It feels a bit unthinkable now – that maybe just two or three weeks ago we all lived in a world where Corona virus – or COVID-19, as everyone knows it by now, was largely unknown.
How quickly times change. Suddenly, this new flu-like virus that started in Wuhan (China), quickly took over Italy and is now taking over the rest of the world!
And while it seems the world has gone into some kind of overdrive regarding the virus – and the constant reminders of medical advice, hourly news update, etc, upon us, it is also good to recognise that the sooner the arts community can hold some semblance of normality, the quicker it will return to what it was earlier on this year.
So here are some basics everyone should know and understand, especially considering this virus will impact the next few months - and potentially even years - not to mention a possible recession, and other potential second wave viruses, which could hit another winter/summer season.
The State of Emergency & things to come:
With Victoria being in a current state of emergency, effective from the 16 March, the fact that most events, shows, theatres, museums, galleries, zoos, etc. are all cancelled comes as no surprise. What is a surprise that so much of theatre, performance,artists, etc. who have found inventive ways of performing and offering up their art to the wider population, in exchange for donations or fame. One great example is the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra who have offered up one of their performances to their online audiences. Similarly, other writers, such as Catherine Deveny have also offered online classes of writing in exchange for donations, but broadly these are on an individual, ad hoc basis.
Non-government support for the arts includes:
Support Act Launching an appeal to raise $20 million, to assist and give some level of crisis relief to artists/performers, road crews, etc
I Lost my Gig Set up by the Australian Music Industry Network was set up to help everyone working in the sector
Theatre Network Australia (TNA) & Live Performance Australia (LPA) have started lobbying to get an arts Stimulus package from the government
The union for much of the arts, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is calling for targeted industry support from the government and to conduct a survey on the impact of the virus on the media, entertainment and arts sectors.
Diversity Arts Australia Collecting data to help lobby for culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) creatives affected by cancellations and postponements in the creative industries.
As one part of the larger national $1.7billion economic survival package, the Victorian Government has announced $500 million to establish a Business Support Fund to assist small to medium businesses most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Victorian Government will work with the Victorian Chamber, Australian Hotels Association and Ai Group to distribute the fund to help businesses survive and keep people in work. Find out more here.
Federal government and centre-link payments:
Measures announced by the Prime Minister and Treasurer under the government’s $66 billion COVID-19 package offers support for workers and organisations in the cultural and creative sector. Many casuals and sole traders in the cultural and creative sector face loss of income for a significant period.
To claim online, people who do not already deal with Services Australia will need to set up their myGov account, call to verify their identity and get a link to their Centrelink online account. Find out more at myGov.
In the long term…
While no one is certain how bad or how long the COVID-19 season will go – it has already had a damaging effect on the arts, and it is up to everyone in the sector to improve, support and reinvent the arts, as much as possible – in order to have a new beginning once COVID-19 is behind us.
For more information on COVID-19 updates and the arts, see here