With a new online platform, is recovery in sight for Victoria’s hard-hit arts community?

With a new online platform, is recovery in sight for Victoria's hard-hit arts community?
WatchThe arts community was especially hard hit by the pandemic. Now, online support and funding from Victoria is helping the arts make a comeback. Rebecca Lawrence has more.

While many sectors struggle amid the pandemic, the arts community has been especially hard-hit, but the hope for a strong recovery seems possible with the launch of a new website and help from Victoria City Council.

Full-time artist Jessica Ruth Freedman says all of her art shows were cancelled for not only last year, but 2021 as well.

“Definitely this pandemic has been challenging for me personally as a visual artist,” said the Sooke artist. “Many artists have had difficulties, have had to take extra jobs, have had to look at extra sources of funding.”

With one of her main sources of income cut off, she went online for support.

“I needed to know how to connect better with collectors online, how can I find access to grants, and there wasn’t an online, unified Canadian voice that helps specifically Canadian artists,” said Freedman.

And there wasn’t a one-stop-shop for artists until the beginning of March, when ArtsUNITED officially launched.

It’s Canada’s first all-in-one wayfinding platform designed to help artists find funding, education, sales opportunities and even crisis support, that was created specifically to help Canadian artists.

“Artscape put out a survey in our community…everybody said they had a loss of income, and even 40 per cent said they would experience food shortage in the coming weeks,” said Lisa Ditschun, director of ArtsUNITE. “So we created many programs to help and ArtsUNITE is one of them.”

Freedman is one out of nine Canadians to be selected to take part of the ArtsUNITE Unmute virtual residency, where she’ll connect with other artists, take part in learning and share her artwork across the nation.

Freedman says this new platform makes it easier for everyone in the arts community to get support.

Support for artists isn’t just blossoming online.

Victoria city council has agreed to provide $40,000 towards a new ArtsHub in the downtown area.

“The idea is to create a new performance space, new creation space, as well as below-market rent for a number of arts organizations,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

As live music performances, theatres and art galleries shut their doors this year, Loveday says support is needed now.

“This support right now for cultural facilities and performance spaces could really be a lifeline and could really help us get back to a thriving arts and cultural scene after COVID-19,” said the councillor.

The hub would be run by local not-for-profit organization Theatre SKAM, which would use the money from council to create infrastructure for the space and help cover operational costs.

According to Theatre SKAM, a tentative location for the arts hub has been selected, and negotiations are underway for the rent pricing, but there’s no timeline yet on when it’s scheduled to open.

READ MORE: Province, City of Victoria sign agreement to end encampments by April 30

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Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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