Members spotlight: The Art of Change 

Artists are change-makers. Like our membership, they strive to ask questions about the world around us and inviting us to join them in doing so.

Harnessing the power of imagination and creativity is an exciting part of one’s changemaking kete, and no one knows this better than this month’s featured members: Gill Gatfield, Jillian Friedlander and Jo Blair. All visionaries in their own right, these wāhine toa know plenty about imagining a better world — and working towards it through interesting mediums.


Jo Blair was born in Tamaki Makaurau, and when she was 14, her family moved to Otautahi. After a career with events and festivals in Melbourne and running the events programme at Christchurch City Council where she brought to life events such as the World Buskers Festival and a platform around Antarctica, Jo designed Brown Bread to operate in both islands of Aotearoa New Zealand to make ‘just good stuff’ happen. Throughout Jo’s career, there’s been a strong thread of creating movements around big ideas and building communities around great causes.

With a background in commerce and business, how was your interest in the arts ignited?

“I always worked with the arts through festival marketing, however, I was inspired by Jenny Harper, the former director of Art and History at Te Papa Tongarewa and Adam Art Gallery, who went on to become the Director of the Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery. Jenny rang me during the Christchurch earthquakes after she recognized that the Gallery would be closed for five years, and she needed to keep the community engaged. Michael Parekowhai’s Chapman’s Homer (affectionally known as ‘the bull’ by Cantabrians) captured the city’s hearts and minds. As it sat outside the central Christchurch ‘red zone’ in rubble, Jenny asked if I could help the gallery fundraise to buy it to represent the times – a bronze sculpture of a bull on top of piano depicting strength and resilience over adversity.”

You founded Brown Bread in Otautahi in 2013 to support a myriad of organisations throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. Why is this important?

“Two years after the earthquakes, I could see how bureaucracy was at risk of stifling the amazing cultural and social entrepreneurship materializing in Christchurch. So, I left my Council role, and founded Brown Bread with my husband Alastair. Our tag line is ‘Just the Good Stuff’ which explains our desire to be discerning about the ideas we work with. They need to be bold, almost impossible to do, and have strong leaders to carry them – brave people, completely behind their enterprise. We then bring a community in to help them realise their Kaupapa. The name ‘Brown Bread’ came from my travels with Alistair; when discoveries we made were full of soul and reality and a lot of enthusiasm, our code was, ‘that’s brown bread.’

We rally the collective because we believe in people-power making change, and leading policy, rather than relying on government for everything . The arts can be perceived as intimidating or elite in Aotearoa, but after my experiences, I decided we need to scale that invitation and invite all New Zealanders into the arts. Sadly, 62% of New Zealander don’t believe the arts are for them! Brown Bread works with organisations, in particular our anchor client, The Arts Foundation of New Zealand, Te Tumu Toi o Apotearoa, to use the power of philanthropy and business to show the value of the arts. We award artists abundantly to make New Zealand a more creative place.

Brown Bread been working nationally for the last three years, but has just started with our first Christchurch client– Te Rūnganga o Ngai Tahu. We are also delighted to partner with Kiwibank on their New Zealander of the Year Awards Ngā Tohu Pou Kōhure o Aotearoa, and Objectspace (New Zealand’s only institution for design, architecture and craft practitioners.) These alliances confirm our philosophy to work with platforms and brands that showcase important New Zealanders.

With our arts clients, AFNZ and OS we live and breathe their missions – and amplify what they do. We start by doing feasibility studies on how we can build a community of support around them – and help them refine their cause to be attractive to New Zealanders who have the means to give. As part of our Arts Foundation contract, we run Boosted – the world’s only arts crowdfunding platform – this enables all creatives to fundraise, and all New Zealanders to give from $5 upwards. We believe in equity of giving – everyone should have the chance to support the arts – not just those who can afford to give major gifts.”

Are wahine in Aotearoa New Zealand receiving sustainable support and equal recognition in the arts?

“Definitely now! When we took over the delivery of the Arts Foundation, we noticed some equity issues that reflected leadership in other sectors. When Brown Bread joined AFNZ, the ratio of female Art Foundation Laureates compared

to men was 43%. Now we’ve been driving it for four years, it has grown to 60% women (and some non-binary.) Theresa Gattung’s annual $30,000 Laureate award goes to an artist identifying as a woman.

