Update on Arts Council response, and clarification on Covid-19 Scheme (Press Statement – Arts Council)

The following Open Letter from the Board of the Arts Council was released on April 8th, 2020.

VAI is in constant communications with both Arts Councils and the Department of Culture, Heritage & Gaeltacht regarding the range of supports needed at this time across the visual arts sector, as well as looking at the medium and long term impacts of the crisis. Through this open communications, we are able to offer insight into the areas of concern expressed by individual artists through our Help Desks and Advice services, and provide answers back to visual artists through our normal channels. We will continue to do this, and as we receive updates, we will continue to update the advisory note linked to on the front of our website, as well as through our eBulletins and our online services. As always, our advice and support services are available to all visual artists by phone, email, website, and most recently during our online events. Through these we are assisting visual artists in their understanding of what is available, and offer guidance when they experience difficulties.

Press Statement

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April 8th, 2020

Dear colleagues,

The Board of the Arts Council met yesterday afternoon (April 7th) to discuss the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 Crisis.

We know that this is a deeply worrying and challenging time for you. We are aware of the difficult situation in which you find yourselves and we wanted to reassure you that we are listening to you.

Short-term funding supports
(1) As you know, since March 12th we have fast-tracked the payment of up to 90% of funding to organisations and individuals. In doing so, we strongly encouraged funded organisations to prioritise payments to Irish artists with whom they had hoped to work, as far as they possibly can. We know that this is an especially difficult time for the freelance sector. We want to support artists and we also greatly appreciate the help of these organisations with this work.

(2) With freelance artists also in mind, we focused on getting bursary decisions made quickly and funds distributed, across all art forms.

(3) Additionally, you will also be aware that the government has a range of measures for employers, employees and self-employed people, which are available across all industry sectors. Our colleagues in Theatre Forum held a very informative Zoom meeting to discuss issues around this and the recording is available here.

(4) In relation to the Arts Council Covid-19 Scheme, we devised this scheme as an additional short-term support to make funds available to freelance artists.

With 109 fully submitted applications already received, the objective remains to have a reduced assessment time to get these funds distributed as quickly as possible.

We know it is not suitable for all artists however, we are in the process of issuing additional clarifications to make it relevant to as many artists as possible. Having received feedback from the sector, please note:

• Artists across all art forms are eligible to apply for the scheme;
• Ideally proposals should have some form of online component however, proposals without an online/digital component will not be disadvantaged but proposals must demonstrate public engagement;
• Proposals can be completed up to the end of 2020;
• Where appropriate, work will be disseminated on the Arts Council website and on its social media platforms;
• All work generated will remain in the copyright of the artist who creates the work.

We greatly appreciate the time and care that individuals and organisations have taken to articulate your concerns and to describe the specific challenges that you are facing. Please continue to share these with us.

Planning for additional supports
We are continuing work to determine what funds can be repurposed from our current and future spending plans.

In parallel, on your behalf, we are continuing to communicate with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to identify additional supports – financial and otherwise – that will be required in order for us to safeguard the sector.

The information provided in the organisation survey responses – and those currently being provided by individual artists – will be hugely helpful in making this case.

As well as your own care and concern for your loved ones, we know that there is a huge sense of disappointment and upset about events that will not now happen. We know how much energy and commitment you invest into your work and we want to support you in every way possible to reschedule and recalibrate your plans.

Working with you, we are confident that we can ensure the sector comes through this difficult time and that Irish society will have a heightened awareness of the power of the arts to help and support people. Please bear with us as we build the strongest possible case on your behalf.

We hope that you and your families keep safe and well. Thank you for your continued support.

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