Covid-19 has fundamentally altered the pathway for the arts and culture in a way that may not see a return to normal levels of work in the arts until 2025. During the pandemic, many artists saw their work come to a complete stop and although the current Government guidelines allow for resumption of artistic activity (with some restrictions), it is not known when activity and audiences might return to previous levels. This dramatically alters the opportunities available to artists.
In 2021, the Local Authorities and the Arts Council took this moment to come together to pilot an alternative investment opportunity for artists, through which they could develop themselves, create new work and participate in a peer-led exchange process. After a successful pilot, the scheme is now being rolled out for a second year.
The scheme is led by the Local Authority Arts offices throughout Ireland, who are key resources in the national arts infrastructure. They have a critical role in artist development and have been supporting, commissioning and developing artists at grassroots level for over 35 years.
Platform 31 recognises the unique needs of artists at this moment and aims to support their development and thinking processes during this difficult time. It will allow them space to consider how they might move forward in a meaningful way supported by peers, by a network of advisors and by the constant, expert and experienced resource that is their Local Authority Arts Office.
The overall aim is to allow 31 artists to reflect on and investigate how they might significantly develop their practice or make work in a different way, while being connected with and supported by peer practitioners, advisors and mentors.
The scheme is specifically not project or output focused. It will provide coaching and advisory support and create networking opportunities for participating artists, introducing them to a pool of critical thinkers to share their work and learnings, and encouraging a national conversation about creating work in local contexts.
The Local Authority Arts Offices and the Arts Council have articulated the following objectives of the Platform 31 scheme in 2022:
To support 31 artists with bursaries worth €8,000 to take time to pause and reflect on their practice, with a view to making a step-change in their career
To focus on mid-career artists
To provide developmental / advisory support for participating artists
To create opportunities to connect with peers nationally for discussion and exchange of ideas
To shine a spotlight on the participating artists and on the work Local Authority Arts Offices do to support artists
To document and evaluate the process.