The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cultural sector in Germany
Adaption, flexibility, and survival of the cultural sector
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the cultural sector was facing new challenges due to the Lockdown restrictions that led to closed doors for museums and educational, and heritage institutions. A direct and heavy impact related to this shutdown was a global decrease in tourism. Tourism activities decreased up to 50-70%. Issues associated with these circumstances are that exhibitions, productions, and events have been canceled. Accompanied by a dramatic decrease in income through museum tickets, shops and cafes was expected and lasted until the end of 2021. This directly led to freelancers being let go or having to deal with the constant postponement of their project-related work. Many cultural organizations and cultural workers were facing a loss of income of 75-80%, as some museums were minimally impacted. The source of income for museums is in part from private and governmental sources. Substantial institutions only partially rely on ticket sales and such.
On an urban region level, the city government had to respond to numerous small businesses shut down and a die-out of the downtown. With the “Ladenliebe” initiative, the historical city of Aachen, which is known for its UNESCO-listed cathedral, is making it possible to rent vacant premises for new ideas, business start-ups, and the realization of one’s own vision in the city center of Aachen (Germany) at a greatly reduced price via a funding program from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The aim is that new concept offers, and business ideas can be tested and established risk-free for a period of up to two years for a sustainable and colorful Aachen city center. From concept stores to creating economic and cultural uses, retail and gastronomy offers to your own specialist shop for sheet wool art design, everything is basically possible for the time being. In response to the up to 80% decrease in tourism, the aim is to make Aachen's city center more attractive by reviving the vacancy rate and thus also to support the existing trade. (Stadt Aachen, 2023)
The German governmental policies for the cultural worker
To understand what rescue packages and aids were available for the creative sector, we need to understand what kind of employment is categorized under the umbrella of the creative sector in Germany.
Innovations for the future of a changing art market for small businesses
Many creative workers had to be innovative with their approach and practice to stay in touch with their network. Information asymmetry has become less as entrepreneurs such as Johan König and young professionals are pushing for transparency in their market prices. As in the case of MISA.ART we learn that creators gain decentralized access to their network in case they are willing to step into the virtual world. Many autodidact creatives have been showcasing their work online prior to the pandemic. Social media changed the art market so much that an artist does not have to solely rely on an art mediator to sell their product. The pandemic has pushed this change rapidly. But what does this mean for small businesses and cultural workers that depend on physical showcase rooms? The above-mentioned financial aid programs were one solution for the cultural sector. Artists such as I were able to access government grants to expand their practice and create engaging decentralized projects that do not need to rely on an uncertain and not accessible physical space. Projects such as #LetterAR were able to exist as the momentum created a space to reach out to digital specialists that changed the way my artists practice to an interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge. In this case, maintaining a safe economic system for the cultural sector was necessary for an innovative project to arise.
Arbeitskreis Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft in der Wirtschaftsministerkonferenz. (2016, June). Bericht des Arbeitskreises Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft der Wirtschaftsministerkonferenz. Leitfaden zur Erfassung von statistischen Daten für die Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft. https://www.wirtschaftsministerkonferenz.de/WMK/DE/termine/Sitzungen/16-06-08-09-WMK/16-06-08-09-bericht-leitfaden-ak-kultur-kreativwirtschaft-10.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=2