1,243 Voices: Live Performance Artists’ Hopes for a Post-COVID Future
IssueThe arts and post-pandemic transformations: Societal changes, artists, and the arts
Jerwood Arts (U.K.)
During the pandemic, 1,243 emerging performing artists applying to a unique granting program from Jerwood Arts completed a qualitative survey and provided “a vision and ideas for the future of their artistic or creative practice”. The 33 successful applicants received mentoring support and £20,000 (about $35,000 CAD) toward adapting their approaches to making and sharing live work. This report analyzes all applicants’ responses, which “reveal how artists’ working lives could be improved, painting a powerful picture of an overarching desire for a more humane, empathetic, and collaborative [arts] sector.”
Program applicants expressed a desire for:
- Improved funding and support for individuals, with an attempt to reduce the “significant disparity in both opportunities and outcomes” for diverse artists, as well as to improve the underrepresentation “of people from marginalised backgrounds in positions of power and influence”.
- Better working conditions and quality of life, in an effort to reduce the fragility and unpredictability of artists’ working lives through “better and more stable pay for artists’ work” as well as ways of offsetting “the risk of freelance work with more consistent, reliable forms of income”.
- Greater recognition of the value of the arts to society, with broader understanding of how “the arts play an essential role in society, culture, and wellbeing”, thereby ensuring that fewer artists feel that their work is “undervalued and taken for granted”. In the words of one respondent, this could result in “a world where creativity is as important as maths and science”.
The report notes that “a significant number of artists who responded to the survey characterised the sector pre-Covid as individualistic, competitive, and even cutthroat”. During the pandemic, “what many artists seemed to appreciate most about the changed culture of the sector … wasn’t any specific actions or initiatives but the greater sense of kindness and humanity in the way that people from all parts of the sector have treated each other more generally”, something that they hoped would continue post-pandemic.
The report concludes that artists’ hopes for the future include a “belief that collective action is an indispensable tool for ensuring that there are equal opportunities for all, especially those who have historically been marginalised, underrepresented, or treated unfairly within the sector because of their background, circumstances, or identity”.