Arts Council Establish Advisory Group for Covid-19 Crisis

The Board of the Arts Council has established a short-term Advisory Group to identify ways to deal with the Covid-19 Crisis.

The Council has brought together a number of leading expert voices from the arts and other sectors including public health, economics and media. Members of the advisory group include filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson; theatre and opera producer Anne Clarke; chairperson of the National Campaign for the Arts, Angela Dorgan; Director of NCAD, Sarah Glennie; musician Martin Hayes; Director of the Arts Council, Maureen Kennelly; journalist Fintan O’Toole; and public health specialist Dr. Gabriel Scally. The group will also obtain independent input from economist Alan Gray.

The Advisory Group will meet several times over the next few weeks. Their discussions will inform a report from the Arts Council on specific measures and government supports needed to help the arts sector survive the current crisis.

Arts Council Chair, Prof. Kevin Rafter, who will also chair the advisory group, said: “The Board of the Arts Council recognises the scale of the crisis in the arts sector. We have asked the advisory group to consider the huge challenges now facing artists and arts orgnisations. We know additional funding will be needed but we also want to consider what other steps are required to ensure the sector survives this crisis.’

The group has been asked to address the following questions:

• What is the scale of the emergency financial package that the arts sector will require from government?
• How arts organisations can emerge from lockdown, implementing social distancing protocols as necessary?
• How the Arts Council can help the sector to adapt to new and constantly-shifting ways of working and engaging with the public?
• How to reassure the public that it is safe to return to public attendance and participation?

Kevin Rafter added: “The specific nature of arts practice means that the arts sector is especially affected by the Covid-19 crisis. The arts has always been about bringing people together to engage with the work of artists – physical distancing presents a real challenge. We need to find new ways to allow work to be made and presented while acknowledging the significant loss of box office income.’

The Covid-19 Crisis has had a profound impact on all areas of Irish life.

The scale of the impact on the arts sector has been captured in two recent surveys of arts organisations and artists undertaken by the Arts Council in the last few weeks.

Analysis from the Department of Public Expenditure (April 2020) has identified the ‘arts & entertainment’ as one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.

Arts Council Director Maureen Kennelly commented: “We are very appreciative of the time and care that artists and organisations have given to completing recent surveys. The results from these show a colossal level of disruption to activity. Enormous emotional and financial investment has gone into planning those events and the sense of shock and worry is palpable. For a profession that is already characterised by a high degree of insecurity, this added layer of uncertainty is deeply unsettling.”

The surveys show that 19,000 days of paid work have been lost to the end of April, with some 2.4 million members of the public losing out on artistic experiences. By the end of May, 55,000 people of all ages will have missed taking part in workshops and classes. An estimated income of €6.4 million of income will be lost from cancelled activities to the end of May.

The advisory group will meet for the first time tomorrow – Friday 8 May.

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