As the world is facing the Covid-19 crisis, many wonder about it’s effect on the short as well as long term. For the cultural sector, the question rises what the post-pandemic arts scene will look like.
For a sector that heavily relies on bringing large crowds together to enjoy cultural performances and to connect to each other, the Coronavirus has serious repercussions. As an immediate response to the world-wide lockdowns, many cultural institutions were quick to explore alternative digital spaces with online exhibitions and a rise in virtual reality. The Guardian has already touted this to be the beginning of a new era for culture. “In a sector that thrives on in-person connection, the loss of an audience is disastrous, yet resilient performers, institutions, galleries, even entire art fairs, are moving to the digital arena, using streaming services and virtual reality, manifesting live concerts on the gaming app Twitch, organizing Instagram dance parties and launching online-only spaces.”
As such, many online projects have been rapidly launched. A highly discussed virtual project has been Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms, which proved so popular when it launched that the site crashed. In South Korea, the LG Arts Center launched together with a large South Korea mobile carrier a series of performances enhanced with virtual reality technology. Furthermore, it has been reported that many artists and cultural centers are shifting focus to teaching art skills through online classes, now that lockdown art classes are booming online.
In terms of business modeling, it is difficult to gain financial gains out of this new online reality. From the start of worldwide lockdowns, an avalanche of free, high-quality content was being placed online, making it difficult for others to tie this to a profitable model. Many artists and venues and other cultural organizations are currently relying on governmental help, and generous gifts of their loyal audiences to stay afloat, a situation that is hardly sustainable for much longer.
As restrictions are slowly easing, many people seem eager to experience live performances again, even if it means they’ll have to remain in their cars. The New Jersey Count Basie Center for the Arts has sold all tickets for a July 11 drive-in show with Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes at Monmouth Park in Oceanport. The next day, the Basie will host a drive-in comedy show with Jim Gaffigan at the same venue. Other short-term solutions that take social distancing into account that are being considered by some arts organizations is by scheduling more shows, now crowd sizes will be lower. For instance, some orchestras are considering splitting the orchestra in two, with each group performing at a different time of the day, making it possible to cater to double the (reduced) crowd.
As these are insecure times for many, the arts are specifically hurting and new, innovative solutions are required. However, the role of the arts in bringing people together, making them reflect on reality, and lifting spirits up will be as crucial as ever for the entire world to slowly recover from this worldwide crisis.