Reflections on the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Arts


Kevin Bathman
Project curator
Having taken time out from work to further my studies in London, my post-study life began abruptly when Covid-19 had hit the world. Not only were work opportunities for creatives/artists cancelled or postponed indefinitely, our incomes had also taken a hit. While having a positive mindset is important in times of crisis, knowing that other creatives/artists were facing similar challenges and expressing themselves in this difficult period also helps build community, connecting us back to our senses, body, and mind to spur engagement and connection with each other.

Masako Fukui
Podcast producer
Like many of my writers, producers, artists, my projects this year have been postponed or cancelled. But what dismays me most is that this pandemic implicates and accentuates a disturbing trend – a devaluing of independent storytellers and the arts in general. Yet imagination and a diversity of ideas seem to me crucial if we’re to transcend our human limitations. A vaccine might save lives, but the arts can lift us, unites us in hope. Isn’t this what we need right now?



Julie Koh
Covid-19 has caused the postponement of the debut season of my opera Chop Chef at Riverside Theatre, as well as the postponement of a Silent Dialogue panel at Ballarat Mining Exchange, where I was to appear with Ouyang Yu and Guan Wei. Combined with cuts to literature funding in Australia, the pandemic has led to increased uncertainty for authors of literary fiction like myself concerning how we will financially sustain our writing careers in the future. More support is needed for the creative arts sector in this country, which is underfunded and among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

Sydnye Allen
Texas to Tabriz
My work has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. One project, Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement literacy podcast project in Western Sydney schools was postponed from April to October. I am affected by the cancellation of the Sydney Writers Festival where I was scheduled to present. Presenting at SWF is a springboard for future opportunities, which are unavailable as a result of the cancellation. Substantial government funding is needed to bolster the infrastructure for the creative arts because the long-term impact of cancellations and closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic will result in sustained unemployment.

Roanna Gonsalves
How to Work from Home
Vaccines, bridges, bank balances are necessary to sustain life. But it is the arts, music, stories that provide the social glue, the pleasure, the beauty that make life worth living. The impact of Covid-19 on artists already living under very precarious financial conditions has been quite disastrous. Like many, I too have lost significant income as a result of the pandemic. If we are to continue to tell Australian stories and continue to reimagine Australia as the vibrant and diverse place it is in order to build social cohesion, we need the government to value and fund writers, artists, literary organisations and other arts organisations in a way that ensures long-term sustainability for the creative arts industries.

Sarah Ayoub
A Success of One’s Own
Covid-19 affected my work opportunities in a number of ways. My writer’s festival and school writing workshop bookings were all cancelled, and my income took a further hit when the publications I wrote for closed down or slashed their contributor budgets entirely. Most significantly was the additional work I took on at home – primarily a six-hour day of homeschooling across multiple websites and apps in addition to the care of my toddler, who was too young to understand what was going on. Having a spouse on the front line meant I was often alone and had very little respite. Many of us in the Arts had little in the way of financial incentives to compensate us for lost work, and it is ironic that at a time when people were isolating at home and needed the arts more than ever, there was little attention given to how vital the industry is in inspiring, educating and educating us, and shaping our view of the world and our roles within it.

Hani Abdile
Wood Valley
The creative sector was already under represented for people of colour prior to Covid. Reduced government spending in our sector and the practical and health impacts of Covid have exacerbated issues of diversity for the most vulnerable in our society. Members of the CALD community face issues such as limited to no government support, for example, I am an artist who relies mostly on the Arts industry for support. As I am unable to access government support in terms of welfare, projects like these not only help me financially but also provide me a creative platform to express my voice as an artist, refugee, and as a woman of colour. The creative sector is a significant economic indicator, which demonstrates the success of any country. In my opinion any form of art is the core of our livelihood and governments should prioritise its funding. In times like these people depend on the Arts; however, the situation always comes back to lacking funding.



Matt Huynh
Covid immediately resulted in cancellations across 2020 for scheduled live events, including an exhibition, festival and writer’s retreat. I’ve experienced significant budget cuts, prolonged timelines and moving goalposts in response to teams adjusting to working remotely and developing original and untested workflows. The impaired postal service has also compromised supplementary income from direct sales of artwork and merchandise. Further support would help creative workers survive through a period where the immediate erosion of legacy income sources threatens industry professionals’ continued practice and productivity, training and development, and the recruitment and mentorship of new talent.

Serwah Attafuah
Texas to Tabriz
Covid-19 has affected my work in a few ways. During early lock down, all my upcoming shows and freelance creative work was cancelled or postponed indefinitely. As social distancing was enforced, a lot of organisations turned to digital creators like myself to make content, which is great. But unfortunately as the economy is crashing, budgets that come my way have become smaller and now I have to pick up an unhealthy amount of work to make up for that. It’s been impossible for me as a freelance creative to get any government support during the pandemic.

