Northland's arts advocacy arm is calling on the Government to classify the creative industry as an essential service so it can survive the fallout of Covid-19.
Creative Northland said the region's arts sector - which plays a vital role in people's mental health and wellbeing - has been hit hard by the lockdown, with galleries closed, exhibitions and touring productions canned, and months of work down the tubes.
A recent Creative Northland survey revealed more than 361 events were cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. That saw an estimated value of $4.8 million lost in just one week of the pandemic crisis in Northland.
Creative Northland general manager Hinurewa te Hau said those working in the arts still won't be able to operate when the country moves out of lockdown to alert level 3.
She said it'll be another six months before events can be held as normal.
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"Visual and performing arts and some new technologies rely on being in front of large gatherings and that simply isn't possible now," te Hau said.
"The creative sector is reliant on Government funding but that's being repurposed now.
"We're not seen as an essential service and should be. The role we play is essential to the mental wellbeing and health of our communities; creativity ensures social and cultural wellbeing. Yet we're not an essential service. We're a frivolous commodity."
The arts industry employs more than 1500 people in Northland, a figure which has been increasing 7.7 per cent – around 30 jobs – year on year since 2002.
The survey was sent out on March 27 and completed by 74 respondents in the creative sector representing 15 businesses, 18 not for profit organisations, 29 individual entrepreneurs and 12 hobbyists.
Te Hau said she has been encouraged by the resilience of the arts community, many members of whom are now showcasing their work online.
These include music choirs and dance and theatre groups, who are all using current technology to stay engaged and create new works.
She encouraged those in Northland's arts sector to apply for funding from Creative New Zealand's $16m emergency response package. Applications opened on April 14.
The funding aims to help artists with "new and refocused creative projects in a changed landscape".
"There's hardship no question, and it will continue to cause problems for the Northland arts community," te Hau said.
"We have to think outside the square as to what creativity looks like looking forward.
"We will recover but it will take time. If we look at the history of creativity even in times of adversity, creativity does not stop, it reinvents itself."
Venues have been hit particularly hard as they rely on productions and "bums on seats".
The Turner Centre general manager Melanie Chandler-Winters said staff have been "doing lots of planning and putting in resilience contingencies about how we come through this".
While the Kerikeri-based centre can't apply for funding - because it is only for those creating art and not venues - she encourages community groups like the Stage Door and Kerikeri Theatre Company to apply.
"There are a lot of artists out there all affected by this, but it's a great time to be innovative and reassure the community, and we can do that through the arts.
"Creativity is a great way to heal and survive."
Chandler-Winters said hundreds of people involved in the New Zealand arts industry have been talking via weekly online meetings hosted by Auckland Live in association with Performing Arts Network of New Zealand.
"Everyone is working quite closely together coming up with new and innovative ways to get their art seen.
"The doors won't be open for a while but I'm encouraged by the community and what the community can do."
Whangārei Art Museum has ramped up activity on social media and is sharing images from its current exhibitions and collections.
They've also created art activities to engage kids and get them interested in art.
Curator Carrie de Hennezel said it is likely that the art museum will have to remain closed under level 3 restrictions.
"During this time we continue to work on our collection behind the scenes including rescheduling some exhibitions and our events and public programme schedule," she said.
"We are also actively exploring opportunities to develop new and existing projects with local artists online."