Today, Monday 21 December, cultural organisations across the region will showcase a collection of 60 second digital commissions. Marking the Winter Solstice (the shortest day / longest night of the year), It Gets Lighter From Here aims to provide moments of happiness and hope before the days do, quite literally, start to get lighter. To date, the project, the brainchild of The West Midlands Culture Response Unit (WMCRU), has raised £34,050 for commissions, providing vital financial support for the region’s freelancers and community members who have been left unsupported through the pandemic, with a lack of job security and stable, regular income.

47 organisations from a huge cross-section of artists and artforms, have agreed to provide 179 commissions in total, including commitments from BOM, Creative Black Country, Friction Arts, Meadow Arts, Midlands Arts Centre (mac), Severn Arts, University of Worcester, Vivid Projects, and Warwick Arts Centre. Involving a huge cross-section of artists and art-forms, substantial audiences and networks will be reached across the region and beyond, creating a wide celebration of hope, optimism and possibility for the future.

The micro commissions will be searchable on social media through the hashtag #ItGetsLighterFromHere. There will also be a ‘thunderclap’ moment at sunset (around 3.55pm) as all commissioning partners and artists will post content simultaneously, marking the darkest moment of 2020.

James Yarker from Stans Cafe said: “The #ItGetsLighterFromHere one-minute rule will prove a great creative challenge for artists young and old. I can’t wait to see all the inventive solutions they come up with. Audiences will find these snack size art works ‘more-ish’. There will be all sorts of flavours and we can enjoy getting a taste of everything, even those art forms we’ve never experienced before or think we don’t like. It will be for trying everything out because ’something else will be along in a minute’ – literally! 

There is no ‘official programme’ for #ItGetsLighterFromHere, so no one is saying what you can and can’t watch. Experienced and new artists are all in the mix together. It’s an evening for making new discoveries and because it’s all on social media you can share the things you like with all your family, friends and followers.

On the shortest day of the year #ItGetsLighterFromHere will share the brightest West Midlands artistic talent with the world.” 

More information can be found here.

 

On Monday 21 December, cultural organisations across the region will showcase a collection of 60 second digital commissions. Marking the Winter Solstice, It Gets Lighter From Here aims to provide moments of happiness and hope before the days do, quite literally, start to get lighter.

On Monday 14 December, the Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN), of which we are part, along with the UK think-tank Policy Connect, and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Design & Innovation launched a report outlining key recommendations for the Visual Art sector beyond COVID-19.

Commissioned by CVAN, and in partnership support with a-n, the Artist Information Company, the report is the first step in formalising the sector’s positioning with our Government by providing them with a clear set of recommendations on how to ensure that the visual arts are properly presented, measured, and which barriers should be removed to ensure a diverse and healthy sector.

Moving into next year, the visual arts will play an integral part in building back the health and wealth of the country, with the measurable impact of the economic and wellbeing contributions it makes within our communities regionally and nationally.

The report, that was released today, calls for five key recommendations; to establish a visual arts baseline, to set social and economic growth targets at a national and local level, to extend and simplify tax incentives to support growth, to remove barriers to talent from abroad, and to strengthen networks to deliver social inclusion and diversity.

The report was launched at a sold out online event with attendees from both the parliament and the visual art sector. Hosted by former Arts Minister, Lord Ed Vaizey, the event included an address by Sarah Munro, Director of BALTIC, and Chair of CVAN as well as Sonia Boyce OBE RA, Professor of Black Art and Design, University of the Arts London and British representative at the 2021 Venice Biennial.

Speaking of the launch event and report, Director of CVAN Paula Orrell says:

“Today marks a really important and significant step forward in formalising our relationship with the Government, something that has been a long time in the making.  We are pleased to be in a position to be able to make these recommendations on behalf of our sector. We believe that the visual arts will play a pivotal role in this next, crucial, rebuilding phase. 

We are committed to ensuring that we are around the table, having the right discussions with decision makers to ensure that our sector is receiving the best possible support beyond the pandemic.  We were encouraged by the demand for this report, and were delighted to see so many attend the launch event, both MPs and arts professionals, showing a real need for this level of conversation.  This is an exciting day for our sector, we are thankful for the contribution and support of our colleagues at a-n, and for the expertise of our partners at Policy Connect and APDIG for making this happen, this certainly is just the beginning of what we see as being a long lasting relationship with our government.” 

