I was due last night to open a new exhibition at Draiocht in Blanchardstown focused on visual arts for children and young people.
Like so many other arts events and activities this event was postponed, despite all the hard-work and effort of everyone involved.
Public health and safety is now our first priority.
Artists and arts organisations have been playing their part in helping people get through the current COVD-19 crisis. The public response to, and engagement with, the work of artists online has been overwhelmingly positive.
Over the last few weeks the value of the arts has never been more evident. And the arts will maintain this central role in Irish life by contributing to a national recovery beyond the current crisis.
The Arts Council has responded quickly to the impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector.
• Staff have been working remotely over the last few weeks with great commitment and professionalism;
• Payments to organisations have been fast-tracked;
• Increased advance payments to 90% of funding have been made available to organisations with no penalties where performances and other activities have been cancelled; x
• the decisions of bursary award meetings have been fast-tracked with immediate payment of awards;
• and there has been ongoing contact with the sector.
Most of these initial steps were about getting cash into the sector – and in keeping with the Arts Council’s current strategy, Making Great Art Work, which puts the artist at the centre of all activity.
Today the Arts Council is opening applications for a €1m funding scheme designed to support the creation of new artistic work and its dissemination online. The award is open to anyone who can demonstrate a track record of professional practice as an artist, with no restriction on the type or form of art that can be created.
Proposals will be assessed and scored based on the artistic quality of the proposal, the potential of the idea to engage with the public, and the track record of the artist. Successful applicants will be awarded €3,000.
Further information on the scheme will be available on the Arts Council website.
In addition to this preparing this new scheme, the Arts Council has also over the last two weeks:
• Undertaken a detailed survey of arts organisations to identify the impact on audiences, employment and finances for the months of March, April and May;
• A second survey – this time of artists – is also being undertaken to get information on cancelled contracts and the economic impact on individuals;
• Stress tests are being developed to identify the impact on arts organisations with funding models heavily reliant on public-facing sources of income such as box office.
In all, 265 arts organisations submitted feedback to the first survey – a response rate of 78%. Results of the survey will be included in an interim report to be considered shortly by the Board of the Arts Council.
What we know already from the survey is that:
• The loss of audiences over the months of March, April and May is estimated at 2.4m people;
• Over 12,000 arts activities have been cancelled;
• Over 112,000 tickets had already been sold for activities that will not now take place.
The survey also gives us some idea of the range of new activities in response to the current crisis:
• Over 65% of organisations have initiated activities specifically in response to COVID-19 in addition to business as usual activities.
• Over 50% of organisations have created or are specifically promoting online content or services.
The information gathered from these surveys and the stress tests will help the Arts Council better understand the impact of jobs and livelihoods, and the responses needed to help the sector come through the months ahead.
The Board and Staff of the Arts Council are determined that:
• The Arts Council as the development agency for the arts will continue to play a leadership role in helping the sector deal with the huge challenges from the COVID-19 crisis.
• The Arts Council will work with government and local authorities to put in place a coordinated national plan for the arts.
• The Arts Council will work closely with arts resource organisations to identify necessary and appropriate supports and interventions to help the arts sector.
I was appointed Chair of the Arts Council in June of last year. Over the last ten months I’ve had the privilege to see the range and depth of artistic work being created throughout the country.
Our task now is continue to recognise the value of the arts, and to put in place additional supports – financial and otherwise – to help artists and arts organisations -- and to ensure art continues to be created and enjoyed during these difficult times.
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