What is the collective noun for cancellations and closures? You could call it ‘a litany’. Some might suggest ‘a tragedy’. Perhaps, for the sake of alliteration, it should be named ‘a Covid’.
However one chooses to describe it, this has been the collective experience of South Africa’s arts community, especially in the performing arts, over the past year and more: productions deferred, careers stalled, venues boarded up. We know that the arts will survive, in one form or another, no matter what – art is invincible. But artists are not. They need audiences, and they need an income.
Until those audiences can gather in numbers again, and while the arts sector continues to experiment with models for producing financially viable digital content, it is no exaggeration to say that the performing arts in South Africa face an existential challenge. Now, more than ever, the support of the private sector and individual arts consumers is crucial.
Arts sponsorship has long been a vital aspect of Standard Bank’s brand. Its association with the National Arts Festival, in particular, has been a pillar helping to hold up the country’s arts infrastructure, boosting the careers of many young artists and sustaining the work of theatre-makers, dancers, musicians, and visual artists.
Following the advent of the third wave of Covid-19 infections in South Africa, the 2021 edition of the National Arts Festival had to revise its expansive, hybrid model of in-person events countrywide combined with an online programme – and instead deftly pivot into a fully digital festival. As it did last year, the virtual National Arts Festival has created opportunities for South Africa’s performing artists to access both local and global viewers and to monetise this access through live and on-demand video streaming via the Festival’s website.
This wonderful digital space has been missing one thing (something that not even interactive virtual arts offerings can fully provide): audience feedback. It’s not just the thrill of applause at the end of a show; it’s not just the gratifying conversations with aficionados. It’s a sense of communion between performer and audience, a mutually sustainable commitment.
With Standard Bank investing in the dreams of artists for over 40 years and changing the lives of hundreds of artists, the Bank wants to continue to find new ways of making dreams possible. In line with this, Standard Bank has created an exciting and interactive platform called the Bank of Dreams. This is a platform that has been put in place to enable the public to pay it forward to aide artists from the virtual Fringe programme of the National Arts Festival.
Those who have watched this year’s performances and anyone who wants to share a message of encouragement and appreciation can now do so through the Bank of Dreams portal. Standard Bank will match these messages with monetary contributions – helping these artists to realise their dreams. The aim is to reach 3 700 messages, which is in line with the 37 years that Standard Bank has been a successful part of the National Arts Festival, and these messages will unlock up to R500 000.
Think about it: if you were in one of Makhanda’s theatres or a bar or concert hall in Durban or Cape Town or Johannesburg hosting a National Arts Festival event, you wouldn’t hold back when the music moves you! You’d clap and shout and hoot when that soloist takes flight. You’d buy your favourite artist a drink after they finish their sets and tell them how amazing they are.
With the Bank of Dreams, you have the chance to do just that while the Festival is still in full virtual mode. If your home is a theatre or a jazz club right now, and your screen is a stage, don’t miss out on the opportunity to tell South Africa’s artists how much you admire and appreciate them. The messages of support sent through would mean a great deal to artists and art lovers alike. Please visit the Bank of Dreams site at arts.standardbank.co.za to make your submissions.