The Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery (RHA) has set up a new programme called The Really Helping Artists campaign, aiming to support Irish artists during the pandemic. The rise of Covid-19 has caused issues for almost all types of professions, but those in the creative industry have had a particularly hard time finding ways to fund their careers during lockdowns. Lockdowns have made it even more difficult for artists to earn money from sales, exhibitions, collaborations or symposiums. This is why the RHA decided in May of last year to create small, but accessible, grants with the goal of lifting some financial burdens encouraged by the global pandemic.
“This allowed the RHA to raise over €43,000 which was double their target”
The RHA sought permission to apply funds from the Hennessey-Craig bequest to offer micro-grants for artists in need across the country. The grants, between €100 and €1,000, are not supposed to replace an income, but rather alleviate some of the financial stresses artists may have been experiencing such as paying rent or utility bills. The gallery was able to acquire one third of the funds needed, €10,000 approximately, before calling on the people of Ireland to raise a further €20,000. The GoFundMe page opened for just one month from 15 May to 15 June 2020. This allowed the RHA to raise over €43,000 which was double their target. This was distributed to artists throughout July and August of last year through means testing.
The gallery opened the applications for artists on June 16. People were required to provide proof that they were a professional artist, as well as 150 words on why they needed a grant before the closing date. A committee of artists and staff members, led by the RHA President, Abigail O’Brien, was set up in order to assess the level of urgency of each application. Altogether, around 90 artists received grants across every region of the country and even one ninth of successful applicants were from Northern Ireland. However, the RHA received around 351 applications, totaling €254,000 worth of fund requests altogether. Clearly these grants were essential at this time, and despite the gallery doubling their target, the RHA only had around a quarter of what was asked for to support Irish artists in need.
“We saw first-year student nurse Chloe Slevin putting a contemporary twist on classical paintings last summer, such as Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 Girl With A Pearl Earring turned Girl With A Surgical Mask to fundraise for Feed the Heroes”
Particularly for emerging artists just starting their journeys into the art world, these grants made a huge impact. Artists often go forgotten about as legitimate professions, yet if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the power of arts and culture in times of global despair. Art, alongside other creative fields like music, theatre or writing, has the strength to bring people together. We saw first-year student nurse Chloe Slevin putting a contemporary twist on classical paintings last summer, such as Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 Girl With A Pearl Earring turned Girl With A Surgical Mask, to fundraise for Feed the Heroes charity while isolating. Not only was she showing how we can spend our time creating art to console in isolation, but how art can be something to reflect and express emotions felt during times of nationwide crisis. This shows how art can offer many different forms of relief. Let’s hope that campaigns such as that of the RHA’s, will continue to provide that same relief back to the artists of our country.