Today’s reopening of the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, more than two months after their closure amid concern over COVID-19, has coincided with reports that the Federal Government is working on a package to assist the arts and entertainment industry.
While the Australian Government has backed a range of other industries during the Coronavirus lockdown, its lack of support for the arts has brought widespread condemnation.
However, after leaked draft communiques from a robust meeting of state and federal cultural ministers last week showing that states have pushed hard to help the sector, the Federal Government is reportedly examining capital injections to enable the arts, entertainment and screen sectors, which collapsed almost immediately when the pandemic struck, to get started again.
The communique, which was never released because the Federal Government would not agree, called for a range of measures including underwriting arts and cultural sector operations until full audiences were again allowed and to broaden the eligibility of the JobKeeper scheme "to support the significant number of organisations, freelance and casual artists and arts workers, and employees of publicly owned or operated arts and cultural facilities that have been unable to access the program".
With Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying yesterday that an entertainment industry package based on capital investment was being considered, Federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher spoke today at reopening of the National Gallery to advise that the Federal Government is looking at targeted assistance for organisations and institutions whose “capital resources have been very much wound down as a consequence of needing to sustain themselves when there’s no revenue”.
A spokesperson for Minister Fletcher also advised that the Federal Government recognised the role of the performing arts in helping kickstart other parts of the economy such as hospitality, tourism and accommodation.
The Sydney Morning Herald today reported that arts and entertainment leaders are seeking governmental supports to reopen venues during the spring without any social distancing measures affecting audience numbers.
While global entertainment company and Live Nation and UK theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh have each indicated they are not anticipating activity in the sector until 2021, Live Performance Australia (LPA) has spoken out in support of a full reopening in spring.
LPA President Richard Evans stated “I’m not sure what we are waiting for while community transmission is so low. There might be a transition period but subsidising social distancing for an extended period is unlikely to be viable.”
Reopening of the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia
Today’s reopening of the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra followed the latest easing of Coronavirus restrictions by the Australian Capital Territory Government last Friday.
National Gallery Director Nick Mitzevich stated “we are excited to be able to lift the covers off the art and once again share our collection and exhibitions with everyone.
"Art has been a salvation for many people in these uncertain times and we know immersion in art and culture will play an important role in bringing our local and national community back together."
Safety measures being take at the institution include timed entry, a 20-person limit in galleries, sanitiser stations throughout the building, additional cleaning and the closure of small exhibition spaces.
Visitors to the National Gallery are being asked to pre-register and provide their contact number, which will be used should contact tracing be required.
Images: The National Museum of Australia (top) and Federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher (below).
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