Eastern Riverina Arts has joined organisations around the country in calling for more government support for an industry spiralling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Arts workers who are facing financial insecurity in the wake of increasingly restrictive public safety measures, including the successive bans on gatherings, say they need more support from all levels of government.
Eastern Riverina Arts executive director Tim Kurylowicz said the local arts and creative sectors, already struggling after the summer bushfires, had "just been decimated by coronavirus".
"For a lot of practitioners, they've invested years building up the client base ... I think for a lot of people this will push them to the brink," Dr Kurylowicz said.
Eastern Riverina Arts, which works with eight local government areas including Wagga and is the region's peak arts body, has asked councils to consider rolling over unspent funds from cancelled events and cultural activities into their budgets for the next financial year.
"We still think that's essential. And we really hope that councils do. You know, we've sent that to all the councils and many of the councillors and we hope that they will institute it," Dr Kurylowicz said.
"But we also recognise that this is a totally unprecedented situation. And, you know, there are going to be more critical services that need urgent funding as well."
Wagga City Council's community director Janice Summerhayes acknowledged COVID-19 was having a substantial impact on local arts and creative industries and encouraged the postponing and rescheduling of events to later, more feasible dates.
Ms Summerhayes said the council was supporting community members to apply for its annual grants program, applications for which close on May 4.
"Council is continuing to engage with Eastern Riverina Arts and the arts community as we manage this crisis together. Council is reviewing its budgets and capability as we respond to this crisis and what will be required for the future," she said.
"Also, council staff are progressing with the draft cultural plan that will progress to council after the public exhibition period. This plan is a blue print for the future to support the long term viability of the arts and creative industries locally and regionally."
Many arts bodies and practitioners are requesting emergency relief funding from the government to help sustain what Dr Kurylowicz called an "ecosystem of creative workers".
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance communications director Mark Phillips supported the call for arts-specific funding, particularly for the live performance industry.
"There's been assistance given to the airline industry ... our argument would be that the arts and entertainment industry, because of the nature of it ... has all ground to a halt," Mr Phillips said.
For every cancelled event there is a web of people left without work, from creative producers through sound technicians to caterers, as well as the artists themselves, many of whom are freelancers or contractors living gig to gig.
"At the very start of the public health measures to combat coronavirus, virtually the very first people affected were the arts industry and it'll probably be the last section of the community that comes back to work," Mr Phillips said.
"While we welcome yesterday's subsidy announcement which will help to keep some people on the payroll, the industry requires a lot more support than that if it's going to get off the ground."
The industry also employs thousands of casuals to sell tickets and popcorn at cinemas or usher people to their seats in concert venues.
"[They] change jobs quite regularly, because it's low paying work. With the qualification of 12 months before you can actually qualify as a casual [to access the federal government's new JobKeeper payments] that's going to squeeze all of them," Mr Phillips said.
Dr Kurylowicz said the the arts would be critical to the Wagga community's coronavirus recovery.
"The silver lining is that a lot of local creative people are using this time already to create really exciting new work online, collaborating and also sort of scheming for really cool things to do afterwards," he said.
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