How long will it take for the arts community to recover from COVID-19?



Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

It’s no secret that small-medium businesses around the world have been impacted significantly by the global COVID-19 quarantine. In that realm, none is more important to the future than the creative industry.

Cultural industries, creative industry, or creative economy is broadly defined 1) as those whose major outputs have some symbolic value — such as fine arts, film, and craft — but also possibly including jewelry design, publishing, and fashion; 2) have knowledge as their major input, and in addition to cultural goods and services could include things like software design and internet services; and 3) include advertising, architecture, books and newspapers/magazines, gaming and movies, and music, performing arts, radio, television, and visual arts. UNESCO has put forward guidelines on measuring and compiling statistics on the industry but has not yet reached an international consensus.

The creative economy was first mentioned as an independent entity in the early 1960s. And the creative industry is particularly entrepreneurial. Without a creative industry, by any definition, there is no pipeline for innovation and from a specifically economic view: no connection of products and services to potential customers.

The creative industry contributes an average of 2% to 7% of national gross domestic products (GDP), around the world. The creative industry improves the overall economy in at least 3 more fundamental ways: innovation, social-cultural, and sustainability. In 2017, there were over 5 million jobs in the arts and cultural sectors in the US. Artists are highly educated, over 60% hold higher education degrees compared to just over 35% of the workforce. “Creativity, originality, and initiative” is the number-three in-demand skill predicted for 2022 says the World Economic Forum. The National Endowment for the Arts says Arts and cultural goods and services drive industries primarily focused on producing copyrighted content, accounting for nearly half of their combined $1.2 trillion value in 2019. To put the economic contribution in perspective: if the creative industry were a nation, it would be the world’s 4th largest economy, larger than the economy of Germany and 2.5-times total global military spending.

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020–21 has impacted the arts as many live events were canceled and shifted to outdoor settings. As the health and humanitarian impacts of the pandemic evolve so do the challenges to business. One major impact of the pandemic is already being seen in how businesses respond to customers. A strong digital component to a business is now a requirement.

The Brookings Institute estimated (for creative occupations) losses of more than 2.3 million jobs and $74 billion in average monthly earnings for the creative occupations. These losses represent 30% of all creative occupations and 15% of total average monthly wages. Again, creative occupations in the fine and performing arts — which include the visual arts, music, theater, and dance — will be disproportionally affected, representing roughly a third of wage employment losses.

Critical drivers of recovery for the creative community include support and pursuit of strategic goals and a sense of long view as it relates to climate, data science, and representation. The design world shifting to incorporate greater collaboration between humans and AI; mobility solutions and uses of alternative materials.

Businesses, in general, will continue to benefit from the in-demand skills and in-demand outcomes/experiences associated with creativity, innovation, and critical thinking that is delivered by the creative industry.

In a future where the minimum adjustment is accomplished, closing the digital skills gaps for creatives will be at the forefront of revitalization. Vocabulary such as online presence and events, under-used sources of data/information, AR/VR experiences, and higher-order thinking skills such as creative thinking and decision making will help identify this mindset. Best practices of surviving and thriving creatives are more quickly identified and communicated thanks to the Internet and social media.

If adversities continue in a prevalent role, wordlists such as threats, dissent, alienation, cancel-culture, distrust, and isolation will tag a slow recovery for creatives. If we see trust in our ability to create solutions that neutralize these threats, rebounding is likely a benefit. Going it alone is not a good strategy for rallying. Focusing on threats, especially reactive policy will stunt and stymie a smart revival.

When vulnerable voices and districts are able and willing to turn to engineers and artists equally to rebuild connections, the creative community will grow and prosper more quickly. Vocabulary such as rapid prototyping, digital life, representation, agility, flexible spaces supports the motivations of exploration, connections, long-view solutions, and climate urgency. Education, financial services, aerospace, environment, and energy industries may benefit from amplified participation by the creative economy.

A transformative result of the COVID-19 quarantine is a heightened sense of assistive solutions restructuring the mighty freshness ideals that humans craved pre-COVID. Our pre-COVID pursuits of the next, shiny thing coming and how to get ahead of the Joneses have been replaced, perhaps temporarily, by renewed purpose and contribution. Forecasts suggest that construction and healthcare may benefit from increased input by the creative industries. Additional vocabulary to watch for includes climate, renewable energy, creative thinking leadership, morale, lifestyle, representation, and creative aptitude. Space exploration may begin to teach us that this may just be the only place that is uniquely designed for our benefit, health, welfare, well-being without our continuous intervention.

Ultimately, how long it will take the creative communities to recover from COVID is fortunately in the creatives' hands. COVID shook the world and creatives are especially adept at taking the fall-out and making a new world from the experience. The answer to any preferred future outcome is as varied as the questioners. Identifying the vocabulary, amplifying the words and phrases that promote the preferences are the first stage. Artists and creatives are known for their entrepreneurial capacity. Entrepreneurs are those who are willing to take a hard look at what is, ask the questions about what could be, and then, just as importantly, act. The sheer ingenuity embedded in the arts and creative communities is precisely what will save it post-COVID-19.

© Robin Jourdan 2021



Robin Jourdan (MFA cand, Shaping Tomorrow Tr Dir)
The Futurian

Robin has w 30+ yrs research, foresight, 6 Sigma & automotive. She is also an MFA Candidate at Wayne State University (MI/USA)