The advocacy of artists to help the struggling sector

Four in five visual artists made less than $ 25,000 last year, and half of those working in the field have seen their earnings drop, according to a new study.

Survey results released Wednesday by the National Association for the Visual Arts indicated that artists saw their sales drop 72% in 2020/21 amid COVID-19 lockdowns.

The survey of more than 1,200 artists, art workers and art directors across Australia found that one in five artists was eligible for government assistance through the JobSeeker program.

Meanwhile, 44 percent of workers in arts organizations have seen their hours cut and more than a third have lost contracts.

Launching a new campaign to encourage the use of vaccination to support the country’s creative recovery, the association’s Penelope Benton said the virus and successive lockdowns had decimated the visual arts sector.

“Creative art has fallen by almost 40% as artists have had to find work in other fields to survive, and more than half of our industry is concerned about the future,” Benton said.

“The gap in the visual arts sector will be felt for years to come, and we fear that a generation of artists will be lost.”

Government financial support has largely excluded the visual arts sector due to ineligibility, she added.

“We need to reopen so artists can get back to work and start on the slow road to recovery.”

Sit For An Artist includes four short videos featuring artists Thea Perkins, Dean Cross, Wendy Sharpe, and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran getting ready to get the shot.

The idea behind the campaign title is that rather than sitting down for an artist for a portrait, sitting down for a vaccine will speed up the process by which artists can get back to work.

Perkins, a woman from Arrernte and Kalkadoon who does paintings and installations, believes the greatest damage the pandemic has inflicted has been on mental health.

“It’s difficult and demoralizing to have uncertainty around projects that you’ve put all your heart and soul into and to see a lot of canceled,” said Perkins, who currently works from home while his studio is down. firm.

“There will be some sort of invisible effect. We won’t even know the ripple effect that the pandemic has had on the arts,” she said.

The survey confirms this, with 49 percent of artists and 51 percent of arts workers reporting significant or extreme effects on mental health.

Dean Cross, a multidisciplinary artist of Worimi origin, was also unable to access his studio.

“My practice had to close,” Cross said.

“I had to retreat like a hermit crab or a turtle, squeezing into my shell and waiting to be able to reappear and start swimming around the river again,” he said.

“I draw my personal strength from knowing that our culture, Aboriginal culture, has survived things like this and even worse through community and engaging in culture. “

Nithiyendran, a Sri Lanka-born, Sydney-based artist best known for his wacky and exuberantly decorated ceramic sculptures, feels lucky to still be able to access his studio.

“But the real rhythms and energy flows needed to create a work have been reduced because of this second wave,” he said.

“Connection, energy, positivity and engagement have all been impacted.”

For Archibald Prize-winning figurative painter Wendy Sharpe, the first and second waves of the pandemic were very different experiences.

“At the start of the pandemic, many shopping malls found that with the increase in the number of people spending time at home, more and more people were looking to fill their spaces with exciting, beautiful and stimulating art.” said Sharpe.

“But with the second wave, as the lockdowns get longer, there’s been a definite shift in mindset, with people not knowing when things are going to end. This has led to more resistance when spending money. money.”

Sharpe is keen to refute the idea that the arts are only for the elite.

“Almost everywhere you look, these are the arts that everyone turned to even more during the pandemic,” she said.

“We all want to go to galleries. We want to go to concerts. We want to go to museums. We want to go to restaurants. We want to meet other people. We don’t want to be locked up forever. to get vaccinated.”

Mimi Crowe, also of the association, said the state of the visual arts sector is unprecedented in the organization’s 38-year history.

“Achieving an 80% vaccination rate and opening up borders is an important first step for the visual arts,” Crowe said.

“We want to see artists once again traveling interstate and internationally, creating and exhibiting new work and showcasing the best of Australian art.”

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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