Reflections on the impact of COVID-19 on culture: for a new cultural policy agenda

Lluís Bonet

April 2020

In recent weeks, teacher Lluis Bonet has been writing about the effects of COVID-19 on the sector and cultural life in his blog: https://lluisbonet.blogspot.com.

The first text raises many questions, the second focused on analyzing the impact on citizens. The third and fourth have analyzed the effects on professionals and cultural organizations. Its last textr entitled “For a new cultural policy agenda” tries to reflect on what we should do to respond to the crisis that the pandemic has generated. The article is based on the Spanish cultural reality, but a good part of its conclusions can be extrapolated to any part of the world.

Luís Bonet took part in our Lisbon Summer School. Here, some ideas from his articles:

“What changes are the lockdown causing in cultural practices and in social relations? What will happen when the confinement ends, but the economic situation of the families worsens? Is it possible that a good part of the practices of creative empowerment, of secluded but fuller family life and of an unprecedented neighborly relationship, or of finding other ways to discover, enjoy and share cultural manifestations, involve a significant change in cultural habits? What effects can it have on the long-term cultural practices of heterogeneous individuals and communities? Or, from another perspective, will the social gap widen due to the growth of asymmetries in the accumulation of cultural capital and in access to minimal resources (technological, spatial, educational …) to be able to develop an autonomous and enriching cultural life?

As far as professionals are concerned, with what uneasiness do they live the current situation and what future does the post-confinement for COVID-19 have in store for them?”

“Learning from good and bad practices, from the experience of managing the 2008 crisis, from committed local, national and international initiatives, but in a very particular way focused on different values. The author is committed to brave new cultural policies, tied to the local reality, with a strategic vision and empathy towards the agents involved”.

If the crisis has shown that cultural expressions are vital to accompany and generate community feeling in moments of anguish, introspection and social distancing, this vision may have to be reinforced. Professionals, amateurs and audiences must be able to share enriching cultural expressions and experiences for all from their experience and particular sensitivity. This involves rethinking the usual parameters of evaluating cultural policies. Perhaps it is not necessary to maximize audiences or seek only artistic excellence, but to let professionals committed to this social dimension develop their projects with maximum citizen interaction.

“The cultural sector must abandon the endogamous gaze and the attitude of permanent offense to sit down with the public officials, and listen together to what a plural society demands. In short, to jointly build a cultural policy less focused on guaranteeing one’s interests or dreams, and more focused on emancipating the citizen and empowering the creator”.

Keywords: Covid-19, Organisational development, accessibility, adaptation, community, democracy, governance, participation, politics

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