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  • Writer's pictureJohanna Kouzmine-Karavaïeff

The Role & Value of Culture & Creative Industries During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt globally, affecting all walks of life in personal, social and commercial contexts. The Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI’s) are not exempt, and nor have they escaped the significant negative impact – industries within which the convening of people is a natural aspect in the delivery of creative artefacts. Consequently, theatres, operas, art galleries and other places of public congregation have been forced to close at short notice bringing the results of intense creative effort and preparation to an abrupt end.

The social and economic impact on culture and creative industries will be severe and these sectors, like many others, will need support across their respective ecosystems and supply chains.

The discourse that we read and see in the media understandably focuses on the negative impact but, as in many crises, positive opportunities arise – opportunities for contributing & collaborating and ones which may lead to new innovations in terms of how that dialogue is conducted as well as the outcome.

So, the question ‘What do the CCIs positively contribute with in this crisis?’ arises.

The COVID-19 circumstances have forced a change of situational context – where changes or novel behaviours have emerged – telepresence has become the norm where workplace dialogue is conducted remotely, and teams work and collaborate from home. This forced change of situational context can also result in innovative behaviours and new collaborations that arise in order to find new solutions.

An interesting aspect of this is the wide-scale intense forms of agile cross-sector collaborations that are emerging for problem resolution. Collaborations that comprise a global community of scientists, government officials, journalists, programmers, and concerned citizens – all brought together by a shared conscience and a technology & communications infrastructure that goes beyond spatial and temporal borders.

Examples of this include Novartis, the global healthcare company, joining the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator – a programme coordinated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Foundation and Mastercard. General Motors and Ford shut down North American manufacturing in March and announced plans to make critically needed ventilators in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, asking what the Culture and Creative Industries positively contribute in this crisis is interesting. As a fervent and passionate defender of the CCIs and a believer in the immense value of culture, it would not be a surprise to hear me say that I believe CCIs can contribute a great deal indeed. In reflecting on this question, many obvious and natural answers emerge – ones that don’t require any deep inquisition or search.

There is the intrinsic value of culture. The arts and culture help people in confinement and isolation. What would one do without the creative artefacts crafted by artists – the songs that we listen to every day, the films that watch and the paintings that we admire?

Social distancing and isolation have created an ether of personal spaces, but it is in these spaces that we listen to that great music or watch those films and obtain joy from the artworks that we see with our devices. In more corporeal contexts, singers and musicians have performed out of their windows and on balconies to entertain people and cheer them up and bring them joy during quarantine. Can you imagine the silent barren world without this?

Another example is illustrated by an email I recently received regarding a charity sale called, “Protect Your Caregiver” organised by the President and shareholder of the French auction house PIASA, Laurent Dumas, in response to the urgent demands placed on caregivers by the COVID-19 pandemic. Protect Your Caregiver is a multidisciplinary team of doctors, researchers, entrepreneurs, engineers and developers determined to beat COVID 19. Mr Dumas called upon artists, collectors, gallerists and designers to join the cause – a great example of leveraging social and creative capital for one common cause!

Elsewhere, visual artist Zane Mellupe, in collaboration with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, applies her creativity in campaigns supporting China and Italy that coordinate donations and logistics for medical materials between the two countries during the coronavirus crisis.

The art collection Galila’s Passion Obsession Collection in Brussels continues to engage the public through educational projects where children who are confined to their homes undertake tasks of creating masks from all sorts of everyday material they can find at home. The project aims to show how relevant art can be in real life. Art, in this case, serves as a tool to make the children reflect upon how they want to impact adults and their environment. In Amsterdam, students from the Fashion Institute help Project Amsterdam to make face masks for hospitals and for shelters for homeless people.

Swedish musician Frida Öhrn plays with her band outside retirement facilities. The Assembly Hub - a hub for fashion and creative entrepreneurs in Senegal, offers free virtual consultation clinics to help their community of entrepreneurs and freelancers in the areas of wellbeing, remote working, marketing and business strategy - or just having someone to talk to.