When you look at the public gallery collections, they are woefully underrepresented with women’s art. However, it is great to see the current Christchurch Art Gallery collection – 90% of the art is by female artists! Female equity is being energised and championed, finally!”

How do you see the future of the arts in New Zealand in regard to uplifting communities and contributing to a prosperous Aotearoa?

“The AFNZ wants to fuel a better Aotearoa New Zealand though creativity. The Arts give us a sense of belonging and connectivity, a place to express ourselves that could heal some of our issues. If we could break the disconnect with the arts, imagine what could happen?! Maori and Pasifika communities have art at their core – they surround themselves with it. Pakeha don’t always see the amazing creativity in their lives despite passing by murals, and listening to music daily – we forget it’s art. If we could open eyes and minds, we could bring New Zealanders closer to valuing the arts. The WOW festival has done a huge job of making creativity mainstream and accessible.

Throughout the country, we’re told the same people donate to the arts. Yet there is a large number of people who could give, who just haven’t accessed the power of the arts yet – so we need to talk about the impact art can have on our communities at an early stage. It’s about building relationships and having fun. Brown Bread is trying to ‘normalise’ the arts in our lives and were thrilled that has come on board to tell the stories.”

Is there a space for Global Women to promote art and female artists?

“Yes! Women backing women in the arts! Women are naturally creative. What if we could offer more accessible creativity earlier on, and profile our artist role models like we do the All Blacks – might that open other paths for New Zealanders? If we could add artistic pathways, especially for kids who are marginalised, then there’s a real opportunity to have social impact. There’s international evidence that the arts can save people. Don’t be shy about giving to enhance our culture, and to fuel your own joy by giving to the arts. You may be able to build foundations for others so they don’t go into decline, but instead thrive and flourish!”

We are fortunate to have Jo Blair with such passion for the arts as a Global Women member. She is unquestionably an advocate of the Art of Change!

Jillian Friedlander bubbles with enthusiasm about the positive changes that can be forged for Aotearoa New Zealand through The Arts. She is the Creative Director for the philanthropic Friedlander Foundation that strives to contribute to our society through equal opportunities. The Foundation supports three causes: Medical Sustainability, Youth Wellbeing and The Arts.

Residing in Auckland, Jillian and Daniel Friedlander have been married for 25+ years. They have twin daughters, Arielle and Maia, born 1 November 2003. So where did this remarkable woman’s life begin?

“I was born in Invercargill then moved to Waikaia (formerly known as Switzers, a gold mining town.) During my formative and teenage years, I grew up in the Catlins, South Otago. I came from salt of the earth country stock!

My late father was a great outdoors adventurer. I had a firearms license for wild deerstalking and pig-hunting. These outings with my dad were where I learnt to listen and learn about the relationship that exists between the geographical environment and the human element. In my heart it was a finely tuned orchestra with the songs of the bellbirds, diffused light on the ferns, and moss on the rainforest floor.

I learnt highland dancing and performed at AMP Shows. I also learnt cooking skills when the sheep shearers came. I attended the monthly meetings of Rural Women New Zealand / Ngā Wāhine Taiwhenua o Aotearoa. It wasn’t all cups of tea, but friendship and compassion too. When I was 15, they sponsored me in the Miss South Otago pageant.

I was selected as an AFS (American Field Student.) This is where my eyes were opened. I found my navigation to be a team member and a leader. I was fortunate to have the fortitude to complete my bronze, silver, and gold awards through the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Aotearoa NZ Hillary Award.

I’ve had a lifelong passion for the arts, and deep empathy and protection for women’s equality through my mother, who had me when she was 16. She was the first woman in South Otago to accomplish Outward Bound, Anakiwa, in an era when she was frowned upon for leaving her husband and children to pursue her dream.

My personal journey has been demanding, especially when one of my daughters was born with a brain injury. I recovered from bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and other invasive surgeries and was fortunate also to recover from genealogical cancer. This has kept me putting one foot in front of the other when faced with challenges.

My true healing began when I embraced the arts through colouring, painting, and listening to and playing music. I am learning to be patient to find my way back to my artistic soul.”

Tell us about your commitment to Friedlander Foundation and The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Aotearoa NZ Hillary Award.

“Our founder, Sir Michael Friedlander, KNZM has been involved for 40 years supporting the Award and is a World Fellow. The 60th anniversary of inspiration, adventure, accomplishment, and friendship will be celebrated in 2023. For seven years I was a trustee on the board governing the Award, the youngest female appointee at the time. Like many women who are part of change, it takes time and forward-thinking to bring equality and diversity to the table. My role within the Friedlander Foundation working with National director, Karen Ross, has been fruitful for the aligned incentives created and actioned by the two parties for youth development goals.”

