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2021.. may it be better behaved than 2020!

In and out of lockdown, to mask-up or not, social-distance.. the footy, the cricket, the movies, the Archibald, the choir, the festival, the exhibition opening?

As things seem to be slowly returning to some kind of normality (for us here in the Southern Highlands at least), we wonder what’s allowed and what’s not in the name of COVID-safety and the protection of our community. With a vaccine not far off we are all hopeful that the answers to these questions will become clear before too long.

Here in the Highlands, the ARTS/CULTURE highlight of 2020 must have been the ARTS Trail held in November. With strict COVID-safe measures in place and a range of new digital tools to help visitors navigate our region, a total of 11,852 visitors (a 77% increase on previous best) purchased almost $350,000 worth of art (up 102%). There were 4,888 page views of the ARTSfile website with an average session duration of 3 minutes 25 seconds, and social media interactions on FaceBook was 5,200 minutes versus 5 minutes in 2018.

This was (to continue to overuse 2020’s most overused term) UNPRECEDENTED in our history. There is also no doubt that the multiplier effect of visitors staying over, shopping, eating and exploring added significantly more to the Highlands economy than that huge figure. Go to the ARTS Trail tab for more information, the official Report, and wrap-up video.

It is interesting to note that, in Australia, more than 650,000 people are employed in arts and cultural industries* – about 6% of the Australian workforce. That makes it a bigger industry than building construction, agriculture and coal mining COMBINED, and the sector contributes more than $111.7 billion (6.4% of Australias GDP). Interesting that this sector got virtually no government assistance in 2020.

Even as we begin to feel that the crisis has lessened, we also understand that the role of art has become more central to our lives, whether we realise it or not. Continue to stay safe and we’ll see you somewhere as you create, or chase great art in the Highlands.

* ‘The economic value of cultural and creative activity’, Bureau of Communications and Arts Research website, 19 October, 2018, <www.communications.gov.au/departmental-news/economic-value-cultural-and-creative-activity>.

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ARTS Trail 2020