As we come to the close of yet another year in which we have all faced the challenges set by COVID, the VAI team would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with your dreams and desires.
We will be closing for the Christmas break at 4pm on Thursday 23rd of December and reopening on the 4th of January. The ebulletin will be paused during that time but Jobs & Opportunities and Exhibitions & Events listings will be available on the website. We’ve also just uploaded several webinar recordings to the Members Area of the website, including amazing artist talks with Aideen Barry, Ciaran O Keefe, Jennifer Mehigan, Joy Gerrard, Miriam O’Connor, Richard Forrest and Anushiya Sundaralingam to name a few! You’ll also find new Lifelong Learning recordings on The Do’s And Don’ts Of Developing Creative Proposals, Communicating Your Practice Online, How to Make Video Content for Social Media with a Mobile Phone. We also have a webinar Introducing the Centre Culturel Irlandais Residency, which will be of particular interest to members applying for the VAI Residency at CCI, Paris. All of these recordings and more are available to VAI Members to view anytime here.
It has been quite a 12 months for all of us, but we have to look back on the year and recognise that, even with the great challenges, we have had a year filled with many important moments. At its most essential level, we have continued to grow in terms of our membership ending 2021 with 2,800 members, compared to 2,600 in 2020, and as we look back to the very recent past with 1,300 members in 2017. We continue to be grateful to our members and the trust that they place in us during the year.
It has also been quite a year with VAI Events. We had planned to deliver around 110 events spread across the country. However, the total number of events came to an astonishing 193 individual events. We are also delighted that Get Together took place this year, albeit online. With some technical challenges, it was great to “see” so many familiar faces and to have a chance to catch up. It would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the local area arts officers who we have worked with during the year. They have been very supportive of our dream to see artists’ learning and supports spread across the country and we end the year with a number of new counties approaching us to engage with artists in their area.
The Help Desk and Advocacy have played a strong role this year. Among the many activities, we had the survey of Artists Incomes and Workplaces. We have been looking at the findings throughout the year and are now looking forward to a meeting with the Arts Council to discuss further efforts that are needed to ensure that artists are able to gain income and acknowledgement. We have also been providing data and information to the Department throughout the year. This is particularly important with the design and delivery of the new Basic Income for Artists and Art Workers Scheme. Meeting with the team charged with its delivery, we have been able to discuss the living experience of artists here in Ireland, and through our European networks, we have been able to look at the realities of similar schemes around Europe. A recent public consultation gave us the opportunity to outline the experience of Visual Artists and a synthesis of our research. In particular we provided ideas on how making a scheme similar to the CNUAS available to all artists and art workers could work, and will deliver a full submission in the next days. We look forward to January when the Department will publish the full information about the criteria and roll out of the pilot, in the meantime some notes on what we know so far here.
We also have new faces who joined us during the year. We welcomed Deirdre O’Mahony to the Board of Trustees, and Alf Desire to the office team in the role of VAI Services. As many of you are aware the team continue to work remotely, though we did have a chance to see each other together in our new office space. This was an emotional time for all of us. We continue to be grateful to the Board of Trustees for their support and for the many words of encouragement that we received during the year from artists whose lives that we have touched.
In speaking of the new office space, we continue our work in the development of conversations with a wide range of institutions and organisations concerning the provision of workspaces for artists and also the expansion of commissioning and programming opportunities. This is particularly important as we can see that without specific attention, the number of exhibitions and other such opportunities will not cope with the demand if organisations do not find more ways of engaging with their audiences, creating more opportunities for artists. We can see some who have started on that journey, but there is still a lot of work to be done around the country.
Warmest wishes from all of us here in VAI, and thank you for being a part of our year!