The status of indpendent performing arts in Iceland
The Association of Independent Performing Arts in Iceland (AITI) calls for immediate government rescue action. The status of independent theaters and performing arts companies has been critical since the beginning of the epidemic, and now that another COVID autumn is approaching, artists’ concerns are even greater than before.
“Those who have taken it upon themselves to close their operations for the sake of soceity must deserve the support of the soceity.” said Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance, in a speech in Althingi in April 2020. Now, just over 16 months later, independent theaters and performing arts companies are still waiting for support.
The status of small theaters and independent performing arts companies is grave following the closures and burdensome restrictions over the past 18 months. Since the epidemic, AITI’s board and managing director have pointed out to elected representatives and government offficials that the conditions for special support measures for COVID-19 exclude almost all independent performing arts companies because their operations are usually established as general non-profit entities.
These companies were excluded from the partial benefit program very early and have not been able to apply for a closure or a relief grant either. Nothing has yet been done to improve the status of these companies and we have a real possibility of serious brain drain in the profession. It can not be the will of the government to cause vandalism on Icelandic performing arts, but if there is no solution, the result will be artistic and cultural damage.
The problem in the sector arose in March 2020 and has only grown since then. Experience has shown that the economic measures taken by the government to respond to the effects of the pandemic have benefited cultural organizations only to a very small extent. Increased support for the development and growth of the sector has for a long time been AITI’s main mission, with the increasing number of newcomers in the profession and the productivity and contribution in relation to the growth. The main response of the government to meet the problems of independent performing artists has been a temporary injection of money into a artist salary and project funds. Something that artists have been calling for for a long time and wishing their voices were heard for this addition being permanent. However, this excellent action is only for new projects and does not help with commitments that have already been made. Many performances that should have happened during the epidemic were postponed, some many times, the performing arts groups lost income in connection with those events, in addition to the additional costs involved in closing and rehearsing projects, and re-presenting them. etc ..
We are now heading into another winter where performing artists will have to face restrictions due to the epidemic. Those who managed to endure last winter did so on their own initiative, with painful cuts and operating losses. These parties will not survive another winter unless they receive special financial support. These are a few people and the resources they need are small in all contexts, but essential so that they can survive this situation and be there to fulfill their role, which is to enrich the artistic for the benefit of the whole nation.
The board of AITI therefore challenges the government to come up with measures to meet the heavy blow that burdensome gathering restrictions have been and are for this group of performing artists.
f.h. Board of the Association of Independent Theaters-SL,
Orri Huginn Ágústsson, chairman
& Friðrik Friðriksson, Managing Director