The Arts vs COVID-19

COVID-19 has hugely unsettled us all yet, at the same time, it has created some important silver linings which we must grasp and capitalise on before they are forgotten. 

Arts organisations have an important role to play in societal sustainability and ensuring increased creativity, connection, and vibrancy in our live. We have a powerful and privileged role that allows us to respond to social needs and lead active, relationship-focused responses.

The crisis we face has demonstrated that what matters in the arts are not our offerings in isolation, but the web of relationships between people that make culture happen.  

Some Important Realisations.

 

It’s been made clear over the past months that whilst digital engagement has provided opportunities and experimentation for those organisations equipped to react, there have been limitations to accessibility online. 

A closer look at the barriers created through online content, many of which hadn’t previously been conceived, let alone challenged, and in addition to our in-person offering, must take place to determine their removal as soon and effectively as possible.

We must now more than ever consider – 

  • Solidarity, between all parties.

  • Diversity, in our offerings, our audiences and the means of possible engagement.

  • Sustainability, including available resources.

  • Care, of our audiences, our artists/practitioners and our staff.

COVID-19 has solidified our belief in the power of the arts.

Encourages discussion

Helps tell untold stories

Champions kindness and understanding

Builds creative solidarity

Contributes to social infrastructure

Supports community resilience

A Quarantine Audience

The self-indulgence of many arts organisations must be challenged when coming to the realisation they cannot take priority over the emergence of a culturally destitute and isolated quarantine audience. The industry must now provide considered and collaborative approaches as to act as a community enabler, taking into consideration the unique circumstances of this new audience.

Board and/or lonely. | Feeling inadequate as educators of their children. | In need of relief from anxiety or worry. | Experiencing grief, from the change to normality or the loss of a loved one.

Audience Engagement Consultancy Clinic.

One-to-one guidance and support that provides an actionable plan that takes the uncertainty out of the audience participation issues you're facing during COVID-19.

Can also include advice on Cultural Recovery funding and DYCP applications in response to COVID-19.

Letting Go of Pre-Virus Identities.

How can we remain a viable voice if people can’t visit?​

Have we lost our identity now we’ve lost our visitors?

 

The unprecedented industry-changing transition we are currently facing has caused extreme anxieties across the board within the arts. Our identities, whether as an individual or organisation, are being questioned, and a process of grieving the loss of normalcy is required.

 

Making an identity transition as an organisation must follow a process of – 

 

  • Ending. Realising our old identities and previous ways of working don’t service us anymore.​

  • Purgatory. A time of uncertainty yet a space for creative renewal; exploration of future identities and renewed audience interest.​

  • Re-birth. The start of a new way of working; an identity shift and increase in public value.

What Adapting & Surviving Looks Like.

 

Audience engagement should never have been based upon a numbers game pre-COVID, yet it largely was. COVID has forced this change and now it has become essential for arts organisations to adapt their approach as to deepen experiences with smaller groups of people. Audience responses have shown that small intensive and immersive experiences can be highly transformative. 

All arts organisations should now look to - 

Build on their mission, keeping alive existing relationships and engage with new people on this basis.

Emphasising Vulnerabilities and Weaknesses.

 

There is the risk that the devastating impact of COVID-19 for both society and the arts paralyses culture leaders, and in a state of shell shock, they retreat to the safety of ‘culture by numbers’; anchors that although warm and comforting set the industry back years. 

As a forward-thinking response, now the initial shell shock has passed, culture leaders should –

Leverage new relationships.

COVID-19: Art Crisis Response

Now the dust has settled we must move past the limited thinking of simply providing the remote delivery of programmes. While online engagement has been the primary approach in many organisations’ responses to the crisis, it is just one aspect of a much bigger picture.

When approaching the possibility of yoyo lockdowns in 2021, whether seeking emergency or regular funding, organisations must now - 

Strengthen cultural democracy. | Renew and reshape their role in the arts. | Expand social infrastructure. | Move into a recovery mindset. | Plan long-term strategic opportunities.

COVID-19 Audience Engagement Solutions.

Develop customised and practical engagement strategies, whilst considering your overacting artistic mission and position within the industry. 

Response to COVID-19 limitations and ensure your place in future conversations.