In order to save the arts, creatives need to colour outside the industry lines

Mark Barrett, managing director at Yakkazoo, urges adland to recognise and embrace its ties to the arts, so that both disciplines may flourish.

Irreparable loss. This was how the National Association for the Visual Arts described the financial decimation that the arts industry experienced in 2020. Irreparable.

Like many of my peers, I’ve been working in the creative industry for more than 20 years. During this time, I’ve witnessed and worked with some exceptionally talented individuals. In the creative industry, we are not that different from the creative arts. Our ‘Artists’ just have different titles including ‘Creative’, ‘Strategist’, ‘Copywriter’, ‘Event Producer’ and ‘Stylist’. Our canvases are concepts and ideas brought to life in digital campaigns, billboards or immersive experiences.

Given the mirroring ways in which we operate, we as an industry need to do more to support Australian Arts & Culture.

During the pandemic, Arts, including theatre, galleries and exhibitions were largely overlooked in terms of corporate and government support. What was once a thriving community became a desolate realm fighting for survival.

A report by the Grattan Institute found that approximately 75% of the arts industry was likely to be unemployed at the end of 2020, with figures released by the federal government revealing that one in five arts workers were still dependent on JobKeeper when it ended in March.

This is an industry that is integral in promoting social and economic goals through its ability to drive several objectives such as attracting tourism, engaging the community and improving health and wellbeing. All objectives that we as creatives have been tasked with to deliver for our client campaigns.

During last year’s lockdown in Melbourne, Ooh Media took to the streets to celebrate the showcasing works by Australian artists from contemporary commercial gallery STATION across its classic OOH sites. The pieces were commissioned specifically for the COVID campaign, giving the artists a “canvas to connect” with their interpretations of the emotions felt by Victorians during lockdown and the experience of isolation.

Kayo and ESPN brought artists from the streets to screens as part of a campaign for the NBA playoffs. In partnership with six of the biggest players in Australia’s street and fine art scene, each artist was commissioned to create a reimagined portrait of an NBA superstar.

Integrative creative campaigns such as these help to increase awareness for not only the individual artist involved, but the talent that exists in the Australian art scene. It also helps to draw attention to some of the more marginalised members within our community.

One of these marginalised areas is our Indigenous community. Art is a huge revenue generator for these communities: according to the Australian Council for the Arts, remote Indigenous art centres generated around $53 million in art sales, with $30 million paid to artists. Around 40 per cent of art sales are reinvested into these Indigenous art centres, which coexist as community hubs. However, Indigenous representation in the Australian art scene is less than five percent.

Facebook and Instagram launched a social awareness campaign in partnership with NAIDOC in 2020 by releasing Indigenous-designed tools, creators, and businesses. Award-winning Aboriginal photographer Wayne Quilliam was one of these creatives that discussed how these platforms could be “Social for Good” and highlight the wider positive impact art has within the community.

The beauty of a video or carefully marketed campaign is that its success relies on its ability to communicate targeted messages to the desired audience, and when integrating art, it draws heavily on the artist’s ability to tap into society’s emotional pulse.

Art can act as communication between people. This is where the lines begin to merge between creative and artist within our industry. As members of the creative industry we have to look beyond our traditional mediums and colour outside the lines to support our network of creatives more widely.

Mark Barrett is the managing director at Yakkazoo.


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