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Australian Arts and Cultural Organisations respond to Coronavirus

Australian Arts and Cultural Organisations respond to Coronavirus
March 17, 2020

Many Australian arts and cultural organisation have advised of their response to the message delivered from the Australian Government on 13th March that “organised, non-essential gatherings should be limited to 500 people” as a means to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

While Home of the Arts (HOTA) on Queensland’s Gold Coast and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart have both announced that they will be closing in response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak others are choosing to remain open while taking precautions by suspending public events.

Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) remains open with exhibitions including the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN and the Collection, as well as the MCA Store, MCA Cafe, Graze restaurant and Members Lounge operating as normal. Ambassador, Young Ambassador, Member, Public and Access programs are continuing on a case-by-case basis, as the MCA follows the Government’s restricted attendance guidelines.  

MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor has advised in a statement “the health and wellbeing of our staff and visitors is of paramount importance. We are closely following NSW Government guidelines including increased cleaning regimes, observing self-isolation recommendations and restricting events to a maximum of 500 people. We are in daily contact with the Government and will respond to any new directives as they occur.

“In this extraordinary situation, the MCA will continue to support our staff and visitors, and we would like to extend our thoughts to all those directly affected by the pandemic. Museums can and should be places of refuge in times of crisis, and we will do all we can to offer this possibility to those who can continue to visit.”

The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), while remaining open to the public has stated that it is “prioritising the health and wellbeing of its visitors and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

As a precautionary measure, AGSA are suspending their public programs and members events until further notice. This includes daily guided tours, school visits, lunchtime talks, special interest group and private tours, and their First Fridays, Neo and Start programs.

AGSA believes in the important role that art can play in times of uncertainty and as such the Gallery’s café, Art Gallery Food + Wine, will also remain open, as does the Gallery Store.

AGSA is taking the following precautionary measures to reduce risk:

  • increasing cleaning on the premises, increased signage that encourages hygienic practices including handwashing and implemented additional hand sanitation stations through the Gallery.
  • encouraging staff to engage in social distancing, reducing physical contact when greeting others.
  • reinforcing standard employee health practices, including sending employees home and encouraging employees who are unwell to stay home if their demonstrated health symptoms could impact upon colleagues or visitors.

Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) has advised that they will remain open to the public and continue to welcome visitors into the art museum. Additionally, they have advised that their upcoming public programs will continue to run as planned.

SAM are however urging visitors to follow Victoria’s Department of Health & Health Services recommendations to stay at home if feeling unwell or if having been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) has released a statement observing that “In Australia, many arts events that have yet to be presented are either being downscaled, postponed, or cancelled. Many events that are in train – such as biennials, festivals, exhibitions, symposia, workshops, talks and other year-round programs – are experiencing drops in audience numbers and ticket sales.

“Organisations are facing unexpected venue, freight, communications and travel costs including re-routing or cancelling international guest travel, and making major last-minute program changes. Individual artists – the practitioners whose itinerant work invented the terms “gig economy” and “portfolio career” – are facing unexpected income losses, some of which amount to a year or even two year’s work of work.

“This means that all arts organisations face detrimental financial impacts as a result of COVID-19. Now is the time to assess those impacts, plan ahead as best we can, and advocate for what’s needed to ensure that Australia’s cultural life remains vibrant."

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