Record Number of Applications at Arts University

Tollhúsið Tryggvagata

Applications at the Iceland University of the Arts have nearly doubled since last year. The university announced in February that it would abolish tuition fees this fall following a decision by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir that offered independent universities full state funding if they were to do away with tuition fees.

Positive effect of dropping tuition fees

Rector Kristín Eysteinsdóttir told Vísir that she was not worried about students dropping out, but rather that she welcomed the increased attendance and expected more applications next year. “We had 538 applications last year, but almost 1,000 now,” she said after the deadline for applications past last night. “Applications for arts education are still open, so I expect this to end at around 1,000 applications. That would be an almost 100% increase.”

She said that the school has never seen numbers like this and that they go above and beyond expectations. “We can’t accept everyone, but it’s incredibly positive that the abolishment of tuition fees has this effect,” she said. “In fact, this confirms what we thought, that the costs were prohibitive for a lot of prospective students.”

Acting programme most popular

The biggest increase is in architecture, design and visual arts, Kristín said. The acting department remains the most popular study programme, but only ten people are accepted each year from a group of 200 to 300 applicants.

She added that she expected more people to apply next year, especially to the masters programmes. “We get applicants there who have children and need to plan further ahead,” Kristín said.

True Detective Series Will Be Largest-Ever Foreign Investment in Icelandic Culture

The upcoming series of HBO Max television show True Detective will be filmed in Iceland over a 9-month period for a budget of around ISK 9 billion [$64.8 million; €63.9 million]. The project entails the largest-ever foreign investment in culture in Iceland’s history. Minister of Culture Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir says the project is proof that government initiatives are helping put Iceland’s film industry on the map.

Fourth season set in Alaska

While it will be filmed in Iceland, the fourth season of True Detective is in fact set in Alaska, where the story follows detectives Liz Danvers (played by Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) as they investigate the disappearance of six men from a research station. True Detective has received praise from critics and audiences – and won five Emmy Awards.

Film rebate raised from 25% to 35%

Iceland’s government recently raised the repayment for production costs for films and TV series shot in the country from 25% to 35%. Iceland’s Culture Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir presented this and other initiatives to members of the film and music industry on a recent trip to Los Angeles.

“I feel a lot of support here in Los Angeles with the initiatives we have been implementing in the last year or so to promote creative industries in Iceland,” Lilja stated. “The True Detective project is the largest foreign investment in the field of culture in Iceland’s history. With a clear vision and multifaceted actions, we are succeeding in making our country a highly respected partner in the world of cinema. International film companies are ready to invest in bigger, longer-term projects than they did. It is a huge victory for Icelandic culture and economy and confirmation that what the government is doing matters.”

Statues, Shows, Sand, and Street Theatre: Reykjavík Arts Festival Begins Today

taylor mac Reykjavík arts festival

An indoor, black sand beach, statues in Medieval suits of armour, drag shows, and street theatre are just a few examples of the many sights at this year’s Reykjavík Arts Festival, which kicks off today. Between June 1 and 19, visitors and residents of Reykjavík will be regaled with exhibitions, performances, concerts, and more, many of which are free.

The festival has already made itself visible in the city centre: in front of the iconic Hallgrímskirkja, a collection of six statues by Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir have been installed, three featuring reconstructions of Medieval armour from the Met collection. Musical highlights of the festival include performances by drag artist Taylor Mac and conductor and singer Barbara Hannigan, this Thursday to Saturday. On Saturday and Sunday, the Sun and Sea exhibition will take over Reykjavík Art Museum, filling the museum’s courtyard with black sand from Iceland’s beaches. The exhibition was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

The Arts Festival’s opening party will take place at Iðnó this Friday evening, featuring stand-up comedy by Madame Tourette, live music from Latin American music group Los Bomboneros, and DJ Kraftgalli. All Reykjavík Arts Festival events at Iðnó are free to attend.

The full festival program is available on the festival website.

The Number of Self-Employed Workers in the Cultural Sector Decreases by 19%

Iceland Airwaves 2018

The number of self-employed workers in the cultural sector in Iceland decreased by 19% in the year of 2020, a report by Statistic Iceland confirms. The number had been growing since 2017, but started falling sharply after the pandemic hit in the beginning of last year.

In Iceland, self-employed workers are more common in culture and arts than in any other sector. Currently, 23.6% of those who work in culture are self-employed. In comparison, the rate of independent workers in other sectors in Iceland has been around 10% for the past five years.

