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The COVID-19 Pandemic and Cultural Policies: The CERB and Independent Artists

Organized by Michael Maranda of the Art Gallery of York University

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May 20, 202020 May 2020

This panel was focused on a discussion on the issues raised by the CERB and the government response to the pandemic for professional artists. There is no doubt that the effect of the pandemic on artists has been immense — loss of exhibitions, sales, and other opportunities for earnings. However, for many artists, these revenue streams are offset by practice expenses. Living expenses are often earned from day-jobs and side-gigs, which means that, even if an artists’ studio-based income has not been reduced, their ability to pay the rent and put food on the table may have disappeared. The assumptions inherent in government programs devised to address the fiscal effects of the pandemic speak to how government policy envisions artists, and how that vision strays from the reality of the gig economy.

Kelly’s presentation in this panel provided “A Few Statistically-Informed Thoughts About Artists and CERB”, including statistics about the situation of artists in Canada and how their working lives are atypical compared with the bulk of the Canadian labour force.

Other panellists were Michael Maranda (assistant curator at the AGYU and lead researcher of the Waging Culture project), Jessa Agilo (founder of ArtsPond, Groundstory, and the I Lost My Gig project), Maegen Black (Director of the Canadian Crafts Federation), and  Konstantin Kilibarda (scholar and activist).

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Figure ES3: Median incomes of artists and all workers by municipal size