These perceptions were heightened at the start of the pandemic, which put a mental strain on people working in the sector. “I think what our artists have been feeling from the start is a loss of being valued. Ironically, when we were locked down, everyone turned to art. So much of what we were doing at home had something to do with an art form, like reading, movies, crafts and so on.”
Artistic director of Auckland’s Silo Theatre
Sophie Roberts says that this year, they may be getting to the hardest bit. “A lot of practical support (including wage subsidy and government underwriting schemes) that kept everybody safe in those early stages are gone now, but our industry is still impacted,” she explains.
Cassandra Tse, creative director and the second half of Red Scare Theatre, distills the mental health ramifications of these challenges: “Financial precarity can lead to feelings of anxiety. In a pro-arts world, artists shouldn’t have to lose things or opportunities in order to be artists. With that comes a sense of loss and pressure from comparing yourself to others who aren’t working in the arts. When you’re an artist, there is a feeling that you’ve done this to yourself.”
Sophie Roberts adds: “Weathering the financial uncertainty for so long takes a toll. We’ve seen a lot of arts leaders leave significant roles over the last year, which I believe is a sign of people burning out.”