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COVID-19 updates for the Visual Arts sector

By 20/03/2020June 3rd, 2020News

In its latest post, the Arts Council includes Sectoral advice and support from organisations such as Theatre Forum, Dance Ireland, Irish Writers Centre, Create, Contemporary Music Centre, First Music Contact, and the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network. There is no specific information available from the Visual Arts sector.

In such exceptional times, of all the sectors, the Arts is one that will suffer enormously and beyond repair. The decisions that the Government and its branches have taken already and will take in the coming weeks will decide the future and the life of many artists and organisations. As with many Arts organisations, our programming has been affected enormously, with exhibitions, book launches, and meetings abroad cancelled. It is still hard to tell how far the damage will reach. By now, we keep working on securing our EU projects, modifying schedules, and planning for long-term projects.

What should Visual Artists do right now?

  1. First of all, stay informed about the situation from reliable sources. Remain home as often as possible, go out as little as possible, and wash your hands as often as needed. Reach out for help, and offer to help others.
  2. We urge all photographers and Visual Artists that haven’t already submitted the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, to fill in and post the FREE POST form. Also, please refer to the Governmental measures to further support your income, and apply to Job Seekers Allowance.
  3. Apply immediately to the crowdfunding project that Civic Theatre has created, the Artist Relief Fund – currently on hold for applications as demand has surged well above supply. It aims to provide financial relief to Irish artists experiencing lost income related to COVID-19 with small grants of up to €500, paid on a first-come, first-served basis.
  4. Draw down any grant received from the Arts Council, Culture Ireland, or any Local authority grant aid. In its recent post, the Arts Council listed a numbers of measures in aid of artists and organisations. The Arts Council will honour all existing funding commitments, and allow grantees to draw down 90 percent of their funding to allow them to fulfil their own business commitments, especially to artists. Culture Ireland is offering the same commitment. Local authorities may be able to assist you in this same way, but we have no information to date about this.
  5. Reduce your expenditure if possible, and if your circumstances allow for it, be proactive in sourcing revenue. A good example: benefit from your online presence (website, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) to sell your artworks, special editions, publications, or even provide services such as online tutoring and workshops – one on one or in groups (there are lots of options to do this like, Google Hangouts and Zoom. We recommend Jitsi Meet). Be as entrepreneurial and creative as possible.
  6. Complete the questionnaire prepared by National Campaign for the Arts so the State can account for your financial loss within the Arts Sector.
  7. Read the new measures by the Dept of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that will affect you if you fall ill, especially as a self-employed, freelance worker. The personal rate of Illness Benefit will increase from €203 per week to €305 per week for a maximum of 2 weeks medically-required self-isolation or for the full duration of absence from work following a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
  8. People remote working can claim tax relief for lighting, heat and broadband. Check if this applies to you.

You should be aware of the Department of Foreign Affairs travel advice to specific regions and note that the Arts Council Travel and Training Award is closed until further notice.


Given the current circumstances, we would like to propose the Arts Council to consider two emergency measures to support the sector in the mid to long term:

  • Create a new funding strand for Arts organisations who wish to provide access to their programming exclusively via the Internet.
  • Allocate a considerable part of the budget for 2020-2021 to support directly all artists and Arts professionals affected by the emergency. This is not #PayTheArtist but #PayTheArts

If you would  like to share your recommendations to the Arts Council to support the Arts and specifically the Visual Arts sector, post your ideas below or email


In reference to this considerations proposed, let’s note the UK response:
– The Arts Council England promises £160m to ‘buoy public’ during lockdown.
20 Million financial support for artists, creative practitioners and freelancers.
And also Germany’s response:
Germany Has Rolled Out a Staggering €50 Billion Aid Package for Artists and Cultural Businesses
The Arts Newspaper gathers financial support to the Arts sector in various countries.

**Update 1 April**
The Arts Council has included Visual Artists Ireland to the COVID-19 post, although the post itself does not inform beyond VAI’s services.