Rural Small Business – Home is where the art is: My work across entertainment, education and wellbeing
Date: July 24, 2020
Author: KATE SMITH, Cultural Producer, Performer & Writer, Researcher and Yoga Instructor
What do you think of when someone mentions ‘the arts’?
Large scale musicals? Ballet or Opera, of painters, dancers or actors performing in far-away places, your favourite Netflix show? Or of your five-year old performing in the choir at the local Eisteddfod?
For me, our ability to create, to be entertained, to appreciate the arts in all its forms is what makes us human. The primary function of the arts is to enliven the human spirit, to reflect our sense of belonging, to unify voices and to inspire joy, awe and sometimes simply for a good old laugh.
I have spent twenty plus years crafting stories across the creative industries on stage and screen as a performer, writer and podcaster in diverse cultural contexts from stand-up to playwriting, touring to festivals, lecturing, interdisciplinary research, and ambassadorship for regional women. I hold a PhD in Performance Studies and the CreateNSW Creative Development Research Fellowship.
The career of an arts practitioner requires courage, resilience and flexibility. My income is self-generated. As a freelancer, I work for multiple organisations, and often am contracted or commissioned to write plays, MC gigs, market arts tours, speak on panels or write content. As a side-line I have been teaching yoga since 2002. So that means when I teach at university I am an employee, when I teach yoga, MC, or appear on a panel as speaker I am Sole Trader, when I tour a show as an actor/writer I am on contract and an employee and when I do independent theatre I am part of a co-op. My work straddles all of these definitions. I love working in this way; the freedom, the creativity, and the opportunity to work in cross-sector partnerships that straddle entertainment, education and well-being.
When the first wave of COVID-19 struck, the arts were one of the first industries hit by lockdown, with the cancellation and closure of all live events, venues, festivals, productions, tours and spaces and it will be one of the last industries to open again. Like many of my colleagues my income for the year vanished over a two- week period; live performances, festival gigs, arts marketing, keynote speeches and panel talks, all gone. Like many of my colleagues in the arts, screen, stage, outdoor and media- writers, directors, technicians, crew, actors, singers, dancers, composers – I fell through the cracks of the support offered by the federal government. Because of the very nature of the work we do (casual, contract) most of us did not qualify for JobKeeper. Many people may not realise that cultural and creative activity contributes $111.7 billion to Australia’s economy. (Bureau of Economics and Arts Research, October 2018).
Ironically, though, in isolation what and who did we turn to for succour, for strength and connection? We reached for the arts – our favourite album, binging the next Netflix drama or we logged in to watch an online choir sing their hearts out from their lounge rooms.
COVID-19 has been an extraordinary time for reflection. The value of arts to the economy and to the community is so important, after all, our artists and arts workers ultimately create cultural life for our community, so that they can be entertained, inspired and educated. Arts are good for our mental health and wellbeing.
As devastating as this time was professionally, during COVID-19 I have found many silver linings: we home schooled, we danced, we cuddled, I watched my friends stream hilarious and beautiful art all over Instagram and I reflected deeply on the value of this precious life. I livestreamed my yoga classes for free on Youtube, wrote five funding applications, created a new show and livestreamed a Cabaret for the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre (BMEC). It was, and has been, a uniquely creative and precious time to be still and see what emerges.
Artists are not at the front line risking their lives, but we have been and always will be at the frontline creating work that invites us all to explore the experience of being human, to live fully. This to me is lifesaving. Alongside getting my hands in the earth and plunging into the sea, nothing else sustains me more.
About Kate Smith
Kate Smith is a cultural producer, performer & writer, researcher and yoga instructor. With over twenty years of experience in the creative industries, Kate’s work reaches diverse cultural contexts across stage, screen and radio; and her diverse roles have included actor, cabaret MC, playwright, academic, creativity and communication coach, regional arts advocate, podcaster and creative producer. Kate currently holds the CreateNSW Creative Development Research Fellowship. Kate’s yoga business Kate Smith Yoga is located in Bathurst and online.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the CRRMH or EveryMind. The CRRMH and EveryMind do not seek to promote or endorse the individual or business associated with this blog.
If you have any concerns about yourself or a loved one, mental health and crisis support is available.
Lifeline- call 13 11 14 (24/7) or chat online (7 pm-midnight AEDT, 7 nights)
Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service- 1800 512 348 (24/7)
Need advice? Ahead for Business can help small business owners take action on their mental health and wellbeing
We are working with Everymind to encourage small business owners in rural NSW to prioritise their mental health. We are currently seeking small business owners to interview in our Wellbeing in Rural Small Business project. We need to know what you need so we can better support you! Learn more about our Wellbeing in Rural Small Business project or contact Kris.Gottschall@newcastle.edu.au