DAMU/VŠE research project maps impact of coronavirus measures on Czech cultural sector

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The first phase of a comprehensive survey measuring how the Czech cultural sector is faring during the coronavirus crisis wraps up at midnight on Wednesday. The research aims to asses the economic impact on the arts and better enable authorities to help ensure individuals and institutions in the sector get the help they need.

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague International
The research project to map the effects of the coronavirus is a joint project of two venerable Prague institutions: the Academy of Performing Arts (DAMU) and University of Economics (VŠE), respectively their production and arts management departments.

The idea is to collect as much quantifiable data as possible to serve as a basis for responsible decision-making, so as to allow public authorities to allocate funds, for example, based on facts rather than emotional appeals or from lobbying pressure.

At the same time, say Jakub Grosman of VŠE’s arts management department, the research aims to help people who form the backbone of the cultural sector but aren’t anchored to an institution.

“Our goal is to gather the greatest, most representative amount of data possible. We started collecting the data in three sectors: theatre, music and the fine arts, including galleries. We have added museums and other institutions that don’t fit neatly into a category. We’re collecting the data on two levels: individual and institutional.”

Data collected includes the number of employees at an institution, its seasonal and annual turnover, ticket sales, attendance and visitation in 2019 and corresponding figures so far this year. The data will collected on a monthly basis, aggregated and made available to institutions, professional associations, and municipal and government authorities.

Data about individual artists, as well as technical and administrative professionals in the cultural field, whether self-employed or otherwise, is crucial to getting an accurate assessment of the impact of anti-coronavirus measures on the sector, Jakub Grosman told Czech radio.

“There really are a lot of individuals in the field of culture. In the questionnaire, we ask them how much money they have received, what financial reserves they have and how many months they think they can last, how much they expect to lose in April. I think that for many individuals the drop will be steeper and may continue another half year.”

The Czech government has approved a cultural sector aid package worth more than CZK 1 billion. Of that amount, CZK 440 million has been earmarked to support the independent art segment, with the remainder split among the Ministry of Culture itself and regional institutions, including non-profits. Owners of private Prague theatres have protested that the aid is going solely to state institutions and others receiving state subsidies.

The question that the joint DAMU/VŠE survey hopes to help answer is whether that will be enough to ensure artists and institutions receive sufficient support until anti-coronavirus restrictions are eased and eventually lifted.