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“A crisis like no other”: Artists lead calls for vaccination

These artists reported a 72 per cent decline in sales. Of those working in arts organisations, 44 per cent said they were working reduced hours and 38 per cent had lost contracts.

Double vaccinated Wendy Sharpe and the mural the public has not seen in a gallery.

Double vaccinated Wendy Sharpe and the mural the public has not seen in a gallery.Credit:Edwina Pickles

About two-thirds of arts organisations said exhibitions had been cancelled or postponed.

Half of arts workers reported significant or extreme impacts on their mental health. Only one in five had been able to access JobSeeker payments over the same period.

Mimi Crowe, NAVA’s co-director said: “We have never seen the sector in crisis like we do right now. Getting to an 80 per cent vaccination rate and opening borders is an important first step for the visual arts. We want to see artists travelling interstate and overseas again, making and exhibiting new work and showcasing the best of Australia’s art.”

This year Cross’s major solo show went ahead without him being present but his practice has since closed down.

“The arts industry doesn’t have observable, measurable, outputs and people’s sense of self is so tightly bound up often with what they do. And so, the impact is not so codified but there has been a significant decline in mental health,” he says.

Nithiyendran has finished making work for an exhibition due to open in mid-October, at which time NSW is expected to reach a milestone of 70 per cent double jab vaccinations.

“It’s still anxiety-provoking,” he says. “My framework is really one of
acceptance, we just need to be positive.”

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Sharpe’s commissioned mural for the Sydney Jewish Museum was meant to be open to the public for two months before being torn down.

“Seeing something online is a totally different experience,” Sharpe says. “It’s helpful, but it cannot replace the real thing.” Vaccination is the answer, she says.

Penelope Benton, co-director of NAVA, said artists have had to find work in other areas to survive, and more than half remain worried about the future.

NAVA has asked the federal government to fund the opening up of the charity Support Act to visual arts or contribute to its Artists’ Benevolent Fund, which has helped 146 artists with cash grants since opening in 2020.

“The gap in the visual arts sector will be felt for years, and we fear a generation of artists may be lost,” she said.

“The Federal Government has provided arts funding support, but the visual arts has been largely excluded due to ineligibility. Artists don’t necessarily have regular incomes, so being able to show financial loss or downturn can be difficult. We need to reopen so artists can get back to work and start on the slow road of recovery.”

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