- Art sector is amongst the worst-hit sectors due to pandemic, as a number of organisations lost their funding and event venues remain closed.
- Post lockdown, art world needs to come up with solutions to perform while maintaining hygiene and social distancing.
- Federal Government announced a package of AUD 250 million and the state government of NSW provided AUD 50 million to support the sector.
- Government has come up with the Re-ignite and Re-activate program to revive the art sector.
- Artists are coming up with their art pieces around the COVID-19 crisis while working towards enhancing their online presence.
Fears are mounting over a second wave of coronavirus infections in Australia. When the nation was almost at the final stage of its phase-wise reopening plan (the government planned to lift most coronavirus restrictions by end-July), spike in new cases in Victoria jolted Australia with a stage 3 lockdown imposed in the economic hub of the country. Moreover, New South Wales’ pub cluster added to the woes of community transfer.
The prolonged crisis has a ruthless impact on most of the sectors, but the art sector is undoubtedly amongst the hardest hit. Artists seem to see no hope in the near future due to the imposed restrictions and rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Multilevel Crisis: Funding Shortage, Performing Arts Venues Closed
Funding shortfalls are not new to the art sector; it has always been there. However, the unprecedented crisis is pretty hard on the industry. A number of art organisations lost their Australian Council funding in March 2020, during the onset of the pandemic.
Then came the lockdown and art venues were among the first to be closed to avoid people gatherings, and such art venues are among the last in the list to be reopened again.
Pandemic Shaping Up the Future of Art World
The art world needs to rethink on many things before the phase-wise reopening of the economy. For all industries now, reopening can only happen with adequate precautions to stop the spread of the deadly virus. So, for any future public events or exhibitions, there will be restrictions on the number of people attending that event, and social distancing has to be followed with proper sanitisation.
Now, it will also be a challenge for dancers and actors to work while maintaining an appropriate distance. Augmented Reality experiences are expected to rise in the post-pandemic art world.
Government Support for Art Sector During COVID-19 Pandemic
During May end, the NSW government had announced a Rescue and Restart package worth AUD 50 million for arts and cultural organisations in the state. The package was to aid the stricken sector in better handling of the crisis and keep the sector going through the challenging times and post the lockdown period.
The Federal Government also provided substantial support for employees and organisations in the cultural and creative field. It announced a package of AUD 250 million on 25 June 2020 to support artists and companies from the arts industry to get back in business.
Furthermore, COVID-19 Creative Economy Support Package was announced for the urgent needs of the sector. The government paid a total of AUD 76.1 million to over 25,000 people in creative fields in April 2020 through the JobKeeper scheme. As of early June 2020, the government's cash flow support to the businesses in the creative and performing arts sector totalled over AUD 23 million.
A targeted support package of AUD 27 million was announced by the government on 9 April for dedicated financial aid to the live music and performance industry, regional arts segment, and Indigenous visual art centres.
Re-ignite, Re-activate to Revive the Art Sector
After carefully listening to organisations, peak bodies and independent artists about impact of the pandemic to the art world and what needs to be done, the government has come up with a two-part response.
Re-ignite is the framework for the arts and cultural areas during the pandemic environment.
Re-activate supports jurisdictional compliance. It is a practical and user-friendly guide for independent artists and companies that explains how to comply with the government's guidelines and start businesses again by welcoming customers, visitors, and audiences.
Re-activate resource sets standards and protocols in preparing the art sector for moving into the next phase.
For the health and wellbeing of people, art is always significant, and also for the economy. The government acknowledges its importance and hence following the National Cabinet meeting on Friday, 26 June, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has been asked to prepare a plan for reopening the arts and entertainment venues.
Art Becomes More Significant During Such Massive Crisis
Artists have always come up with extraordinary arts during such crisis, giving hope to people as well as a sense of connection. For instance, during the recent bushfires, artists generated public awareness from the Facebook campaign led by comedian Celeste Barber.
Street artists all over the world are doing exceptional work of incorporating COVID-19 theme into their creations like Banksy's homage to the NHS and nurses is well-accepted among the art lovers.
Image source: Twitter
Now, when a digital dependency has increased across the sectors, artists have no choice but to move their work online. However, cultural events and arts online are lacking the real feeling of the vibrancy of the art.
Other things that are happening in the sector - artists are busy enhancing their online presence through social media. Exhibitions have moved to Instagram and artists are also giving training using tools like Zoom, Facebook Live and Google Hangouts.