Pacific Island Artists Connection (PIAC)​

Vanessa Eden talks about why she founded Pacific Island Artists Connection (PIAC) and sheds light on the arts scene in the Pacific Islands.
With a vibrant insight into the Pacific Islands arts and cultural scenes from the roots up, Pacific Island Artists Connection (PIAC) founder Vanessa Eden has worked for the Fiji Arts Council, The Pacific Arts Alliance, and VOU Dance Company in Fiji, and was a Tour Coordinator/Manager at festivals such as Glastonbury Festival, UK, Edinburgh Festival, UK, Festival de Martigues, France, Folkart International Folklore Festival, Maribor, Slovenia, Dreaming Festival, Australia, Boomerang Festival, Australia, Melanesian Festival, New Caledonia.
In 2016, Vanessa organised and managed a 2-month tour of Europe for 7 dancers from VOU Dance Company. This launched with 3 nights at Glastonbury Festival in the UK and finished with 9 award-winning nights at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland.
It is her firm belief that if art and culture are valued and supported through investment, it has the power to interweave its way into a society, resulting in a society economically and socially sustainable and richer.
We are delighted to welcome Vanessa as Creative Tracks ambassador for the Pacific Islands and to mark the occasion we invited her to answer a few questions to find out more about the development of the arts and artists in the Pacific and how she is supporting the region. If you would like to get in touch with Vanessa regarding the Pacific Islands please post a response in the Contact point: Pacific Islands Ideation Lab.
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Why did you start PIAC?
I have worked in the Pacific arts sector for a number of years and have always been inspired by the wonderful art and artists in the Pacific region. I believe that there is a great deal of interest and curiosity in Europe for Pacific art and culture but it can be difficult for interested individuals and institutions in Europe to communicate and connect with the smaller Pacific Islands. I hope that PIAC will help to facilitate and develop this connection thus sharing the inspiring Pacific Island art and culture with the world.
What are the most important things you’ve learnt in starting the organisation and in building a supportive network for your region?
To start small and to take things slowly
The importance of regular communication with your stakeholders
A simple and clear website
Patience
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Can you tell us briefly about some of the young enterprising creatives based in the Pacific Islands that you work with? Are there any concerned with influencing cultural policies or concerned with bringing awareness to topical local and world issues?
The Poetry Shop uses the spoken word to protest and explores current issues for urban Pacific Islander such as sexual identity, domestic violence and climate change. The Poetry Shop regularly facilitates poetry circle discussions with new and emerging Fijian writers and organises spoken word events and poetry slams.
RAKO Pasefika promotes and preserves the Rotuman culture through dance and music and Rotuman designed products such as clothes, home furnishings, mats, jewellery and handbags. It is based in Fiji and Australia and highlights the devastating impacts of climate change on the Pacific Islands. RAKO Pasefika’s award-winning debut album was released in 2015 and its second album will be released later in 2017.
VOU is a Fijian contemporary dance company and Dance School which helps young urban Fijians learn about their Fijian culture and history through dance. VOU delivered a very successful 2-month tour of Europe in 2016 which included performances at Glastonbury Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The award-winning dance piece at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe highlighted the traumatic impacts of Cyclone Winston and climate change on Fiji. Energy! Spirit! Mana! is the VOU mantra.
All of these organisations directly feed in to the national artistic and cultural policies of Fiji and the Pacific.
What services do you offer to artists?
PIAC aims to demonstrate the possibilities for Pacific artists within the international arts sector through helping to set up communication and links between the Pacific Islands and the UK and Europe. In particular, this includes tour management, arts and project management and raising artist profiles internationally.
PIAC services
What does the young start-ups scene in the Pacific look like and how is it unique from Europe and the rest of the world?
Unfortunately, there is limited Government funding for the arts sector in the Pacific and the arts are not seen as professional career paths. This means that setting up an arts business in the Pacific can be a challenge.
However, over the last 10 years there have been several new successful start-ups and this has helped to raise the profile of the Pacific arts sector and to inspire and develop the fledgling Pacific arts industry.
Culture is an integral component within the Pacific. The Pacific region is very different from any other region in the world and although all of the Pacific countries share similarities, each country also has a cultural uniqueness. This cultural identity and uniqueness is vital to the Pacific and is clearly evident in art from the region.
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Can we talk about challenges to international work in the Pacific Islands - what do you feel are the main things that need tackling? Are creatives embracing the digital age and the Internet to improve their online presence? Are they inventing ways to combat exploitation of their intellectual property? Are stereotypes being broken?
One of the biggest challenges for the smaller Pacific Islands is access – artist access to the rest of the world and festival producers’ access to the Pacific. This challenge is caused by financial restraints in the Pacific as well as a lack of knowledge about Pacific artists by the rest of the world.
It is also extremely difficult for artists to improve their online presence due to irregular internet connectivity, power outages, the high cost of technology and the lack of arts management skills in the Pacific.
What are you working on at the moment?
PIAC is currently working on the VOU 2017 summer tour of Europe. This tour will include performances in Austria and the UK and other countries soon to be confirmed.
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Image: VOU performing in Edinburgh in 2016.
Finally, how could the Creative Tracks community support and get involved with your work and your network?
PIAC would love to hear from anyone interested in learning more about the Pacific arts sector and/or interested in booking Pacific artists for performances or exhibitions in Europe. You can email PIAC at piartistsconnection@gmail.com , visit the PIAC website at http://pacificartistsconnect.com or ring Vanessa Eden on +44 7470 141693.
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Know of an exciting creative project in your area that the rest of the world should know about as well? Let us know!

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