Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) is responding to the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing changes to its plans and programmes during a time which has seen artists’ professions and livelihoods severely curtailed. This has included the granting of 122 Artist Relief Grants, aimed at assisting individual artists, freelance creatives and independent contractors in South Africa, writes Madeleine Selmer-Olsen.
BASA champions business investment in the creative sector by leading research that enhances commercial confidence, builds creative sector capacity through our programmes, and shifts paradigms for the future of partnerships between diverse stakeholders. We believe in the power of deep collaboration between the right partners, and the transformational value of the arts to effect meaningful social change.
Challenges during COVID
COVID-19 is taking a severe toll on the world, and the resultant widespread cancellation of festivals, music concerts, exhibitions, productions and other events is devastating to the individuals and families relying on creative sector work for their livelihoods and well being.
BASA has responded by conducting surveys with beneficiaries to explore how the pandemic has affected them and how best we could assist them. To continue serving them, while keeping health and safety top of mind, we have:
- Re-thought rollout plans, allowing gradual and responsive implementation of our programmes, incorporating digital interaction as far as possible. For the first time, our flagship annual Awards will be hosted online.
- As a free resource guiding the creative and private sectors with regards to mapping a way forward in the wake of COVID-19 cancellations and closures, BASA has developed an abbreviated version of its eighth ArtsTrack research report, giving insight into arts sponsorship and consumer engagement.
- To disburse money to artists more efficiently, BASA is facilitating grant payments on behalf of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) Relief Fund. We extended our Supporting Grant funding (usually limited to projects in an existing relationship between a business and arts organisation), to make provision for Artist Relief Grants. This allowed us to consider applications from individual artists, freelance creatives and independent contractors in South Africa for once-off, short-term financial aid for COVID-19-related medical care, or to offset loss of income due to cancelled engagements resulting from the nationwide lockdown or other emergency measures. In aid of this, we launched a funding campaign, and partnered with BASA members Between 10and5 (Instagram Art Auction) and UJ Arts and Culture (UNFESTIVAL SA). Thus far, 122 Artist Relief Grants amounting to R1 174 467.50 have been approved. Applications are currently closed while BASA continues its fundraising efforts.
Aside from adapting to an uncertain and anxiety-inducing environment brought about by COVID-19, and leading a team through this, one of the biggest challenges we at BASA have been facing, in response to this pandemic, is inclusion – from an accessibility perspective when it comes to engaging our diverse stakeholders and equipping our team for remote working, as well as from an eligibility perspective when it comes to disbursing relief funds to those in dire financial positions, while remaining compliant as an NPC largely reliant on public funding.
‘Many essential leadership learnings and skills from the Common Purpose programme are helping us navigate these challenges and better serve our constituents. Adaptability, self-awareness and the innovation/design thinking process encouraged us to take time to listen, learn and understand the challenges, before proposing ways forward and testing ideas, remaining open to feedback, allowing flexibility to adjust plans and ways of thinking/working, learning quickly from mistakes, and growing as individuals and as a team.’
Core value alignment guides us in making difficult choices. Emotional and cultural intelligence, empathy and communication skills are vital when leading a team through such challenging times, and engaging sensitively with stakeholders whose livelihoods are at stake.
Leading beyond authority has engaged the entire organisation proactively, and is leveraging diverse networks while enabling broader collaborations to make BASA’s funding campaign a success and alleviate some of the strain on the creative sector.
- You can help BASA fund more artists and creative practitioners by visiting gogetfunding.com/bizartza to make a contribution, or show your support by sharing the link on your social media platforms.
Madeleine Selmer-Olsen is the Head of Research at Business and Arts South Africa. She is also a co-founder of South African performing arts collective Flying House, best known for its “Performing Arts Stock Exchange”. Madeleine is an alumnus of Africa Venture 2019.