A £1.5m support fund has been allocated to the arts sector in Northern Ireland.
The financial package, announced today, will help individuals and organisations struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Creative Support Fund, launched by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, will provide cash aid for a diverse range of performing artists and community art organisations.
Individual artists and creative practitioners, who have lost their work as a result of Covid-19, can apply for funding of up to £5,000.
Small and medium-sized organisations can apply for maximum funding of £25,000.
Ms Hargey said: "These two programmes will provide a significant and welcome source of assistance to individuals and organisations in the arts sector, which plays a crucial role in our economy and contributes greatly to the mental wellbeing of our communities.
"As a result of this pandemic they do not have opportunities to work in their usual way that is why I am pleased to be able to support them through this Creative Support Fund. It will provide them with the means to find different ways of engaging with audiences across a range of platforms and ensure arts services are not withdrawn from the public at this crucial time."
The fund will be administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which is contributing £500,000 of Lottery funding to the initiative.
The Individual Artists and Creative Practitioners Programme will be available immediately.
Rosin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, welcomed the minister’s announcement.
"The Artists Emergency Programme we opened today forms an important strand of the Minister’s package; one that targets our individual artists who are in urgent need at this time.
"Our artists are among the most creative, flexible and inventive members of our society and many are already finding brilliant, imaginative and innovative ways to deliver their art, but the impact of the pandemic on their working lives has been both severe and immediate."
“The Artists Emergency Fund, worth £500,000 of National Lottery funding, will help support efforts to develop their vocations and find new ways to bring colour, meaning and inspiration to our lives at a time when many of us need it most. The scheme is open for Expressions of Interest and we hope to see inventive ideas that imagine how artists’ practice can advance in better times’ while also engaging in the future with audiences and participants in a meaningful way.”
Ms Hargey added: "The arts sector is facing many barriers, this fund will offer equality of opportunity and access for a broad range of people. I have asked my department to continue to do everything possible to provide support and assistance to individuals and groups in the arts sector at this time.
"I am also grateful to the Arts Council for working with my department in responding to the needs of the arts sector."
Earlier this month a report by the Arts Council warned that the financial impact of the pandemic on local artists was "severe and immediate".
The total anticipated loss of earnings to local arts organisations over a three-month period is £3.97m.
For more information on the financial impact of the Coronavirus on the NI Arts Sector (April 2020) visit www. http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/coronavirus-covid-19-advice.