The impact of coronavirus violently affects all sectors of society.
Negative impacts are particularly important in the world of culture in Italy (but also elsewhere), where a relatively small number of medium and small enterprises operate compared to a multitude of micro enterprises and individual forms of self-entrepreneurship, representing the basic productive and professional fabric to which even the more structured institutions refer. In fact, most cultural sub-sectors employ individual workers and professionals or contract micro-enterprises (without employees and actually coinciding with the activity of the owner).
The fragility, fragmentation and uncertainty of the contractual forms depend both on a historical characteristic of intellectual work in this sector and on the policy of outsourcing that the more structured companies and institutions have implemented to cope with the decrease in public and private resources, significantly increasing a precarious market.
In summary, a large part of the professional world of culture is located within an area of functions outsourced by larger institutions and industries, which objectively constitutes an organic and indispensable part of the sector in functional terms, while subjectively it assumes the fragmentary dimension of a multitude of individual professionals or micro-enterprises.
This crisis highlighted problems that already existed but that have now exploded in all their seriousness, due to the fragmentation and complexity of the sector.
The first one is the issue of social protection: beyond the ethical principle of the need for protection of every worker, this very close interdependence between individuals and cultural production is one of the reasons that require extending forms of support and protection in order to try to contain structural damages to the entire cultural system.
The second one is the lack of visibility of many cultural workers and professionals: beyond economic aid, it is fundamental that institutions realize that this invisible part of the sector exists and that without it the sector itself would not survive. We cannot continue to identify the sector purely with the large public institutions (or strongly supported by the public) or with the big stars.
The third issue is that of sustainability, of the sector itself but also in broader terms: this whole world will survive if it manages to answer some of the post-Corona virus questions, such as for example the raise of educational poverty, of serious forms of depression as well as the need for producing innovation, all issues which will benefit from the involvement of the cultural sector in order to be effectively tackled (and of course we should also take into account the need for the sector to get ready to be involved in such challenges). By doing that, the cultural sector might not only save itself but also in this way be able to contribute to the implementation of some of the goals of the Agenda 2030.
ECCOM is a member of Culture Action Europe (CAE), a network which gathers together a great number of public and private organisations as well as individuals operating in the cultural sector. As other Italian members of CAE, ECCOM is strongly convinced of the importance of bringing out the complexity, heterogeneity, fragmentation and also the weakness of the whole chain of the cultural sector, putting the emphasis on that large part of organizations / professionals whose role is usually not explicitly recognized. A group of Italian members of CAE intend to do so by giving visibility and voice at a number of workers of the sector, listening to them with regard to the following issues: social protection (in this particular moment but also in more general terms); safeguard of competences and capacity building needs; self-perception and public acknowledgment of the complexity of the sector and of its productive chain; awareness of the social role of culture, and of the peculiarity of the sector (first of all, its being transversal); future vision of how it will survive and expected changes.
This activity – which is in the process of being defined and is meant to be implemented in the next months – is perfectly in line with the CULTURE2030GOAL campaign “Ensuring culture fulfills its potential in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic”, which CAE is part of (https://cultureactioneurope.org/news/ensuring-culture-fulfills-its-potential-in-responding-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/). The declaration in fact states that “failing to support culture in this time of crisis will result in potentially irreversible losses to creators, artists and cultural professionals, who already often do not benefit from adequate protections, as well as damage to many cultural practices, resources and organisations. This risks triggering a considerable deterioration in the richness and diversity in all manifestations of culture – from heritage sites, museums, libraries and archives to traditional practices and contemporary cultural expressions – and the ability of culture to contribute to a better future”.
Cristina Da Milano, President of ECCOM, vice-president of Culture Action Europe
This article has been first published as part of Respond, React, Evolve series by BJCEM, collecting and sharing original reflections from institutions, cultural operators, artists and curators, regarding the current situation and future perspectives for culture: www.bjcem.org/projects/respond-react-evolve/