You have also been involved through the Foundation with the New Zealand Opera and the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB).

“Friedlander Foundation has been a partner and inner circle benefactor for many years to New Zealand’s only full-time professional opera company. In 2021 we created the Friedlander Foundation Associate Artist Award, with the first recipient being Eleanor Bishop, a stage director of opera and theatre. We have also partnered with the opera company to implement The Lullaby Project, bringing the Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute to Aotearoa in 2021. New teen mums write personal lullabies for their young children with help from a professional artist. This supports maternal health, aids childhood development, and strengthens the bond between parent and child.

After many decades of support to the RNZB, in 2019 the Foundation created an investment in the future of our national ballet company with opportunities for young dancers. We established Scholarships for two dancers in their first year with the company to realise their potential in this most demanding of professions.”

How does the Friedlander Foundation work towards reducing inequality while influencing positive change in New Zealand?

“Friedlander Foundation partners with ABI (Auckland Bioengineering Institute)

Professor Thor Besier, Doctor Angus McMorland, Doctor Julie Choisne and their teams on a movement disorders project.

One in 500 babies in Aotearoa New Zealand are born with asphyxiation and stroke and suffers some degree of brain damage. This is usually grouped under Cerebral Palsy (CP.) The Foundation has given $2.95 million for a five-year project focused on developing tools for early detection and treatment of neurological disorders in infants. This means intervening with tools and strategies that could greatly reduce the burden of the disability. The potential to reduce the associated costs of healthcare and give equality to treat children with neurological disorders will have an enormous impact on the lives affected.

About 10,000 children in New Zealand live with Cerebral Palsy affecting their body’s ability to perform controlled movements such as eating, speaking, breathing, bladder and bowel control. The musculoskeletal systems of children worsen over time. Stroke is now the most common cause of permanent disability for New Zealanders and CP is the most common neurological disorder affecting children. Cross-pollination of connections with researchers to Whānau Āwhiina Plunket (NZ Plunket) has created an ideal partnership.

Art therapy and Music therapy are two great modalities for helping babies, toddlers and children to communicate when they are afraid, or do not have use of their voice. We have experienced the benefits of this both in Aotearoa, New Zealand and overseas in clinical and hospital surroundings, as this helps ease the burden for both parent and child.”

How do you think the arts are currently faring in New Zealand, especially in regard to women’s roles?

“In the last 18 months there has been progress. Throughout covid-19 and post pandemic, examining the audience, the artist, and the relationships between the two, there wasn’t much diversity and fluid conceptualization. Now we’re experiencing social consciousness and enlightenment; the old traditions aren’t holding as strong as they once did. The dialogue has started to allow all to contribute.

The Arts Foundation has proved itself an independent umbrella to the arts, outside the government agencies, academia and industry. There is increased Wāhine understanding and belief in our Māori and Pasifika cultures with our European, Asian, and Indian social groups, though this is not being limited to a ‘tick’ box ethnicity, political or physically identified orientation. This is new, so it can be uncomfortable for some, yet not far thinking enough for others, however, time and measure will come forth, as previous protocols, boundaries, and limits weren’t sustainable to feel and create this imagination of our time.

Friedlander Foundation has honored the voices of artists through two unique opportunities. First, to immerse the artist with the Harriet Friedlander NYC Artist Residency ($100,000.00 for a year or to the value of) to expand their practice, to observe, to create outside the Aotearoa New Zealand narrative and see what comes to them; how will this experience influence their practice, whether it be in film, music, dance, painting, photography, or sculpture?

Secondly, Jillian Friedlander Te Moana Nui-a-Kiwa, 2020 Laureate Award for ($30,000.00 each year for each recipient for the next ten years) acknowledges outstanding Māori and Pasifika creatives within the arts. Friedlander Foundation is not part of the selection committee for the artists chosen.

The arts are the recorders of history while breaking taboos. If you look at theatre, say 25 years ago, and compare it with today, you see the change to multi-cultural productions. We have the right to govern personal choice. And we must remember we need to hold the hands of our men and boys, to share and bring them along together.”

Do you see a role for Global Women in supporting women and the arts?

