Make it fashionable to care about artists and their needs just as much as the art that they create.
This is my response to the announcements that I have grown all too accustomed to over the last year — of dance studios, theatres, recording studios, art spaces, and performance spaces having to permanently close their doors due to lack of funding and near to zero revenue because of the world’s current health crisis:
This breaks my heart. In the last year so many performing artists have been out of work, but most have been excitedly awaiting the day when we can return to our studios & theatres to continue our creation and re-establish the beautiful exchange of ideas and energy that makes our work so fulfilling and important in the greater context of our world.
But now we are losing these spaces — that are places for fresh opportunities, personal breakthroughs, intense training, emotional reflection… that are safe havens away from the heaviness of the world, our second homes or sometimes our only homes.
It makes me just as frustrated as it makes me sad, because I am not sure when the consequences of allowing the art world to suffer these loses will be recognised. I do not know when it will be fashionable to care about artists and their needs just as much as the art that they create. And the sad fact is that I am not sure the immeasurable loss will ever be felt outside of the art community, because artists have historically pushed themselves to incredible extremes to make and share their work; if we have to dance in the streets during the dead of winter and risk getting injured… we will. For the sake of the art. For the sake of inspiring people to find purposeful and wonderful connection in an ever-shifting world. Because we know and we can see how much the world needs art. Artists are tenacious not always by nature but undoubtedly by circumstance — the circumstance of constantly having to prove that what they do matters and has an enormous impact on everyone. I do not know if the weight of situations like this will ever fully sink in for those who have the power to make funding the arts a priority, and that is a damn shame.
And I think there’s a sense that performing art companies and collectives that have achieved great success and garnered international praise for their work, are somehow protected against this kind of loss. But it becomes overwhelmingly clear just how little government funding and support there is when the ‘top dogs’ have to make the tough decision to close spaces.
I understand that against the backdrop of immense suffering that is happening all over the world, this may seem like a small drop in an ocean of innumerable worries… but I think if we reflect back on the last year we can clearly see how much art and entertainment has been the saving grace for our mental health and has even been the more ‘human’ way of digesting the heartbreak, frustration, and fear that have coloured our reality. For a very small few, losing their space may not impede on their ability to create, but for the majority of artists, having access to a studio, theatre, black box space, a ‘home base’ is the only viable way for them to create, release and express themselves and their ideas. Not to mention all of the young people who may be considering a career in the performing arts… where will they nurture their love for their craft?
I have tried to remain positive during the last year and have always focused more on things that I can be grateful for and acknowledging the personal privileges I have as an artist, but this isn’t about what I have access to… it’s about how the majority of the art world and consequently the whole world, will suffer because of the lack of financial support.
But we will find a way, because that’s what we’ve always done.
Take this as a reminder that all of the art that we consume on a daily basis is only possible if we fund and support the artists who create it and this initiative starts by pushing our governments to recognise and prioritise this issue.