The UN, in collaboration with Talent House, launched a call for artists and creators to stop the spread of Covid 19. The call searched for artwork contributions that were able to efficiently communicate across cultures, languages, communities and platforms. The aim of this was to capture and disseminate the UN’s key messages regarding hygiene, physical distancing, knowing & recognising symptoms, kindness, contagion, myth-busting, doing more and donating.

UNESCO also launched two different initiatives in response to the crisis – both to engage creative professionals and to make culture accessible. It’s also worth highlighting the value accorded to creativity and culture by the UN who, in 2017, designated 21st April as World Creativity & Innovation Day. The objective of this is to, “raise awareness of the role of creativity and innovation in problem-solving and, by extension, economic, social and sustainable development.” Three years on, as we face & tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the meaning of that objective & message is paramount.

Earlier, I mentioned the intrinsic value of arts and culture, but it is also important to mention the social value and the positive contribution to well-being that the creative and cultural sectors bring during this type of crisis. The examples given above provide a glimpse of the role that creative and cultural sectors can play in augmenting the quality of life. Given the new situational context that we find ourselves in - where we are forced to change our behaviours, it is perhaps also a period in which we can alter how we think about the creative and cultural sectors – going beyond their intrinsic value and seeing them as integral to new partnerships and collaborations that yield new innovations and solutions.

It is the true cross-sector collaboration that draws in a range of perspectives, skills and knowledge that enhance overall capability and results in exciting developments – results that may not have been otherwise possible.

Creative professionals can add a unique and valuable perspective to other sectors to achieve such results and solve serious problems in a range of civic, societal and industrial contexts. For that to happen though open minds are needed - ones that go beyond siloed thinking, embrace cross-sector dialogue and truly appreciate the valuable spectrum of creativity in CCIs.

In further emphasising the role of cross-sector dialogue in human-centric innovation and the creative value this brings to problem solving, the artist - as the expert of creativity, has a spectrum of skills, perspectives and experiences that can be of real value in other sectors. This is something that we firmly believe in at ifa laboratory. Dialogue is, of course, a two-way process. Innovation and the exchange of skills is a mutual process where all stakeholders benefit – something that epitomises the value of cross-sector collaboration.

ifa laboratory works with businesses and large-scale initiatives that focus on the transfer of skills and perspectives from the creative sectors into others. In a business context, real value and positive impact on organisational processes in companies such as team building, innovation processes, HR processes, and change management & leadership can be created. Artists and creative professionals, with the right experience and awareness, can make a real difference. They bring a rich diversity of thinking, perspective and practice with them. Creativity injects a unique element and dynamic to business mindsets, positively affecting interaction and outcomes. To illustrate, collaboration was recently initiated with the art collector Galila Barzilaï-Hollander using the Galila’s Passion Obsession Collection (P.O.C) in Brussels. This unique collection of contemporary art is used as a platform, resource and tool for a range of workshops for companies and other organisations.

The firm also engages in large-scale macro-level initiatives. This includes, for example, collaborative research with a corporate innovation specialist, Zeldah Schrama and other partners. This focuses on proposing a two-year programme that creates platforms and channels for artists to advise SMEs.

To summarise – I am confident that the role CCIs will play in future societies will expand as the awareness & recognition of their importance and huge potential in stimulating and catalysing innovation in other sectors develops. I envision a future where CCIs play a pivotal role in innovation processes and the architecting of next-generation ecosystems.

Johanna Suo Kouzmine Karavaïeff

Johanna Suo, Founding Partner and Principal Consultant in Culture and Creative at Artisans of Innovation and Director at ifa laboratory.

ifa laboratory is a facilitation firm that focuses on cultural strategic relations, culture in external relations as well as transfer of skills & perspectives from creative sectors

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