In the national budget presented on 7 October, the Norwegian government proposes to increase the provision set aside for state artists grants (Statens kunstnerstipend) by NOK 100 million (EUR 9.2 million). During a press conference, Minister of Culture Abid Raja said that NOK 70 million (EUR 6.4 million) will go towards three hundred temporary work grants, while the rest will go towards a crisis fund for artists whose assignments and commissions have been cancelled. Raja specifically pointed out that this scheme is a temporary measure intended to help the field of art and culture through the coronavirus pandemic, and that it will apply to the first half of 2021.
Steffen Håndlykken, chair of the board of Young Artists’ Society (UKS), believes that the extra grants should become a permanent scheme in order to create a steady and predictable social safety net for artists. He added: “The art world is in a state of crisis, and it is only natural that the grants announced in 2020 as part of the compensation schemes for the field of culture should be continued in 2021. However, COVID-19 has demonstrated that artists are particularly vulnerable to loss of exhibitions, commissions, and sales, and we have seen that the otherwise finely meshed safety net that helps the rest of society does not catch the young artists or artists who are still establishing their careers.”
The work grants are for one year, which according to 2020 rates amounts to NOK 276,805 (EUR 25,000). The committee for the state artists grants will now establish quotas to determine how the available funds will be distributed between the various artist groups. “This will involve long and thorough discussion,” said the head of the committee, Trude Gomnæs Ugelstad, to Kunstkritikk. She believes it is important that the NOK 70 million is awarded as work grants – meaning that the money is paid out as salary – as this gives artists increased social rights, which she believes is even more important today than in previous years.
Raja told the newspaper Aftenposten, “artists cannot make money as they usually would because the coronavirus has put an end to all that. This money will ensure that they can still work and produce during this difficult phase.” According to Aftenposten, the allocation for the permanent work grants will also be increased.
Earlier this summer, the government allocated an additional NOK 70 million to the usual funding, distributing 679 grants of NOK 100,000 (EUR 9,000) each. Of these, 160 grants went to visual artists, while six grants were earmarked for critics.