The Corona crisis is putting enormous constraints on the entire social and economic life. Also the cultural sector is greatly affected. Will our society look the same post-Corona, or can this be the beginning of a systemic change that counters the inequalities and injustices this crisis is exacerbating more than ever?
Long before Belgium went into lockdown we knew that many artists live and work in precarious conditions.The testimonies in our COVID-19 hotline demonstrate that the Corona-crisis now threatens to reinforce this precarity. Precisely the artists and artworkers with the most vulnerable statutes risk falling between the cracks of the generated social safety net. See also Wouter Hillaert and Kobe Matthys’s opinion text: Wij vergeten een paar kwetsbare groepen! (in Dutch).
State of the Arts is acting on multiple levels:
- As early as March 14th, we set up a hotline for testimonies on the impact of the crisis. of more than 800 submissions will follow soon. The hotline remains open.
- We are part of the administration’s Task Force on the Corona-crisis, which is asked to draw up a plan for the 200 million emergency fund. Further on our position.
- In addition, we are also setting up an online solidarity tool that links people who can spare a small amount of money to people in need. Something for you? See below!
- We took the initiative to unite the main artists’ guilds and organisations in Flanders to form an alliance to jointly advocate for additional measures for individual artists, in particular those in the most precarious statutes. Behind the scenes, we continuously give input to politicians and advocacy groups.
Even after Corona, we want to maintain this alliance in view of the announced roll-out of a new arts decree. We will continue to plead for a just, solidary and polyphonic arts field, with fair practices.
On the basis of hundreds of testimonies registered via our hotline in the first few days, Rekto Verso published the article Het financiële slagveld Corona (in Dutch). A new analysis of more than 800 submissions will follow soon. We still miss one piece of the puzzle.
Wanted for this weekend: cultural workers affected by the crisis who are not eligible for support via the actual government measures, and want to testify about this in a short portrait. Briefly mail your situation and your phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
INFORMATION ON CURRENT GOVERNMENT SUPPORT MEASURES COVID-19 FOR CULTURE
Questions about the government measures already announced? Cultuurloket is your point of contact. Together with the Department of Culture, Youth and Media, they drew up a FAQ (in Dutch), which is always kept up-to-date. Still questions left? If so, pcontact Cultuurloket Corona helpdesk: 02 534 18 24 (Mon to Fri from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.). You can also read the overview of the Kunstenpunt here (in Dutch).
Here’s the general overview and current discussion points:
Cultural workers/artists employed by an organisation/institution can get access to temporary unemployment benefits due to force majeure. In addition, certain cultural organisations can, if they can demonstrate 60% loss of income, receive a lump-sum compensation of 3,000 €.
For fully and partially self-employed cultural workers/artists, measures are currently in place that, subject to conditions, entitle them to an ‘overbrugging’ (fully self-employed – ‘zelfstandig in hoofdberoep’) or lump-sum compensation (partially self-employed – ‘zelfstandig in bijberoep’ – subject to conditions). It is important, however, to point out that the conditions for partially self-employed workers are quite strict and that the lump-sum is limited.
At the beginning of April, the government announced that flex workers who work on short-term contracts via interim or SBK can also be included in the temporary unemployment scheme, but for them the conditions announced are very restrictive:
- Entitlement to temporary unemployment only applies if a contract was drawn up before 13 March
- If no contract has been signed, the flex worker must be able to demonstrate that he/she has a long-term relationship with the SBK by submitting long-term contracts that ‘reasonably’ demonstrate that the flex worker would continue to work after the crisis.
As far as SOTA is concerned, these strict conditions do not sufficiently take into account the specific manner of flex-working in the arts field:
– in the cultural sector, contracts are often only drawn up a few days in advance (and so e-mails or programme booklets should also be able to serve as proof of commitments already made).
– Artists in all disciplines often work with short or even daily contracts (and are therefore unable to submit long contracts).
SOTA and the coalition of artists’ guilds and associations therefore argue that the specific way in which flex work operates in this field of the arts should lead to a broadening of the temporary unemployment scheme for flex workers via SBKs.
