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April 9, 2020

Are you an artist who’s been affected by COVID-19? There’s a survey for that

The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) has launched an online survey to calculate how much the crisis will cost the creative industry.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Main image: APY Gallery Adelaide


Multi-disciplinary artist Emmaline Zanelli was living in Melbourne when the COVID-19 crisis hit.

After being stood down from the casual hospitality jobs that supplemented her income as a photographer and student, she moved back to Adelaide.


NAVA wants to hear from you if you’re in the arts sector and have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Visit the website to participate.

Emmaline also earned a smaller income from commission photography jobs with design agencies and private clients (like us!) and now works on these projects from a trestle table in her boyfriend’s garage, instead of her Melbourne sharehouse.

All her exhibitions have been postponed and her production timelines are skewed.

Emmaline is currently in the process of acquiring JobSeeker payments and believes she won’t realise the total financial loss of COVID-19 for at least four to eight weeks.

She tells CityMag there are probably “many people” in the arts who – like her – are not sure how their finances, their careers, their lives will be impacted either in the short or long term.

“I will try my best to take this period in fortnightly blocks, trying to keep my projects on the go just at a different pace and maybe in different shapes,” she says over email.

Emmaline Zanelli, taken in 2017 by Baxter William.

“It’s too much to try to predict how I should be working in order to best adapt to the next six months because I don’t know what that will look like.

“I don’t know the extent to which my career will be financially affected yet.”

The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) launched an online survey to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact professionals and the arts sector as a whole.

The survey can be filled out by organisations or lone practitioners and the results will be provided to government departments to better understand the impact of the virus, and to create appropriate policy with funding to mitigate losses.

NAVA believes the majority of Australia’s 50,000 practicing professional artists and 600,000 industry workers will not be covered by the Federal Government’s stimulus package because of “casual working arrangements” or their employer’s cashflows.

“Unless today’s sitting of Parliament resolves these issues, the creative industry risks collapse,” said executive director of NAVA Esther Anatolitis in a statement this week.

“The industry has been united and consistent in making that clear.”

NAVA is encouraging Australia’s creatives to use hashtag #CreateAustraliasFuture to amplify the need for more adequate funding, with individuals like contemporary artist Sally Smart, artistic director Julia Zemiro and theatre personality John Bell speaking directly to the federal government on the issue.

The Bureau of Communications and Arts Research released a working paper in October 2018 that stated the value of the arts sector to Australia’s gross domestic product grew from $86 billion in 2008-09 to$111.7 billion in the 2016-17 financial year.

“[That’s] six times the size of the aviation industry, employing substantially more people than mining, and with several interdependent industries whose success relies on ours, including hospitality and tourism,” executive director of West Australian Ballet Jessica Machin is quoted as saying in the NAVA statement.

In an attempt to examine the personal and cultural effects of the coronavirus on smaller organisations, NAVA’s survey asks a range of emotional and monetary questions, from “are you and your colleagues okay?” to “what is the total financial loss (in $) of this impact?”

Emmaline could not complete the survey as it asks for hard figures and “I am not sure of these numbers yet.”

Despite this she is not letting the crisis completely quash her artistic practice and has applied for an Arts SA Innovating Practice grant, which is available to artists looking to upgrade technology and equipment to assist in adapting their arts practice to online presentation.

The grant will allow Emmaline to continue a current arts project involving her grandmother.

“[Because] social distancing recommendations and restrictions make this methodology impossible as she is in a high-risk group, I have applied for funds to enable me to buy equipment to facilitate me to continue filming and audio recording but from remote locations, so I can stay physically isolated,” Emmaline says.

“It sounds weird at this stage, but I’m motivated to try it.”

Follow Emmaline on Instagram.

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