In Australia and across the globe, COVID-19 has brought theatres, galleries, music venues, performers, and television and movie productions to the brink. And with the pandemic showing no signs of going away, there are fears that some parts of the arts industry may never recover.

But, as the head of a global arts initiative that works mostly in the virtual space and in communities already pushed to the edge, UOW graduate Kat Roma Greer has felt a frisson of excitement amid the fear about what’s next for the struggling industry.

Roma Greer who has previously been named one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence – runs Micro Galleries, which she describes as a “creative clinic for communities in need”. Operating from far flung places including Hong Kong, where she has lived for the past 10 years, as well as Sydney, Kenya, Finland and Nepal, the collective uses art to address issues facing communities in need. These include climate change, poverty, government corruption, freedom of speech and, most recently, the health challenges of COVID-19.

Normally, this work would culminate in a yearly micro arts festival and artists’ residency, where dozens of creatives from around the globe come together. “We combine street art, fine art, new media art, performance, talks, arts tours and reclaiming public spaces as outdoor galleries, in a place we think is in some sort of creative need,” Roma Greer says.

“We were meant to be in Manila doing our artists’ residency and festival in March. But we had to make the call on cancelling that really early, before the rest of the world had caught on.

“That was a perk – if you can call it that – of being on the border to China. We were in the thick of it, so I was able to be a bit ahead of the curve, so our program got completely reinvented this year.”

In 2020, Roma Greer has run a mostly virtual program, which included TEDx-style artists’ presentations on how people were getting through the pandemic and a series of virtual collaborations where two artists from different cultures work together to create new works.

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