The global COVID-19 pandemic impacted every industry on the planet, but the cultural and creative sectors have suffered the most. Social distancing, venue closures, and events and festival cancellations put more than 7 million people at high risk of losing their jobs. We witnessed a rapid shift to a virtual environment, but in the cultural sector, it has not gone smoothly, as the new digital format was not so readily accepted by the public, and artists struggled to translate their art into the new virtual world. Also, many didn’t have the tools that provide access to virtual events, resulting in inequalities across the globe. The economic impact on culture also caused financial losses to related sectors.
Governments have offered financial aid packages as they continue to meet the demands of the crisis, and attempt to reduce long-term consequences.
Overview of measures
At the beginning of March 2020, as the World Health Organisation declared the virus a global pandemic, the Ministry of Culture and Media assigned 48 million kunas for the Crisis Fund to support Croatian culture and media sectors.
Working closely with the European Social Fund, they secured an additional 35 million kuna for projects that are part of Art and Culture Online.
During the last year, support measures were delivered in three packages, and the Ministry announced it would continue monitoring the situation and respond accordingly, providing support in all fields of the cultural sector.
Independent artists, part-time workers, and those without permanent sources of income within the sector were granted funds as a measure of job preservation. Artists who don’t have regulated status and are not in the register of taxpayers were granted a one-time payment through associations. Media service providers were entitled to disbursements.
Culture online, film, events, theatres, cultural goods, music
Following the first rapid reaction with restrictions and cancellations of events in May 2020, it was time to start planning and encourage the restart of cultural life.
The Ministry published the call Art and Culture Online, with total funds of 25 million kuna. The goal is to fund the delivery of online cultural and artistic activities.
Entrepreneurship in Cultural and Creative Industries call has focused on adapting businesses to new production models, distribution, availability, and access to artistic and cultural content. The fund of 8 million kunas has been designated to cover fields of literature, publishing, performing arts, and book activities.
The film industry was severely affected by ongoing restrictions. Co-funding of films is done via the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (Croatian: HAVC), and funding covers expenses that occur as a result of following restrictions advised by the Ministry of Health. Additional funding was given for the production of debut feature films that could not be produced due to the economic impact of COVID-19.
In Autumn of 2020, the Ministry of Culture and Media expanded their previous support for debut feature films, as more grants and support were allocated by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.
An additional decision was introduced in June, for all diving and underwater activities where cultural goods are located, such as shipwrecks and ancient artworks. The decision included suspension of fees and financial compensation for all operating permit holders.
Consultations were held with representatives from the events and festival industries, as their activities reached a halt. New budgets were set for them until all restrictions were lifted.
As performances, theatre events, dance, and music events were cancelled, the Ministry published a call for partial compensation of performance costs. This was intended to stimulate activity in performing arts, as the reduced availability of space for performances had increased operating costs.
In November 2020, the Ministry prepared another support measure of 5 million kuna to reactivate the concert industry, under the slogan ‘Because we must play!’ (Croatian: Jer svirati se mora!).
In cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and the Croatian Agency for Small Business, Innovation and Investment (HAMAG-BICRO), a loan guarantee program was launched in July 2020. 300 million kuna were assigned, guaranteed by the Government, with each loan up to 800.000 euro.
Relaxation of measures
2021 brought with it some improvements and the easing of mandated safety measures, as well as some indoor and outdoor gatherings.
A new set of recommendations were introduced to allow the realisation of previously cancelled artistic activities, production, and distribution of cultural content. Libraries, museums, bookstores, archives, and galleries were now eligible to open while theatres were granted permission to have rehearsals.
HAVC’s campaign ‘Back to the cinema!’ (Croatian: Povratak u kino!) promoted the return to cinemas.
To sum up
Reports from January 2021 give detailed insights into the extent of support measures put in place over the past year. A total of 847 independent professional artists were provided with financial aid to the sum of 6.7 million kunas.
Public calls are still active, inviting remaining artists to apply and secure financial aid.
The Government announced that it is continuing to monitor the development of the pandemic, and aims to reduce the economic impact as much as possible. These measures seek to reduce long-lasting consequences and reactivate economic activity in all sectors as soon as circumstances regarding public health will allow.