20 April 2020

Artists at Risk (AR) has today launched an emergency fund to support artists who face threats to their freedom or lives and are unable to reach a country of safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, British author Neil Gaiman, Chilean-American playwright Ariel Dorfman, Iraqi painter Dia al-Azzawi, Egyptian musician Ramy Essam, Syrian photographer and curator Issa Touma, Somali musician Lil Baliil and Iraqi author Saadi Youssef are among the artists backing the campaign.

‘Undemocratic regimes are using the crisis to repress dissent, and that includes cracking down on artistic freedom,’ says Ivor Stodolsky, co-founding director of the organisation Perpetuum Mobile (PM) which runs Artists at Risk (AR). ‘As a result, the dangers faced by artists at risk are currently escalating. Right now, we need to quickly build a rapid-reaction fund for those artists who cannot leave their countries for a place of refuge.’

Artists at Risk (AR) has a strong track record of supporting artists. Since 2013, it has created 17 AR-Residencies for artists across 14 countries, including Spain, Finland, Germany and Tunisia, offering temporary AR safe haven residencies for artists who face persecution or imprisonment for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The programme has assisted artists from Brazil, Syria, Vietnam, Egypt and Kenya, among other countries.

Following the closing of borders to limit the spread of coronavirus, artists are no longer able to take up the offer of residencies outside their own countries. In response to the crisis, Artists at Risk (AR) is ramping up its support for artists within their regions. These are art practitioners of almost all disciplines currently facing threats to their freedom and in need of urgent assistance.

‘During the current crisis, some artists are hoping to stay safe behind locked doors.Others are facing eviction from their homes, as they cannot pay the rent due to the impossibility of earning a living during the pandemic. For reasons like this, the Covid-19 crisis doubles artists’ exposure to risk,’ says Marita Muukkonen, co-founding director of Perpetuum Mobile (PM) and Artists at Risk (AR).

The new fund will cover the living costs of artists at risk and, where necessary, relocate artists to a place of safety within their own country or region.

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ARTISTS at RISK (AR) is a non-profit organisation at the intersection of human rights and the arts. AR is dedicated to mapping the field of persecuted art practitioners and facilitating their safe passage from their countries of origin, hosting them at residencies and curating related projects. Perpetuum Mobile (PM) initiated Artists at Risk (AR) in 2013 as a platform and network to support artists in securing travel documents, providing legal assistance and creating AR-Safe Haven Residencies. The European Parliament honoured Perpetuum Mobile (PM) for its Artists at Risk (AR) programme with the CIVI EUROPAEO PRAEMIUM (the European Citizen’s Prize) in 2016.​