“I Joined Global Women to meet, interact, listen, be stimulated in thoughts and robust debate, and not be a lone voice. I wasn’t in or from the corporate world, but I learned to be open, and aware of the exchange of different ideas.

The Arts are an important sector for Global Women. To creatively give another view – sometimes while communicating or expressing an idea, non-creatives may think- where is this thread going? But we get there, even though it may be completely out-of-the-box thinking.

We have spent a lot of time on STEM in the past few years. I am non-objective when I say that perhaps we need some time on STEAM especially in times of adversity. I know personally, and in the community, the benefits of the arts on our state of mind, physically and emotionally.

The current generation looks at us and asks why women still aren’t equal in gender, pay, or anything else where there is division. Should this be the question? Is there another view? Have we been asking the racehorse to ride the jockey for too long in this paradigm? Post- Covid in a new era, what will be assigned to history? What is the reset? How do we balance fulfillment in our personal and family lives with community, business and our environment?

Global Women New Zealand needs to korero! Sometimes we must listen to the music, the dance of a tune like that of the fantail that follows within the bush.

Don’t let’s get too insular, or it will bite us on the ass!!”

Gill Gatfield is an internationally renowned artist, recognised for her abstract-conceptual artworks, public monuments, digital sculptures and installations using inventive methodologies that connect people, nature, time and place. Her interdisciplinary practice extends to authorship and activism, and continues her mahi from her first career as a Barrister and Solicitor in Human Rights and Law Reform, and founder of consultancy business Equity Works Ltd. What motivated Gill to be an artist? 

“I was born and raised in Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty. As a Pākeha in a largely Māori community, I was privileged to be taught tikanga and to experience cultural inclusiveness. My grounding in Kawerau also taught me how poverty, racism and violence, and their opposites, shape and affect people’s opportunities and lives. 

My legal work centred on creative thinking to challenge and change the status quo, in the areas of pornography, child support tax, women in combat, international human rights, workplace gender bias and racism. I researched and wrote ‘Without Prejudice – Women in the Law’ (published 1996, 2011, 2018) using the legal profession and judiciary as case studies on how gender inequality thrives in the law, and to promote strategies for systemic change. The project involved four years of research. The book was ahead of its time. I stepped back into this space recently to contribute to the work addressing sexual assault and harassment in the profession. 

After 10 years in legal practice and Equity Works, I founded Gatfield Studio and have worked internationally from my factory space in Whangaparāoa for the past 25 years. I focus particularly on sculpture and multiple dimensions, embracing a creative practice that channels diverse skill sets and interests into a form of productivity with purpose. The tools used are different from my previous work and the output is multi-sensory. I draw on multiple impulses and motivations, and unique materials that speak to people and place. My process might invent a new methodology while creating a dialogue about geo-political ideas. Eyes, hearts, spirits and minds can be engaged through the integration of debate and the sensory realm.” 

Gill is identified as a “Creative Revolutionary” due to the positive change that she manifests through her art.  What does this title mean? 

“Creative revolutionaries are visionaries and futurists engaged in processes of radical change, seeking a better world – for all. Revolutionary artists express moments that empower movements, using many different art forms. My work was recognised for its political and sensory impact and for being open to diverse audiences. Engaging audiences is central to activist art; it is a means to shift mindsets.    

Glass Ceiling is an example. For this monumental artwork I smashed and carved over 200 million fragments of glass into an undulating landscape beneath a 30m high tower on Auckland’s waterfront. In form, materials and ideas, the work unravels the political metaphor of a glass ceiling, the invisible barrier preventing women from reaching higher goals in careers and in public life. Glass Ceiling is a provocation, it embodies its metaphor – beautiful, glistening, seductive and dangerous. It works on many levels, drawing people in. The ceiling was grounded and open to inspection. Its operating systems were exposed. It was not a level playing field and, as a systemic barrier, was resolutely intact.” 

How do you think the arts are currently faring in New Zealand, especially with regards to women artists’ opportunities? 

“Beneath the bohemian veneer of the art scene is a complex commercial ecosystem involving low and unpaid labour, fragmented work, low transparency, scarcity of resources and gatekeeping mindsets. Women creative professionals don’t fare well in this. During lockdown, I researched the status of women in Aotearoa visual arts to identify an economic baseline and propose strategies for change. I wrote a report for the NZ feminist art journal Femisphere and presented my research at our 2020 Global Women and Te Taumata Toi online panel discussion.  

