Update from NAVA's Co-Directors

NAVA continues to raise the profile of the impacts of lockdowns and restrictions on the visual arts and craft. 

Image: Kent Morris, Ancestral Connections - The Ties That Bind, 2021, Garrong Park, Brunswick, Victoria. Commissioned by the City of Moreland. Painted by Apparition Media. Image courtesy of the artist and Vivien Anderson Gallery.

In the wake of 2020, which started with devastating bushfires and then moved into a global pandemic, we had all hoped for a brighter 2021. But here we are again with lockdowns in NSW, VIC and ACT and increased restrictions across the country cancelling exhibitions, projects and events.

We know this is a difficult time for our sector and we continue to raise the profile of the impacts of lockdowns and restrictions on the visual arts and craft.

Survey

We are undertaking a survey to shine light on the current state of the visual arts. This survey is open until 5 September and we encourage you to respond and circulate it to your networks. The more responses we get, the better we can communicate with government about the status of our sector.

Raising the profile of the visual arts nationally

We are staying connected to the broader Australian arts sector. We continue to work collaboratively as part of the national arts narrative. But we also know the visual arts need greater visibility. We continue to plan and invest in initiatives that will raise awareness of the breadth and complexity of Australia’s visual arts and craft sector. We will soon launch a national social media campaign showcasing artists and the visual arts sector in support of the national vaccination campaign. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks.

Impacts of lockdowns and restrictions

Artists’ experiences with COVID support payments

We have heard from many artists about difficulties with applying for COVID support payments which include:

  • Artists don't earn enough to meet the threshold to register for GST which is a requirement for some of the COVID support payments, in SA for example.
  • While artists in Sydney can get a micro business grant where they will receive $1,500 a fortnight until the lockdown is lifted, the same support is not extended to interstate artists with exhibitions cancelled in New South Wales.
  • COVID-19 disaster payments in Victoria are not automatically carried on from the last lockdown, and artists must reapply but weren’t notified to do so.
  • Can't enter the equivalent of hours lost into the form.
  • There have been delays in receiving disaster payments.
  • Many have received conflicting advice from Centrelink about reporting freelance income to JobKeeper. 
  • Artists reporting to JobKeeper as a sole trader through the app are paid less as they cannot claim costs they would if they filled in profit and loss statements.
  • Profit and loss statements may or may not apply to artists and the assessment of whether it is appropriate is confusing and not widely communicated.

NAVA is advocating for consistency between Centrelink and the ATO in the way fluctuations in artists’ incomes are understood, as well as consistency across federal and state support. We recognise that artists work across state lines. An artist in South Australia may well be impacted by a cancellation in New South Wales. NAVA views this as a shared responsibility and calls on the Federal Government to invest in vital crisis support for the visual arts.


Support Act and the Artists’ Benevolent Fund

NAVA has received some generous donations in the last few months, unfortunately it is not quite enough to reopen the Artists’ Benevolent Fund.

On 10 August 2021 the Australian Government announced $20m in additional funding for Support Act to provide crisis relief grants for the music and live performing arts sector. While this is welcome support for those arts industries, NAVA wrote to the Minister for the Arts expressing our concern that the visual art sector was excluded, despite our direct requests for urgent crisis support.  

Over the last couple of months, NAVA has met with various representatives from the Office of the Arts, as well as Minister Fletcher’s office seeking either Federal Government request for Support Act to include visual arts in its remit or provide an allocation to NAVA’s Artists’ Benevolent Fund to ensure visual artists and practitioners have immediate access to vital crisis funding.

Various government representatives have responded that artists and organisations are eligible for the federal and state-based COVID support payments and visual arts organisations are among the lowest applications to RISE. While we continue to pull together information and data to demonstrate to the government where the gaps are for the visual arts, NAVA is working on strategies to improve eligibility and access. Keep an eye out for our upcoming RISE online info session with the Office for the Arts (OFTA).


Organisations

NAVA has joined industry wide calls for a business interruption insurance scheme, underwritten by the government, to assist with the unexpected costs of rerouting travelling exhibitions, putting artworks in storage and honouring payments to artists and employees following the cancellation or closure of exhibitions and events due to COVID-19 public health restrictions.

As with what we’re hearing from artists, the impact to galleries and organisations are largely anecdotal accounts which have been difficult to demonstrate to government without statistics to back it up. We encourage you to contribute to NAVA’s Survey to assist in the collection of more thorough data from the sector.

In the meantime, Support Act offers a consultative service for artists, arts workers and managers across the industry, including the visual arts. The Manager Support Hotline provides managers with the opportunity to speak confidentially to a senior counsellor from the Wellbeing Helpline, which is delivered in partnership with AccessEAP, a leading not-for-profit Employee Assistance Program provider with close to 30 years experience in mental health and workplace wellbeing.

In addition to this vital and urgent work, the small NAVA team are hard at work planning for a brighter tomorrow. We know it can feel like we are in an endless loop. But we aren’t. We are still growing. Still creating. Still thriving. At NAVA we are preparing the soil and planting seeds for a healthier, more vibrant visual arts sector in the future. We can’t wait until we can all be together again.

Be kind. Go well. Make art.


Mimi Crowe and Penelope Benton
Co-Directors