THE ARTS: AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE
The Arts provide an essential service. During these troubled and isolated times, their contribution to our individual and collective wellbeing has never been more evident.
We have all turned to books, music, poetry, performance, comedy, film, and art for solace, comfort, and distraction. These creations offer a critical means by which we can begin to process, understand and integrate this crisis into our lives.
If the Arts have been an anchor against despair, they also fire up our imagination. They give us hope. They can inspire us. They can motivate us to create a better future ‘after COVID’.
Australia’s governments have shown collective leadership in their response to the COVID-19 crisis. They have demonstrated that it is only through non-partisan, collaborative action by all parts of society, and by taking advice from scientists and other experts (such as our very own CLIMARTE Ambassador, Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty) that we can hope to meet such dangerous challenges.
We may all be in this together, but COVID’s impacts – economic and social – have been uneven and harsh. The COVID crisis has amplified and intensified underlying problems. Governments in Australia are yet to recognise this fully.
We all know this crisis has come at a great cost. Those in precarious employment normally face the additional problems of anxiety about the future – paying the rent, putting food on the table, clothing and educating their kids. Those dependent on the wealth of the society around them – on audiences and consumers of their work – are in the same boat.
With the closure of key arts institutions – museums, galleries, theatres, cinemas, bookshops, concert venues – those who depend on these, not just the ‘creators’ but all, from managers to cleaners, designers to sound technicians, are instantly and too often desperately more vulnerable than before.
We need to recognise the Arts are essential – not peripheral – to our collective wellbeing. If we as a society are to continue to rely on them, we must ensure secure and sufficient financial support for the sector and its many workers.
We must confront this immediate crisis, and together push for stronger government support for our sector. And we must also now champion more creative and sustainable ways of supporting the Arts when times improve. CLIMARTE will be pushing for such reforms.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one very important lesson. It’s that we’re all intimately connected on a global scale: humans, all other species, and the biosphere which we inhabit. It’s no longer enough to think global and act local because global is local.
That is something scientists have been telling us for decades. Yet the more we have measured our progress by the changing amount of economic transactions, the less we’ve been willing to acknowledge our dependence on the natural systems that govern life on this planet. Or to recognise our cultural reliance on them for our wellbeing.
This moment has made us recognise that we must choose the sort of future we want and need. Rebecca Solnit writes “The pandemic marks the end of an era and the beginning of another – one whose harshness must be mitigated by a spirit of generosity.” Policies to restart the economy and society must be fair, just, and ecologically sane.
As with COVID-19, so too with global warming – the other, larger crisis lurking in the background, yet just as urgent as the current pandemic, and one which requires mobilisation of the same scale.
If we are to have a chance of preparing for and reducing the impacts of the climate emergency those ‘re-start’ policies must be focused on urgently reducing our emissions. Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund says “If this recovery is to be sustainable – if our world is to become more resilient – we must do everything in our power to promote a green recovery. In other words, taking measures now to fight the climate crisis is not just a ‘nice-to-have’. It is a ‘must-have’ if we are to leave a better world for our children.”
In combination, these crises are a challenge for ingenuity and creativity, and at CLIMARTE we will also continue to focus on finding new ways to support artists and arts institutions so that together we can generate new insights, mobilise new communities, create new practices, and use our collective influence to overcome those who block effective responses to the climate crisis.
These are hard times. Be kind to yourselves and to others. As artists, musicians, writers, and performers, you bear witness to what is happening. You can help us all get through these times by reflecting on what we’re experiencing and trying to make sense of our feelings and the changes to our environment and society. Your work can inspire us to transition to better ways of being. You can provide us with visions of new ways of living.
We can all create hope, but we need a certain type of hope. It’s not the hope of “she’ll be right mate;” it’s not the hope of “I wish things were different;” it’s not the hope of magical thinking or the belief that someone else will fix things. That’s not hope – it’s abandonment.
The hope we speak of is active, creative and wise. It’s hope born of courage and action, ‘an embrace of the unknown.’ With courage and action, humans have overcome daunting obstacles and achieved remarkable reforms: the abolition of slavery, the recognition of civil and human rights; the end of apartheid; the recognition of same sex marriage; the defeat of Fascism; the eradication of smallpox; the fall of the Berlin Wall; and even now, this somewhat chaotic but nevertheless massive and urgent global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hope lies in the knowledge that our future is not pre-determined. It is ours to fashion, and we look forward to shaping it with you.
CLIMARTE acknowledges that our work and projects take place on the unceded lands of First Nation peoples and pays its respect to Elders past, present and emerging.