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Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on culture in cities
Sharing data and intelligence is crucial to recovery and renewal

World Cities across the globe are working hard to understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the local cultural sector.

Some are commissioning or undertaking surveys themselves. Most are working in close collaboration with sector bodies, other funders (national and local) and research institutes. All prioritise the sharing of data and intelligence.

Most surveys include metrics of expected income loss, unrecoverable operation expenses, impact on workers, and the anticipated ripple effect in the middle and long term. It is a grim picture – a recent study shows that 13% of museums around the world may close permanently, and the International Labour Organization placed workers in the “arts, entertainment and recreation, and other services” in a medium-high risk category.

Data such as this has already helped city and national government target relief efforts. It will become even more important as the recovery stage kicks on.

Image courtesy of Seoul City
Image courtesy of Seoul City

Some specific examples include:

  • New York: The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs partnered with Americans for the Arts to survey non-profit cultural organizations in NYC to capture the full breadth of the financial impact of the crisis. The survey is national and available at state and local level so cities can compare themselves in the dataset.
  • Montreal: Culture Montréal launched a series of tracking forms for artists, workers and cultural organizations in Montreal. The data collected is confidential but allows them to document the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • London: The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the UK launched an inquiry into the impact of COIVD-19 on the DCMS sectors, aiming to study the immediate and long-term impact of the virus. The Creative Industries Federation, the UK’s membership body for creative businesses, surveyed 2,000 creative businesses and individuals and collated advice from across the sector to provide guidance to those in the creative industries who are affected by the Coronavirus and its fallout.
  • Guangzhou: Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences was commissioned to conduct a survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector and its expectations from policy support, addressing questions on estimated income loss, types of operational impact, cash flows, and reopening experiences.
  • Chengdu: The City Promotion Department of the Municipal Party Committee commissioned an online questionnaire on cultural tourism enterprises and industry associations in 22 districts and counties and 15 cultural sub-sectors.

Of course, gathering data and intelligence on its own is not enough. It is the sharing of information and the constant, ongoing communication between the cultural sector and its supporters at local and national level that will make the difference to long-term recovery and renewal. The experience of the World Cities Culture Forum is that culture teams in City Halls across the world are playing a crucial role in this process of collaboration and support.