and investigating international models of community, activism, democracy, and arts practices. She is now completing her PhD, researching the role of art in public awareness of Kauri Dieback and Myrtle Rust.
“It is an honour to take on this role to drive the new Aho Tini Strategy in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and give advocacy to the creative souls who are stimulated by this city. Ideas of what art is and does are evolving fast in this time of change and uncertainty, requiring fast adaptation," says Sophie. "Importantly, I understand Wellington City Council is but one spatial authority, and I’m looking forward to developing further creative relationships with mana whenua and the creative sector."
Meet Andy Lowe, City Arts Manager
Andy gravitates to transitional moments of massive change.
“These moments are full of energy, possibility, and opportunities for a complete overhaul of old ways of doing things. I was attracted to the Council because of Te Aho Tini”, says Andy.
Andy has a varied background.
He’s studied languages and the arts, automotive engineering, Māori immersion, and Bill Manhire’s original composition writing course. Andy completed his trade certificate in automotive engineering in Wellington, the only female to qualify in 1993.
Andy is a trans man, an artist, a mechanic, and many other things. He transitioned from FTM 22 years ago during his 24 years working at Te Papa, where his roles included model maker, exhibition installer, project coordinator, and working on touring exhibitions as exhibition manager. He has travelled 20m whale skeletons around the world, and 4-tonne bronze bulls on full-scale bronze pianos up the grand canal to Venice.
Andy moved to the Waikato museum as exhibitions manager and acting Director while leasing a bach on Eva Rickard's land in Whaingaroa-Raglan. Andy and his partner of 25 years, Aroha Clarke (Ngati Ruanui, Te Atiawa, Ngati Maniapoto) have two boys, Tahunuiarangi and Aniwaniwa, whose first language is te reo Māori. They started at Eva's kohanga as babies.
“As an activist, I was there doing street theatre during anti-nuclear and anti-apartheid movements and marched for Māori rights for foreshore and seabed with my partner and kids,” says Andy.
Andy is Te Papa’s first trans person board member, and was Chief Executive of Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History in the Manawatū, before joining us as City Arts Manager.
“Te Aho Tini implores us, as we go about making art integral to everything, to make sure that everybody is at the table all of the time, right from the beginning; diverse cultures, genders, classes, disabilities, and that we make sure tangata whenua are at the epicentre of all of that and that the class system, access, and privilege is front of mind for us all," says Andy.
Aho Tini 2030, our Arts, Culture and Creativity Strategy
The Aho Tini key focus areas are Aho Tangata Our People – connected, engaged, inclusive, accessible communities; Aho Hononga - Partnership with mana whenua and Māori; Aho Whenua - our places, spaces, and venues, our city is alive; and Aho Mahi Pathways – successful arts and creative sector, and careers.
Collaboration, connection, inclusion, and accessibility are integral to Aho Tini 2030 - the many threads that bind us. The team is already working with the creative sector, and with Council teams, to bring the arts to the table early, to draw together the many strands of Wellington’s creative and cultural genius, to make for a more inclusive and sustainable creative capital.