The Delta variant has wreaked havoc on almost every industry, and the arts sector is no exception. Now, visual artists and art workers across the country are appealing to their fellow Australian's with a clarion call to get vaccinated ASAP.
Earlier this month, the Australia Council for the Arts launched #TakeYourSeats - a campaign mirroring the music industry's #VaxTheNation initiative. The campaign speaks on behalf of the artists and creative workers who have lost all of their work due to extended lockdowns and necessary, but crippling restrictions. By now it's clear that the only pathway out of this mess and safely back to work is if each state, and Australia as a whole, meet our vaccination targets - and quickly.
CEO at Australia Council for the Arts, Adrian Collette explained the impetus behind the campaign. “The vaccination targets set out in the national plan are vital to reopening – and staying open with minimal interruptions and disruption in the future," he said. "Our role is to advocate for the cultural and creative industries, and this campaign, calls on all Australians to take their vaccination seat, so that we reopen, recover and rebuild from the disruption of the pandemic."
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In a similar move to #TakeYourSeats, the National Association for the Visual Arts established its own campaign encouraging Australians to get the jab. It's called 'Sit For An Artist', both a play on the phrase that means to pose for a portrait and also referencing the act of sitting down to be vaxxed. So far the campaign has included footage of Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman, Thea Perkins, Wendy Sharpe and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran being vaccinated after a monologue of how our efforts fortify the arts community in Australia.
Now more recently, new research conducted by the National Association for the Visual Arts has granted us a snapshot of how individual artists are faring financially during this time - and needless to say, the situation is dire.
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What the research clearly tells us is that 81 percent of visual artists earned less than $25,000 in the 2020-21 financial year, while half of the participants in NAVA's survey reported an income decline of up to 100%. Not only that, but a meagre 21% of visual artists were eligible for the federal governments JobSeeker payment scheme in 2020-21.
According to the ABC, despite contributing $17 billion to the national GDP in 2018-19, the arts sector has been significantly overlooked in the governments economic response to Covid-19. When compared to other industries like aviation and construction, who received $2.7 billion and $14 billion each, respectively, the arts was allocated substantially less funding - 30 times less to be exact. It's also important to note, that most of this funding ends up going towards the performing arts, be it the music industry or film and television, before the visual arts.
Another force at play is that with galleries closed for a large portion of 2021-22, 44 percent of visual artists have lost out on a huge chunk of their income from art sales, with the amount of art being sold falling by 72 percent.
As for those who work in universities, galleries and other art organisations, of which, many are employed on a casual basis or as contractors, 44 percent reported reduced working hours, while 38 percent lost contracts. With all of this in mind, it's no wonder that more than half of the artists and art workers involved in NAVA's research have described severe battles with mental health.
So if you haven't already and have the capacity to do so, please, for the love of the arts, book your vaccination immediately.
You can watch Australia Council for the Arts' #TakeYourSeats campaign video, below.
Find the official #SitForAnArtist campaign video, here.