Initial assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

on the cultural and creative sectors of the Republic of Armenia 

Crisis management suggestions

Summary of the results of the online survey 

 

Considering the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent crisis in the world, Creative Europe Desk Armenia developed and conducted an online survey to find out its impact on the Armenian cultural and creative sector, challenges caused by the pandemic and the effectiveness of steps to address them, as well as expected support schemes. 

 

The e-survey form was filled out by representatives of performing arts, applied arts, film and other creative organizations, as well as by individual artists. Summing up the answers received, we can conclude that this pandemic crisis has had a significantly tangible, negative impact on all areas of culture. 

 

In general, we have recorded that the representatives of cultural and creative sectors were mainly found not eligible for receiving state economic assistance and primary support is needed in the form of operational and office maintenance costs, as crisis prevention restrictions have caused hindering of the creative teamwork, freezing or stopping the financial support of various local and international grant programs. Thus, organizations struggle to cover the expenses connected with the employees' salaries, area rental, utility costs and other expenses with their own means.

 

In particular, to answer to the question about how the COVID19 pandemic affects the creative organizations/activities and what short-term and long-term consequences are expected the pandemic will have, most of the respondents mentioned that the main obstacles to their activity in the current situation are the sector inactivity, the limitation of the opportunities to create, the cessation of financial flows, the delay of grant programs, the postponement of events, due to financial difficulties it is not easy for many of them to rent an area, the production processes are organized in homes and due to the lack of a consumer market, it is mainly stored; termination of international cooperation/programs is also problematic, for instance, the organization of workshops or participation to them. On the other hand, the number of online meetings and discussions have increased, because it is the only means for the communication. There is still uncertainty among the industry in the long-term plans.

 

We tried to find out whether the representatives of the sector have received any state support in the framework of the crisis effect prevention actions. As a result, we found that none of the surveyed organizations benefited from the state's economic programs and did not receive any financial support. The reasons were different: either the uncertainty about the support project deadlines, or the lack of sectoral support programs, or the lack of sufficient information on state support programs, or the non-compliance with the preconditions.

As for the question of what kind of state/international support and events are needed for the cultural and creative sectors in Armenia in order to overcome the consequences of the pandemic, survey participants presented various proposals for short-term and long-term solutions. In terms of short-term plans, it is expected that the government “saves” the cultural and creative sphere, as it is a viable social resource, carrying an important social role and contributing to the economy.

 

In particular they mentioned:

  • Development and launch of financial assistance programs for cultural organizations

  • Provision of state grants to support independent cultural figures

  • Support for young artists

  • Give artists and cultural professionals the opportunity to take advantage of unemployment and social benefits, also compensate the losses caused by the COVID-19 crisis

  • Support cultural and creative industries through Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative launched by the European Union

  • Create emergency funds for the cultural and creative sphere

  • Establishment of exchange platforms for overcoming crisis in the field of culture

  • Creating online platforms for cultural activities

  • Digitization of cultural services

 

As long-term activities, artists expect the government to:

  • Review the cultural and creative policy

  • Outline the priorities for the development of the cultural and creative areas

  • Include culture and arts in economic and social development strategies, recognizing their enormous value for the welfare of the society, as well as their power to unite people, even in times when it is impossible to communicate directly 

  • Involve more artists in governmental programs

  • Increase the opportunities for professional capacity building

  • Design projects and new models aimed at tourism development

  • Additionally invest in the field of culture and art, contributing to the revival and further stability of the sector

  • International budget maintenance, as an important factor for the development of local creative capacity.

 

According to the respondents, if the government won’t implement special measures, the biggest threat to the organization/activity of the cultural and creative sectors in upcoming months will be the financial crisis, demotivation, uncertainty, mobility restrictions causing change in a number of cultural formats. They also mentioned the difficulties with the space rental, reduction of international tours (reduction of international mobility) etc.

We asked the respondents to present their suggestions on how the cultural and creative sectors can contribute to the recovery  of the state economy in the post-pandemic period.

Here are the suggestions of the survey participants:

  • Organizing a competent and attractive advertising campaign representing the Republic of Armenia, raising the level of tourism and economic stability

  • Development and implementation of international projects through introduction of new technologies 

  • Ensuring active cooperation of the cultural sector with other sectors of economy 

  • Presentation of sectoral proposals by the state government

  • Partial transfer of art industry to the online domain

  • Represent culture as a great incentive for the restoration of the state economy

  • Implement new ideas, programs, represent the country to the world in a new light

  • Promote local production by focusing on local consumers, local resources and opportunities.

 

 

Suggestions by Creative Europe Desk Armenia 

Based on the results of the survey and the private discussions with the representatives of the cultural and creative sectors, Creative Europe Desk Armenia presents the following proposal aimed at overcoming the obstacles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to map the needs and challenges of the cultural and creative field, we suggest announcing an open call, inviting creative organizations, cultural NGOs and independent artists in need of crisis support to communicate their needs and inform about the difficulties they are facing during the crisis. This call will give an opportunity to also create a database of organizations and individuals engaged in the creative industries, which will be a valuable resource for further support and development of the sector as well (1 week for an open call, then 1 week to summarize the results).

Based on the collected information, we suggest to: 

  • Provide compensation for the office maintenance costs for the months of March - April to SMEs and NGOs operating in the cultural and creative sectors

  • Provide support to independent artists and creative individuals based on the presented needs  (in the range of 50,000 - 250,000 AMD per month)

  • Create an online platform for promoting the works and services of local artists and cultural and creative operators. In this regard, it is possible to cooperate with already existing platforms, to bring together their resources and tools

  • Provide financial support to the artists and creative operators to present, distribute and promote their works on international paid platforms, at prominent virtual festivals and exhibitions

  • Provide financial support to the artists and creatives to participate at international online educational and training programs.

  • Consider the cultural and creative industries as the forerunners of economic revival in the post-pandemic time, prioritizing the sectors and providing specific conditions for the sectors to strive and contribute to the overall economic growth and stability of the Republic of Armenia.

 

Summarizing the survey we can conclude that continuous work needs to be done for mapping the sector and its needs, which will help develop and implement a common policy together with the artists themselves, as they are ready to participate and contribute in the planning and implementation stages of the state cultural strategy for the benefit of cultural and creative sectors.

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