Monday, 29 June 2020

Giving Back to Art

Everyone has been hit to some degree by the financial impact that Covid-19 has wrought. It is a worrying time where people have become concerned about job security and/or what limitations the future will bring. Newly appointed taoiseach Micheál Martin has his work cut out for him stabilizing a teetering economy. But that's a story that is yet to unfold. More recently and more positively, a €25 million package has been announced to support the Arts and Culture sector recover from the Covid-19 emergency. The funding will include bursaries and commissions to artists and arts organisations, and resources for museums and culture workers as they prepare for the reopening of society. A total of €20 million will be allocated to the Arts Council bringing its allocation this year to €100 million. Announcing the additional funding the Minister for Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan said that she was "very aware of the challenges that artists have faced and also of the hugely important role that they have played in sustaining all of us in recent months. Many challenges lie ahead but the Government is determined to ensure that we have a vibrant arts and culture sector into the future".

                              Josepha Madigan and Leo Varadkar making the announcement 

The National Campaign for the Arts, who had spearheaded a campaign for a €20 million increase in funding to the Arts Council for 2020, described the announcement as "a solid and authentic response to the Covid-19 crisis which has ravaged the nation's artists, arts workers and arts organisations."

The Director of the Arts Council Maureen Kennelly has said the approval of the package in additional supports for the arts is a 'landmark day' and a recognition by the government of the vital part that Irish culture plays in Irish life.

I reached out to some local artists for their thoughts. Visual artist Pascal Ungerer had this to say: "The recent 25 million euro funding that the Government has announced is a testament to how important lobbying Government institutions is and what a great job The National Campaign For The Arts and the Arts Council have done in that regard, and it is vital that artists support organisations like that. The Covid 19 lockdown has taught as all how important the arts are for everyone in Ireland in so many different ways, and I hope that the newly formed Government will continue to fund and support the arts to the extent that this sector needs and deserves in the challenging times ahead."

Sharon Whooley, visual artist and Filmmaker also contributed her consideration: "Support from government agencies such as the Arts Council of Ireland is crucial for artists to be able to work and live in this country.  The successful campaign by the National Campaign for the Arts and the Arts Council and the government's extra allocation of €20 million to the sector, acknowledges that Ireland is a society that values art, its artists, its tradition, heritage and culture and the primary role that artists have in the crafting of our society."

We've all turned to various forms of art during the lockdown. Be it by creating it or through experiencing it. To pass the time and help us cope we have turned to films, music, games, painting, writing and a whole host of other creative endeavours. We have always used this content in our spare time but now more than ever has it come to the forefront. The struggles of our present circumstances have become a central theme within this art. Musicians have been live streaming performances from their homes. Documentaries about other pandemics are trending. Even here at the West Cork Arts Centre, we have provided an online exhibition for artists to exhibit and viewers to experience their work safely.

Art has provided so much for us recently so to see the government give back to Art with this package is, in my opinion, encouraging news. The future of Art, the government, and the everyday lives of people seem intertwined as we continue the process of reopening the country. I hope we can all push through the struggles to come and come out better for it. Soon enough I'll be back in the Art Centre with a renewed appreciation for the world of art and even more so for the people that contribute to it.

For more information on the National Campaign for the Arts go to http://ncfa.ie/ and follow #savethearts #paytheartist #nationalcampaignforthearts 

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