The data is disturbing. A gender pay gap of 45% for creative income was reported by Creative New Zealand in 2019, with no work done since to break this down or address it. Career progression for women visual artists is limited by low private gallery representation and by public art exhibition and collection practices, which are meant to reflect our population and cultural diversity. The percentage of women artists work held in the public collections of Te Papa and the Auckland Art Gallery in 2019 was 15%. Yet, neither institution front-foots a strategy to address this. For the past 30 years, 66% of creative arts tertiary graduates in NZ are female. Against the odds, there’s no shortage of women dedicated to art careers.  

Gender bias and disparity in the arts can be problematic to talk about. By way of example, I was told Glass Ceiling was magnificent, but that it would have been better with a different title. On gender issues, the arts sector has mostly tinkered at the edges. Resembling a 1980s outlook, the emphasis tends towards one-off events to showcase equality or amplify individual success stories. These are encouraging as highlights but short-lived absent the plans to deep-dive on the gender gap and make systemic shifts.” 

 How do you see the future of the arts in NZ in regard to uplifting communities and contributing to a prosperous Aotearoa? 

“The arts in all of their forms hold us together – connecting generations, communities and cultures. Through artistic expressions we can learn about our different histories, aspirations, knowledge and ideas. Access to art needs to increase. In vibrant cities and towns there is free theatre, poetry, and music in public places. During Covid we saw how important the arts became. They promotes diversity, inclusivity, wellness and mental health.  

Creative thinking ranks among the most desirable skills in C21st workplaces yet we under-value and under-fund the very sector which seeds this potential for our rangatahi and communities. The negative effects of this under-funding is borne most heavily by women, Māori, Pasifica, and marginalized groups in the arts. Why are there layers of bureaucratic systems where arts organisations and artists must constantly compete for funding? Why not introduce a universal wage for artists? Why not have tax incentives for private commissioning of public art? Why not have art classes in every town for disabled adults and for migrants, for whom art is a universal language? I believe that uplifting the arts strengthens the heart of Aotearoa.” 

Do you see a role for Global Women in supporting women and the arts?  

“Being informed is important. Understanding how gender disparity manifests is important, for example in career barriers for women artists, low visibility of creative work by women in public spaces, and a 45% gender pay gap in creative income. Women’s exhibitions or productions are ticking the box for today but not changing the outcomes of tomorrow. 

Proactivity is also needed. When visiting public galleries or buying art works, ask about the number of women represented and how the dealer or gallery provides opportunities for women. In the auction market, women artist’s works sell for a fraction of male artists’ work; we need an equity drive to shift this. There is a veil of silence around the gender gap. Yet there is data. And secrecy tends to shield the more insidious sides of gender exploitation. The New Zealand arts sector is yet to confront sexual harassment. It’s happening now in Germany and the US. We need to open our eyes and front up. 

 It would be great to have an Arts Panel at the Global Women 2023 Hui. Women artists need support and Global Women’s influence counts.” 

Tell us about your Exhibit in the Venice Art Biennale, 2022. 

“I was honoured to be invited for the second time to present my work in an international exhibition curated by the European Cultural Centre at the Venice Art Biennale. The Biennale is a major global event, bringing artists and audiences from around the world. Half a million people attend over a six-month period.    

My 2022 project UNITY is like a sculpture symphony in two parts. One is Harmony, a precious small sculpture that fits in the palm of a child’s hand. Three figures carved from pounamu, 24ct. river gold and Tākaka marble pierce a black velvet square. Framed by gilded laurel leaves it is sized to fit the human head. It was placed at Palazzo Bembo fronting the Grand Canal. The second part is Native Tongue XR, a virtual monument created through the Metaverse in the Giardini della Marinaressa facing the lagoon on the main promenade. People can walk around the sculpture, a mirage of ancient kauri heartwood from the last Ice Age. UNITY traverses epochs and origins, the Earth and the biosphere. It explores the interconnection of living and non-living things. 

 I delivered public talks about my work in Venice. In the context of UNITY we discussed decolonisation, climate change, Ukraine and the women-led protests in Iran.  It’s really important to enable New Zealand to participate as much and as diversely as possible in international arts. It offers a cross-check and wider dialogue. The global future requires building more inclusive creative spaces and cultural exchange. I am excited about the enabling potential of creative technology, the power of collaboration and projects that break the rules.” 

All interviews and stories written by our Editor in Residence,

Jenni Prisk, Global Women Member