Freda Chiu
How to Work from Home
Since the pandemic began, I have had work opportunities cancelled or postponed unexpectedly, leading to financial uncertainty this year and for the unforeseeable future. Australia is celebrated worldwide for its thriving creative arts industry; bringing joy, challenging ideas, community spirit, generosity, and mental stimulation to our lives. Especially in dark times where the creative arts can significantly improve the mental health and quality of life for many, our industry is in dire need of more support to create new opportunities and continue making Australia the vibrant country it is today.

Amani Haydar
A Success of One’s Own
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on my creative practice; both my writing and art-making. This included the cancellation of face-to-face events, speaking opportunities, consulting activities and exhibitions. My colleagues and I have started to think differently about how we use public spaces. The launch of Sweatshop Women Volume Two, of which I am the illustrator, was shifted online. The Cumberland Art Prize was hung but could only be viewed virtually. Sharing my workspace with my children required me to take a very practical approach to my work; often only able to accomplish the bare minimum and experiencing the sense of frustration that creatives feel when their creative capacity is limited.

Safdar Ahmed
Wood Valley
The creative arts industry has been devastated by Covid-19, particularly the community arts and cultural development sector in which I have worked and volunteered for many years. As a creative practitioner, opportunities for public engagement and community building are largely shut down, which has damaged my – and many others – creative and economic prospects.



Anisha Thomas
Covid-19 threw a major spanner in the works for all my plans! 2020 was the year I envisioned for expansion and launching new projects, but that was turned upside down as I found myself working in an industry that was put on hold without any real support. Even more so than usual, we have seen a greater demand of the Arts, especially with the growing uncertainty of Covid-19. This shift has seen a stronger need to support the creative arts industry more than ever, as it helps people endeavour through these uncertain times. 

Hoàng Ngọc-Tuấn
Texas to Tabriz
As a music teacher and an active performer/composer, Covid-19 has heavily affected my work. From March 2020, all my scheduled concerts had to be cancelled, and I had to teach online music lessons through Edmodo. From late April 2020, when my college decided to resume teaching in class, I had to take leave for 3 months for the safety of my own health. Since March until now, I could only join a few live-streaming concerts. The future of the creative arts industry is an important part of the Australian economic and cultural life. Australian musical artists really need more support during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Prema Yin
How to Work from Home
Covid-19 has definitely caused a major drawback on my career as a composer and sound designer. As someone who is looking to pursue more projects after the completion of my university here in Sydney, I found opportunities now reduced and people are no longer able to hire because these companies themselves have been affected by the pandemic. This has required me to source work online, losing the chance to network or create career relationships face to face. Plus, I am unable to travel, which has caused major stress on searching for work outside of Sydney and Malaysia.

Dr Nicholas Ng
A Success of One’s Own
Covid-19 is undoubtedly the most severe of pandemics to ravage the known world with far-reaching and long-lasting impacts. Many individuals, particularly those artistically inclined, have responded to the crisis through collaborative online projects and maintaining an online presence. Although all my performances have been cancelled, I feel fortunate to have been one such artist who has benefitted from the support of like-minded creatives. In particular, the efforts of cultural agents like Kevin Bathman give us a certain hope for the future. However, there is only so much that one person can do. We look forward to more ground-level support on a larger scale for the creative arts industry.

Bukhchuluun Ganburged
Wood Valley
Covid-19 has affected my work significantly, I have lost a lot of work, for instance, all the school shows and festivals were cancelled. The creative arts industry has been hit really badly and we need more support to keep going. Now we start performing via live streaming, which requires financial support.



Gareth Yuen
The shutdown of the entertainment industry due to Covid-19 and the loss of so many projects has been devastating. I believe in the unique value of gathering for a communal experience to share stories. During these isolating times, our mental and spiritual health is challenged and there is great need for thoughtful and thought-provoking pieces that build empathy and provide reassurance of humanity. It’s difficult for artists to make these experiences financially viable when competing with existing and established content, but it’s vital to create new work, intimately and locally, that directly speaks to the difficulties and challenges that we are currently living. This can’t be done without support for the creative arts industries.

Nisrine Amine
A Success of One’s Own
During this pandemic, even though I’ve had less opportunities in my work, I feel fortunate that my livelihood has not been gravely affected. Instead, this isolation and lockdown, I have found creativity in other ways.



Kevin Bathman

Author: Kevin Bathman

Kevin Bathman is an independent curator, graphic designer and cultural activist who is passionate about advancing social change through creativity. He believes that the arts are an untapped avenue for catalysing change and creating long-term social transformation. As a 2018 Chevening Scholar with a Masters Degree in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London, his creative and academic areas of interest encompass the social, political and cultural landscape of Malaysia and Southeast Asia. With an Indian/Chinese ancestry, Kevin has been researching the history, connections and cross-cultural stories between the Chinese and Indian culture for his project, The Chindian Diaries.

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