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The value of creative industries in times of crisis


Despite doing it tough, our creative alumni continue to bring joy, excitement, colour and connection to communities around the world during COVID-19.

The start of 2020 was a great reminder of how valuable our creative industries and artists are in times of crisis. During the devastating recent Australian bushfire season, many musicians, performers, artists and others in the community used their skills and networks to raise remarkable funds and awareness to support our firefighters, affected communities, wildlife charities and more.

Though the consequences of COVID-19 are now being felt intensely by many artists, creatives and freelancers, our resilient global alumni continue to use their skills to support and inspire.  Below we share a snapshot of how our remarkable creative alumni have continued to bring joy, excitement, colour and connection to our communities around the world. 

Thank you essential workers
Image source: Gemma O’Brien Instagram

A message of gratitude

Gemma O’Brien’s (BDes `15) bold signature super-graphics has been cast over the iconic Times Square Billboard as part of a public art project - inviting world-wide artists and designers to create messages to honour and support essential workers. 

Gemma’s work features a black and white illustrated announcement of gratitude: THANK YOU ESSENTIAL WORKERS and went live last week on digital billboards across New York City. In addition to electronic billboards in Times Square, Gemma’s artwork will display across 1,800 digital billboards and screens throughout the city. 

Del Kathryn Barton
Image source: Del Kathryn Barton

Driving connection through art

The Art Gallery of New South Wales has an online program of activities and workshops to connect people through art during these difficult times. As part of the program, artist Del Kathryn Barton (BFA `94) is leading the Together in Art Kids project, inviting primary school-aged children from around Australia to create and share works on a specific theme. 

To keep creative hands and minds occupied, Del published a call-out for artwork from kids—made out of available household materials—which explores their inner world. A curated selection of artworks from this project will be exhibited on the AGNSW website from 18 May 2020.


Laura Jordan Bambach
Image: Laura Jordan Bambach

Supporting vital services

Laura Jordan Bambach (BFA `96, MArt `19), Chief Creative Officer of Mr. President—an independent creative agency in London—is collaborating with some of the biggest names in advertising to lighten the mental load during the COVID-19 lockdown as well as raise money for the disability care service, Samaritans. is a platform which was created to virtually share ideas and insight during coronavirus lockdown in the United Kingdom. 

Laura is one of the brilliant minds contributing to the cause and will share her ideas and insights via video recordings, to inspire and reassure those who might be feeling vulnerable during this time. 

Laura is also helping frontline heroes by contributing to another great initiative, Frontline.Live. An open-data platform, Frontline.Live gives frontline workers a quick and easy way to communicate what personal protective equipment they need, when and where they need it. 

Emma Maye Gibson
Image source: Grumble Boogie Facebook 

Avant-garde sweat sessions

Performance artist, Emma Maye Gibson (BA `11, MFA`15) otherwise known as Betty Grumble, is hosting daily dance parties dubbed 'Grumble Boogie Sessions' via her Instagram Live and Facebook Live. The sessions invite those in self-isolation for 30 minutes of heart-pumping cardio, dance and stretch to disco, house and eclectic beats. 

While the sessions are free, and the playlists curated for each class are accessible on Spotify, Emma Maye has set up a PayPal for people to make donations if they have the means. The donations have assisted in keeping her creative projects going, and she also filters some into the organisations and venues that have supported her. 

UNSW would like to thank all our wonderful creatives who have shown great solidarity and resilience during COVID-19, and who continue to create art for all Australians and the world to enjoy.