Erling Jóhannesson, the president of the Federation of Icelandic Artists states in an interview with Fréttablaðið, that artists and others who work in culture have found themselves in a precarious situation since the pandemic hit, as these individuals commonly work as freelancers who do not have permanent jobs. “This group of people faced various bureaucratic hurdles and have not been offered proper solutions”.

He adds that member societies of the federation are unhappy about the new government’s fiscal policy, in which the government has cut the additional financial support to independent theatre groups which was introduced at the dawn of the pandemic.

“We are still trying to make people aware that the situation is not over yet. We are still just trying to keep afloat. The main issue is to reclaim the additional support funds in order to be able to create something; write music, create art,” Erling says.

In 2020, 12,700 individuals aged 16 to 74 worked within the cultural sector, or around 6.7% of the entire workforce. The number includes permanent employees.

The report demonstrates that the decrease in workers does not apply to permanent employees working in the cultural sector. On the contrary, there has been a slight increase in the number of those with permanent job posts in the cultural sector between 2019 and 2020, or 3.7%.

Iceland’s Culture Industry Needs More Support

Iceland Airwaves 2018

The 2008 banking collapse and the coronavirus pandemic have impacted Iceland’s culture industry more negatively than other industries. There are 25% fewer people working in culture in Iceland today than there were in 2008. The data are from a report published by the Icelandic Confederation of University Graduates (BHM) today. BHM emphasised the importance of a government policy that increases support for the arts in order to avoid permanent damage from the pandemic.

Decrease in salary payments and employees

According to the report, there has been a sharp decline in wage payments and the number of people working in the creative industries in Iceland in recent years. There are 25% fewer people working in the culture industry now than in 2008, while the total decline in wage payments amounts to 40%. The creative industries began to decline significantly after 2013, and the contraction increased significantly after 2017.

While COVID-19 is an obvious factor, the development in Iceland’s culture industry precedes the pandemic. In the last four years, total salary payments in the media industry have decreased by around 45%; in the film industry by 41%; and in the music sector by 26%. While the development began earlier, the economic shock of the pandemic made the situation go from bad to worse, the report states.

Artists’ salaries among lowest on the market

BHM points out that most artists have a university degree under their belt. Despite their education, however, artists’ salaries were considerably lower than the average salaries of others working full time in 2020. Artists’ salaries have fallen far behind the general wage trend and now compare to the lowest salaries on the Icelandic job market. While the wage index has risen by 96% in recent years, artists’ salaries have risen by 49%.

Low wages could explain contraction in individual sectors, such as in the publishing industry. While in 2011, 5.2 books were published in Iceland per 1,000 inhabitants, that number fell to 3.4 in 2019. BHM says Iceland’s government can look to the Nordic countries as an example of how to increase support for the arts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Otherwise,” the report states, “there is a risk that cultural industries will suffer permanent damage from the pandemic.”

Iceland University of the Arts to Receive Permanent Home

Tollhúsið Tryggvagata

The Iceland University of the Arts (Listaháskóli Íslands, or LHÍ), will be uniting all of its departments in a single, specially-designed facility in the Tollhúsið building in downtown Reykjavík, Iceland’s cabinet announced in a press conference this week. LHÍ has operated its departments in several disparate facilities since its inception in 1998. A design competition will be launched this autumn where participants will aim to show how all of the university’s operations can be consolidated under a single roof in Tollhúsið.

Government acts to strengthen creative industries

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson announced the decision at a press conference on the Suðurnes peninsula last Tuesday, where the cabinet also presented several other measures in support of the arts. The initiatives include establishing a research centre for the creative industries at Bifröst University and the Creative Iceland project, which would work on advancement within the creative industries in Iceland as well as their export. At the conference, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir pointed to research showing that Iceland’s creative industries make a significant economic contribution to Iceland, while also stating they have immeasurable value toward forming the nation’s identity.

Built in 1970 to welcome cruise ship passengers

Located near Reykjavík’s Old Harbour, Tollhúsið was designed by Gísli Halldórsson and completed in 1970. Its original design included a harbour warehouse on the ground floor and a customs office for cruise ship passengers arriving in the harbour. After Sundahöfn harbour came into operation, however, activities at the old harbour decreased. The building features a mosaic by Gerður Helgadóttir from 1973 depicting the harbour activities before the construction of Tollhúsið. The street below the mural is now under construction to transform a parking area into a pedestrian square.