Artists at Risk (AR): Year in Review 2023 (Part 1)

Peace may seem hard to imagine in a year marked by unspeakable violence that batter our screens and minds. It is a difficult wish to make, but the artists we work for and with, whose lives and art are coloured by these hopes and struggles, want exactly that. Peace!

Artists at Risk (AR) wishes you a Peaceful and Happy New Year 2024!

At the turn of 2023-2024, catching our breath from a hyper-intensive period of work, we are finally initiating celebrations of the 10th anniversary since AR’s founding in 2013!

Let’s start with the past two years, which have been extremely challenging and significant in our development. So much has happened, and there are so many stories to tell. So we have decided to take it in parts. PART 1, below, is dedicated to the most general picture of the results of our work, globally.

From February 2022 through 2023, Artists at Risk (AR) relocated and hosted over 602 Ukrainian principals, 51 Afghan principals, 92 Russian as well as Belarusian principals, and a further 22 artists at risk from other countries, amounting to a total of 767 artists and cultural professionals worldwide. These numbers of ‘principals’ does not include their dependents, such as spouses, children and and often further family and pets. 

This remarkable volume of support is possible thanks to partnerships with over 300 hosting organisations; regional, national and international networks and funders; and of course our hardworking AR-Solidarity Teams. It’s quite a bit for a grassroots NGO in the arts!

With the total number of applicants at over 6,200 artists and cultural professionals there is unfortunately always more work to be done.

Hosting organisations from countries across the world have courageously stepped forward to support artists under threat. Over 870 organisations who have made proposals to cooperate with Artists at Risk (AR). To date, we’ve worked with 302 hosts internationally, including dense networks across Europe as well as AR-hosts around the world in Armenia, Brazil, the Kurdish regions, India, Jordan and Zambia among many other locations.

Since its founding in 2013, ten years ago, Artists at Risk (AR) has supported the emergency evacuation, relocation and care of artists at high risk. Our priority areas have included Afghanistan and Ukraine, Kurdistan and the MENA region, Russia and Belarus, and in recent years we’ve significantly expanded our longstanding work in Africa. New initiatives are being launched across the Global South.

Of the 767 artists we have supported and relocated in 2022-2023 a majority came from Ukraine, chiefly due to the generous visa policy of the EU and new national and international funding mechanisms. However, the plight of Afghan artists following the takeover of the Taliban in 2021 has remained the focus of the dedicated AR-Afghanistan Solidarity Team. Considerable resources have been dedicated to this, despite the very short supply, with the noted exception of two-year funding from the Crespo Foundation. 

Likewise, the draconian crackdown in Russia as well as Belarus has merited a dedicated team, with over 90 relocations achieved. All areas of Kurdistan have been priorities from early on in our work, and Iran, Sudan, Myanmar and wars and oppressive governments across the Middle East remain major areas of focus. We are part of numerous advocacy, relocation and pressure groups to keep largely “forgotten” regions on the international agenda.

The relocations from and within the Global South were supplemented by case funding from EU sources and other foundations. We cannot go without mentioning the many generous partners – such as Schauspielhaus Zurich and ZKM in Karlsruhe – who contributed in-kind funding, space and care; nor without our heartfelt thanks for the countless donations, big and small!

Key to this our volume of relocations in this period was a second year of dedicated funding we received in 2023 from UNESCO, Goethe-Institut and Andy Warhol Foundation, following the outpouring of small, medium and large donors to assist Ukraine in 2022. In 2023, AR set an agenda to develop the first network of Ukrainian artist-in residencies, the AR Ukraine-Internal Residency Network, which relocated 55 artists — mostly from towns on the frontlines of the war — to hosting institutions in western Ukraine.

Of course, all this would not have been possible without the continued structural funding for the overall coordination by the AR-Secretariat from the Swedish Arts Council (Sida) and the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as AR’s own hosting-residence, AR-Safe Haven Helsinki, funded by the City of Helsinki.

Greetings from the Artists at Risk (AR) Solidarity Teams, our friends and colleagues, and of course, the artists. To survive and thrive, we need you! 

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