The South Australian Living Artists Festival has, since its inception in 1998, responded to the needs of both artists and audiences. This year will perhaps be its most responsive and imaginative yet, having to work around COVID restrictions.
Glam recently chatted to Kate Moskwa, the indomitable CEO of SALA, about the challenges and opportunities that 2020 brings.
COVID has certainly been hard on many visual artists.
Says Moskwa, “A lot of independent artists and galleries had to close. And on an individual level lots of artists have lost contracts or exhibitions that had been planned months in advance. So there was a real loss of income as well as of opportunities.”
But it hasn’t been all bad news. The shutdown has also provided many creatives with time and space to focus on their work.
“Certainly I’ve heard from a lot of artists in our networks that they have been appreciative of extra time they can send in the studio. Many artists have thought ‘I need to be using this time to make work for myself and develop my own practice’, so many people have increased their productivity, albeit in challenging circumstances.”
In the nature of art, these challenging circumstances have informed some of the work this year.
“We’re seeing some of the themes in SALA this year such as environmental regeneration, mental health, having more time to spend with family and in nature, more time to yourself. So both the positives and the negatives that have come out of the situation.”
SALA has approached the current unsure situation with typical imagination, passion and flexibility. Moskwa explains:
“We had to make a decision several months ago about what SALA would look like. So we adopted a flexible approach. Traditional SALA venues- cafes, bars, restaurants, public libraries, retail spaces- a lot of them were closed so they weren’t able to register. At first we were only accepting things like online exhibitions, exhibitions that could be viewed at a distance like through a window, or projections on walls. Now that things are starting to open up we’re accepting any of those venues as long as they are still [compliant]. We’ve already got more than a hundred online and digital exhibitions registered. But we are now seeing some of those traditional spaces coming back, which is great [for regenerating business]. We also got rid of registrations fees this year. Another key difference: the cut off normally is months before, but…this year… we are taking registrations all the way through the festival. This means people can be really responsive to what’s happening. “
As well as being cheaper and more flexible for the artists and venues, Moskwa sees SALA’s flexibility as an important part of community healing.
“Art is often utilized as a healing practice. If we can find any way to encourage people to participate in the arts then that would be a good way to open up dialogue and get people thinking creatively and positively in this really difficult time.”
Artists, being the creative creatures they are, have responded in suprising and exciting ways to the challenges of COVID.
“Some [proposals] that I’ve seen come through already are an exhibition in a public park so that people can see art at a safe distance in the trees. We are also seeing a lot of digital engagement: not just people having an exhibition on line but people are doing things through their social media accounts or digital platforms that almost gamify the experience for the audience, so you can navigate the exhibition as if you’re playing a video game.”
Other changes to this year’s festival include the SALA forum becoming the SALA podcast, and the trialling of a DIY tour, replacing the small group tours with an audio tour.
“It’s liberating and terrifying at the same time!”
The SALA program will be available online from tomorrow, July 20th.
Click here to access the program.