Arts Funding Speech
Check against delivery
For the arts in Ireland, the coronavirus pandemic created a new reality. Artists have never been more obviously needed and appreciated.
Bloomsday is upon us but it was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man rather than Ulysses that Joyce remarked that the object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. We have never been more in need of the beauty that artists can bring to our lives. They in turn have never been more in need of our support to help them in that task.
The response to our passion and yearning for art was the genesis of what could be termed a whole new genre – Pandemic Art. We watched actors perform new plays in the Abbey’s “Dear Ireland” programme, we watched artists put their heart and soul into “Ireland Performs” from their bedrooms and living rooms and we watched musicians perform live in “Courage” from deserted National Cultural Institutions.
We watched along with the whole world because the performances were online – and they have been phenomenally successful, with the number of virtual visitors raising dramatically. The National Archives for example saw an increase of over 50% to its online offerings. The National Library undertook a project to preserve websites from this unprecedented period of our history. The Arts Council’s Creative Schools programme has continued apace and the National Concert Hall Livestream Series continues and will, for example, present pianist Barry Douglas on Friday
These wonderful and life-enriching offerings remind us of how much we depend on our artists, arts organisations and culture workers and how deeply their work is woven into the texture of Irish life. In these strange times, we all face challenges. But there will be challenges for the arts sector long after the rest of us return to work. One obvious example will be persuading audiences to return to theatres and live music venues even after the danger has passed. The Arts Council has determined that an estimated 41,600 arts events will not proceed in 2020, 3.4 million audience attendances will be lost, as well as large audience numbers at street arts, parades and spectacle events.
During this period my Department has been engaged with stakeholders across the sector. Everyone in Government – the Taoiseach and I and our colleagues – have heard the message from our artists very clearly. Your voice has been heard.
We want to ensure that the artists who have brought us all the rich cultural content that has sustained us so well in recent months continues to be supported in the months ahead. We must protect the sector and ensure it emerges intact.
Therefore, I am very pleased to able to announce that the Government will allocate an additional €25m to the arts and culture sector this year. Of this, €20 million will be allocated to the Arts Council which has done an outstanding job over the period of the lockdown, directing funding to where it is most needed, to artists and arts organisations.
Among the measures that will be introduced will be new bursaries and commissions from the Arts Council, including supports for freelance artists and those looking to develop projects on a collaborative basis.
Funding of €5 million will be available for other measures to secure the future of key cultural and museum spaces and facilities throughout the country, as well as the production of high-quality digital art and on-line performances.
With this new funding, the arts sector will be stabilised in 2020, regional arts infrastructure secured, art will continue to be created, artists will be employed and the public will have access to the arts, sometimes in new and imaginative ways, as a source of solace, inspiration and communal.