Serge Vanden Berghe sits in his Cork city studio, surrounded by paints, brushes, many completed artworks and yet more half-finished. He opens his journal: in it, he records personal expenses, the hours he spends in his studio painting and sculpting, how he travels to work, even his well-being and state of mind.
“I feel myself, more than ever, a professional artist,” he says. “I produce more and the output is of a better quality, and the peace of mind has a lot to do with this.”
For over a year, 2,000 arts workers in areas including visual arts, theatre, literature, music, dance, opera, movies, circus arts and architecture have been receiving a payment equivalent to €325 per week under the Basic Income for the Arts three-year pilot scheme, and Vanden Berghe is amongst their number.
Supposedly modelled on the idea of Universal Basic Income and introduced by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, there are no strings attached for participating artists except one: to journal their experience and fill out six-monthly questionnaires on the merits of the scheme.
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