Thursday evening I chatted with two directors of the Supermarket Art Fair about my suggestion for inviting exhibitors, staff, and volunteers to post a ’snap-shot’ of what they are doing the week that they should have been at the fair (22 – 26 April). The discussion made me realise that I am not used to being actively involved in Supermarket. For the last eight years I have worked ’passively’ – I wait to hear when the texts are ready to be proofread, I proofread them. Sometimes there is a bit(!) of back and forth about particular texts, phrases or words but that is quite different from proposing and discussing something at a more editorial level. After some brainstorming we have come up with a framework and soon Alice will get in touch with everyone to let them know about it and to tell them how to send us their posts. It’s exciting and it feels good to make a pro-active contribution.
As I was about to close the Skype window a friend in the UK sent a message asking if we could have a quick chat as she had just received an email from one of the museums where she works on education and outreach programmes. The chat was not so quick but relatively quick for us – we can spend hours on Skype! The email let her know that she was now furloughed until the end of the calendar year. She had already been told that there would not be any work over the summer, she was however imagining that schools projects would resume after the summer holiday. Now it seems that she should be prepared for a considerably longer period of rest. The museum pointed out that the future was hard to predict and that things might change which we interpreted as there being a chance of an autumn programme. Interestingly it was not just her and her zero hour contract colleagues who were furloughed, it was also salaried project and programme managers. Our chat ranged from immediate worries and wondering if working as a fruit-picker was a viable option to questioning how museums, galleries and other institutions are going to fare in the aftermath of this pandemic. Is it over dramatic to be concerned that the expected national debt together with predicted economic recession could see severe outcomes for both commercial and funded arts?
In my role as Arts Education Officer with the local council here I am having to adapt and find new ways of engaging with people. This week I have been putting together artists’ kits for families to come and collect as the activities that I had planned for the Easter holiday had to be cancelled. The kits include materials as well as suggestions for activities that can be done at home, there’s also the encouragement to share pictures via social media. Some of the activities are about keeping in touch with other people too – making a postcard to send to a friend or relative, and making something to put in a window so that neighbours and passers-by see it for example. I am also having to think about how my work with schools can be achieved ’remotely’. All of us in the Arts and Culture team are now exploring ways in which we can do things digitally as our traditional methods are untenable in these times of social distancing and self isolation. Any feelings of excitement are more than tempered by the acute awareness of why we are having to find these alternatives.
See me promoting the artists’ kits here
I hope that the artists’ kits offers entertainment and distraction – giving young artists and their families some fun and enjoyment over the coming week.