The COVID 19 epidemic has once again shown how mutually supportive Quebecers and Canadians are in times of crisis. With the support of their governments, artists and cultural managers reacted promptly, reaching out to citizens throughout this collective challenge.
Not only did the crisis reveal the fragility of the cultural sector but also its importance as a common good. Therefore, culture must and will play an important part of the economic recovery. Two recent surveys1 indicate that two thirds of Quebecers are not ready to go back to concert halls or visit a museum. Their concern could last up to 6 months. What should artists, managers and governments do between now and then? What priorities should help inform a plan to revive the cultural sector?
Ten artists, artistic directors and managers propose three main priorities for action and related measures to implement. Together they represent a diversity of practices and employ over a thousand professionals (artists, technical and educational staff as well as cultural workers).
Cutting the Losses
The great precariousness of most artists, cultural organizations and artistic venues is alarming. It is therefore essential to preserve the gains of the Québec cultural policy, its budgets and the Canadian reinvestment in culture, in addition to supporting the following means of action:
- Preserve the expertise of artists, technicians and cultural workers and consider sectoral specificities in the implementation of a revival plan.
- Support organizations that depend mostly on self-generated revenue or private partners.
- Promote local and eco-responsible cultural consumption.
- Integrate upcoming culture and tourism revival plans.
- Accelerate investment in cultural infrastructure.
- Maintain access to international markets by increasing promotional and marketing efforts to ensure the resumption of international circulation and distribution.
Rethinking the Model for the Creation and Dissemination of Arts and Culture
In order to reaffirm the importance of solidarity, community, local solutions and networks in culture, we suggest the following actions:
- Use the advances of digital culture both as a transitory raft and a lever capable of propelling culture without neglecting the live cultural experience. In the meantime, support innovation labs that foster online interaction and co-creation.
- Take advantage of all the ongoing “tinkering” in progress to create an observatory of new practices and a special fund to support the most promising avenues in order to allow each discipline to reinvent itself with real “Art&D” programs in the digital age.
- Transform new digital experiences into revenue streams by shifting online broadcasting to a pay model, creating online scarcity and ensuring that GAFAMs contribute to it.
- Transform this crisis into an opportunity for metamorphosis for the cultural sector – everything needs to be reviewed: funding methods, business models, eco-responsible practices, audience development and cultural participation, protection of copyright and intellectual property.
- Incorporate performance indicators linked to online activities as an evaluation criterion for public funding.
Restoring the Relationship between Artists and Audiences
Citizens’ trust needs to be restored and messages from public figures could help the public feel safe in cultural venues. In addition, we suggest the following measures:
- Mobilize school audiences both in the classroom and in cultural venues by strengthening the role of teachers as cultural intermediaries.
- Prioritize funding to organizations that are already demonstrating innovation and proactivity in bringing artists and audiences together.
- Provide financial support to arts organizations to ensure public health safety and support their marketing efforts to win back their audiences.
- Conduct an in-depth analysis of the social and economic impacts of the pandemic on the arts (impact on the First Nations and culturally diverse artists, suspension of means of production, closure of cultural spaces, loss of expertise, capacity of venues, etc.).
As stakeholders are currently consulting each other, we hope that concertation will continue, namely though the creation of a follow-up advisory committee. We hope that these few ideas will fuel the debate to give artists and arts organizations the means to reach out to and engage citizens from here and abroad.
SIGNED (in alphabetical order): André Courchesne, Associate Professor at the Carmelle and Rémi-Marcoux Chair of Arts Management at HEC Montreal; André Dudemaine, Founding Member and Director of Arts Activities, Land InSIGHTS and Montreal First Peoples Festival ; Nassib El-Husseini, General Director Les 7 Doigts ; Olivier Fortier, ABCDF Founding President ; Manon Gauthier, Executive Director, Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation ; Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, Singer-songwriter Milk-Bone and Co-Founder ACT (Citizen Artists on Tour) ; Louise Poulin, CEO ArtExpert ; Xavier Roy, MBA student at Oxford University and cultural manager ; Monique Savoie, President – Founder and Artistic Director, Société des arts technologiques (SAT) Louise Sicuro, President and CEO, Culture pour tous.