Jack Tindale, Policy Manager for Design & Innovation at Policy Connect and report author expressed that:

“It has been an honour to work with CVAN and the visual arts sector on this report. After one of the most disruptive years in modern history, access to culture is more important than ever for our social and economic well-being. The recommendations we have set out in the report are ambitious, but necessary, and provide a clear roadmap for how artists can contribute to the economic recovery over the coming years.”

In coming together and making these recommendations publicly to the government, the visual arts are demonstrating its regional and national strength as the beating heart and soul of building back better.

You can read the full report on the CVAN website here.

CVAN would like to thank a-n The Artist Information Company for their contribution, as well as APDIG and Policy Connect in making this happen.

On Monday 14 December, the Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN), of which we are part, along with the UK think-tank Policy Connect, and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Design & Innovation launched a report outlining key recommendations for the Visual Art sector beyond COVID-19.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/29/is-uk-arts-rescue-package-too-little-too-late-for-grassroots

Cash aims to revive struggling sector, but smaller venues that support vulnerable people fear they will have to shut anyway. A focus on The Hive in Shrewsbury as well as the sadly now closed Artrix in Bromsgrove – via The Guardian.

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We are offering one to one conversation slots with arts professionals in our network for artists, creative practitioners and freelancers based in the region who are looking to apply for Arts Council England’s Funding for Individuals scheme. This is a chance to ask them any last minute questions you might have in relation to your application’s content and focus before pressing ‘submit’.

These conversations will take place over the telephone on Wednesday 15 April and Wednesday 29 April prior to the two deadlines for the Emergency Response Fund – Individuals.

Please find all the details of Arts Council England’s scheme, including key information, deadlines and eligibility criteria here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/financial-support-artists-creative-practitioners-and-freelancers

Please email info@newartwestmidlands.co.uk with ‘Telephone conversation’ in the subject line if you would like to request one of the slots. There are a limited number of one to one telephone slots available and these will be offered on a first come first served basis.

We are offering telephone conversations Wednesday 15 April and Wednesday 29 April for artists, creative practitioners and freelancers based in the region who are looking to apply for Arts Council England’s Funding for Individuals scheme.

Coronavirus Covid-19 a-n survey headlines

Initial findings from the a-n Coronavirus Covid-19 Survey, designed to understand the impact on artists and arts managers and the support they need.

The New Art West Midlands team is shifting the way we work over the coming weeks, in response to Government advice and supporting the efforts to reduce the impact of COVID-19. During this difficult time, we are working with our partners to postpone and where possible reschedule our face-to-face activities and opportunities (see further information below).

We will redirect the focus of our next round of Micro Bursaries (a go-and-see resource in previous years) towards evidence gathering around the impact on artists’ livelihoods caused by the Coronavirus outbreak and the unprecedented measures taken to slow the spread of the disease.

Shortly we will open this as a paid opportunity, inviting artists and arts professionals to share experiences of the current situation – case studies, points of view and thought pieces around practice in these exceptional times.

Alongside, we are undertaking some research to run over the course of the next few weeks to gather information on the precarious position of the visual arts workforce – those working in freelance capacities and dependent on the prevalent gig economy.  Watch this space and please engage.

Together we hope to build an evidence base to use to advocate for artists and arts professionals in a position of hardship over coming months and to gain a better understanding of the economic position of the keyworkers as the sector looks towards recovery. We are in conversation with Arts Council England to ensure that the evidence we collect is as useful to the sector as it possibly can be.

In the meantime, we are not going anywhere. We will continue to champion and support artists, arts professionals and culture across the region. If you need to reach us, please email us at info@newartwestmidlands.co.uk or get in touch via our social media channels.

Further guidance and support is shared below, including Arts Council England’s latest update and MAIA’s fundraiser to support West Midlands’ artists. Please continue to share your opportunities, news and work with us – and most importantly, stay safe.

Craig, Anneka and Annabel x

 

Some useful resources: 

Anti-viral work for freelancers and small businesses is a growing Facebook group and support system set up in response to the impact of COVID-19 on the self-employed – many from the creative industries.

MAIA have launched a fundraiser to provide hardship funds for artists, cultural workers, practitioners and creative freelancers that cannot work during this time or who have been affected by cancellations or other impacts. Donate or find out how to apply here.

The arts community in the USA is mobilising fast to organise support for artists during the crisis. These resources, shared by Arts Council on Twitter have an international focus, and are not only relevant for American artists.

HMRC have launched a helpline to help businesses and the self-employed concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus.

An update from New Art West Midlands in light of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.