EMERGENCY FUND COVID-19 OF THE FLEMISH GOVERNMENT
Last week, the Flemish government announced the establishment of a joint Flemish emergency fund of 200 million euros for the Culture, Youth, Sports, Media and some other related sectors to compensate for non-recoverable costs, investments and losses. Negotiations on the use of these funds are still ongoing. ‘But’, Minister Jambon explained, ‘it is clear that we cannot take on all the losses’. Sector and government must continue to work together to ensure that the funds are used properly. Tom Kestens of State of the Art/GALM is part of the task force on the Fund.
At the moment, a study bureau commissioned by the Flemish government is investigating the costs and losses involved via the bookkeeping records (‘resultatenrekeningen’) of structurally subsidised organisations. Cost and income losses of non structurally subsidized actors are not included in this exercise. In the Culture Committee of 8 April (2.10.22), the Minister reiterated that ‘the emergency fund is only for structurally subsidised organisations and that freelancers/flex workers and individual artists are taken care of via temporary unemployment’. However, as stated above, this is not yet the case for everyone.
SOTA advocates opening up the emergency fund not only for subsidised organisations, but also for individual artists or small non-profit organisations that do not receive structural subsidies. If not, a part of the non-recoverable costs threatens to remain out of sight. In the visual arts and music, for example, a great deal of the artistic activity affected is independent of the institutions subsidised at the Flemish level. They, too, incurred in vain costs and often have no financial basis at all to cope with this, in contrast to subsidised institutions. Subsidised institutions may combine federal measures of temporary unemployment with support from the emergency fund; we do not see why individual artists and small organisations, often even more vulnerable (and not all covered by temporary unemployment), should be excluded from this.
Some of the artists and flex workers are now at risk of being left out of both federal support measures (temporary unemployment) as well as Flemish support measures (emergency fund). As a result, many commitments that have been cancelled will not be reimbursed for the most vulnerable in the field and will lead to serious financial precarity; in the group that was already at the bottom of the pyramid before the crisis. We will continue to oppose this and remind the Minister of his promises in his brand new vision paper, in which he focuses on the artist.
VISION NOTE MINISTER OF CULTURE PUBLISHED
Even in the midst of the Corona-crisis, Minister of Culture Jan Jambon complied with the arts decree’s obligation to publish his vision on the arts field before 1 April. With this strategic memorandum he puts forward the overarching principles for a new arts decree and the upcoming structural subsidy round. Some of the plans and principles listed in the note appear to reach out to the cultural sector. But are they compatible? Read Vier paradoxen in Jambons kunstenbeleid by Wouter Hillaert (in Dutch).
Also read these analyses:
– Naar een verdere opbouw of afbraak van het kunstenveld? by choreographer, curator, writer and editor Michiel Vandevelde.
– Hervorming kunstenbeleid: niet revolutionair, maar fundamenteel by former Flemish MP Bart Caron
–Visienota Jambon excelleert in jezuïetenstreke by trade union leader ABVV-ACOD Cultuur Robrecht Vanderbeeken
In the meantime we also keep an eye on whether or not the second round of projects will take place. At the Cultural Committee meeting on 8 April, the minister reiterated that he is still looking for funds for this, apart from the emergency fund.
We are currently working within the politix team of SOTA on a number of actions to stimulate the debate around the new arts decree. If you would like to be involved, please email us at email@example.com
Action is needed, that’s clear. SOTA continues via video-conferencing. Do you want to join us? State of the Arts (SOTA) functions as an open platform, organized in six autonomous circles or groups. They exist as communities tailored to specific interests, needs or skills. Read more here.
Each group has 2 anchors. Structural exchange between these teams is happening in the anchor group, with all coordinators of the teams. Every month SOTA organises an open meeting where everyone is welcome, and where we provide feedback and process new input.
Do you have an action in mind or want to help with ours? firstname.lastname@example.org
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You believe in a more fair art field for artists, and want to help to realize it? email@example.com
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