A CALL has been made for a dedicated fund to support artists and art organisations after a survey revealed the toll taken by the pandemic on Scotland’s creative community.

It shows 65% of those working in visual arts suffered a loss of income for 2020, with 22% losing half or more of their expected income for the year.

Over a quarter (28%) reported they were ineligible for adequate financial support having “fallen through the cracks”, thereby missing out on creative funds and government support packages.

The impact has not just been financial, with 66% seeing a decline in their mental health since the pandemic hit.

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Yet despite the hardship, artists and visual art organisations have continued to play a key role in supporting the nation’s wellbeing by providing access to cultural activities, according to sector leaders.

The survey results have now been presented to a parliamentary committee of MSPs in Edinburgh by the Scottish Contemporary Art Network (Scan) and the Scottish Artists Union (SAU).

Scan director Moira Jeffrey said artists and freelance creative workers were experiencing “invisible redundancies” through income and opportunity loss.

Hand weaver James Donald, a member of the SAU, said his work, which also includes teaching students how to weave, had dried up overnight because of the pandemic. As a result he has had to apply for Universal Credit which he said has dented his confidence and would not replace his losses.

“I have taken great pride that I have built up my creative practice from scratch, won national and international awards and paid my taxes on time for the last 20 plus years so having to turn to claiming benefits has been very demoralising,” he said.

Cairngorms-based artist Robyn Woolston said her work had suffered a “catastrophic effect” as her usual national and international commissions had dried up and her regular workshops had been cancelled.

She said it could take a year or more for individual artists to even begin to reach the same level of income they were generating previously, due to gaps in the commissioning structures and the lack of financial fluidity within the sector.

“There needs to be a fundamental understanding that the intricate networks related to emergence, creation, collaboration and delivery have been utterly quashed by the pandemic,” she said.

Jeffrey said a dedicated fund for the visual arts in Scotland should be created as one of a number of measures required in the short to medium term to aid recovery.

She said: “We are seeing first-hand the impact of the pandemic on those working in visual arts and the snapshot survey shows how much it has taken its toll on all areas of the contemporary art community.

“Arts organisations serve a wide range of communities and needs across Scotland. Many of them have worked without pause and when their doors have had to close have kept digital services going to combat the loneliness and isolation of some of the most vulnerable folk in society during the pandemic.”

Jeffrey said additional investment was needed across the cultural sector including both urgent and longer term measures.

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“Emergency support should be provided within a planned, strategic and transparent framework for recovery,” she said. “Within an overall framework the visual arts will require some sector-specific remedies, including a visual arts fund.

“Given the right support and investment, art organisations and artists can be at the heart of the national recovery and our wellbeing economy, and bring new thinking and perspectives to what will be a complex and difficult path to recovery.”

Lynda Graham, SAU president, Scottish Artists Union said artists should be valued as “the root of creativity” in communities.

She added: “They now need sustained investment to deal with the ongoing challenges of Covid-19 and measures to address the structural inequalities that exclude many.”