COVID-19 in the cultural sector

An ongoing update on the situation in the cultural field during the pandemic

On Friday March, 13th, the Belgian government announced a number of drastic measures to curb the further spread of the Coronavirus. An important part of social life was shut down. In addition to retirement homes, schools, universities, shops and cafes, the cultural houses were also asked to close their doors: museums, concert halls, clubs, cinemas, cultural centres, fairs and festivals… But also rehearsals, film recordings and residencies were cancelled and production processes were shut down.

That same evening, State of the Arts, the platform for independent artists and artists, launched a hotline for the hundreds of freelancers who had to stop their activities from one moment to the next.

The sheer amount of reactions that came in clearly show the extremely fragile income structure of not only artists, but also other freelancers in the cultural sector such as technicians, dramaturgs, administrators, graphic designers, photographers, etc. As a reaction, SOTA (State of the Arts) published an open letter proposing a set of concrete measures to create a differentiated compensation fund for the cultural sector.

Read the open letter by SOTA (State of the Arts). In the meantime, SOTA initiated SOS Relief. This financial support platform is an initiative of State of the Arts to connect people in Belgium with financial stability to people faced with dire precarity. SOTA is an open artist-run platform which Jubilee actively engages in.

Additional information and other initiatives:

_________________________________ February 2021

How to Live and Work Today? In the Arts and Beyond. Online presentation and public debate on the improvement of social security for artists, organised by State of the Arts (SOTA). Read more

_________________________________ January 2021

Globe Aroma launches An Urgent Embrace, a peer-to-peer financial support tool for the Globe Aroma community developed in collabortion with SOS Relief. Read more

_________________________________ September 2020

The Flemish Government has released a new ‘Cultural Activity Premium’ for public cultural events organised in Brussels and Flanders between Sep 1st, 2020 and May 31st, 2021. Read more (Dutch only)

The Brussels-Capital Region intends to start a new initiative, ‘Cultuurbureau’/ ‘Office de la Culture’, which would serve as a consultancy for Brussels-based artists & cultural organisations. A list of recommendations, set up in close collaboration with other players in the cultural field, is still open for your input. Send us a mail at:

The Brussels-Capital Region has announced a second round of emergency funding for cultural workers & organisations following the leftover budget from the first round. The financial support will be based on the applicants’ income between June and September 2020. More information to follow soon.

Interview with Vincent Meessen about his experience within the task force which has advised the Minisitry of Culture of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels to take action in Covid times (in French)

_________________________________ June 2020

The Flemish Community announces the breakdown and details about the previously rumoured corona emergency fund. Of a total of 265 million, 65 million will be accessible to structurally funded cultural organisations. Complementary 20 million, through municipalities, could equally benefit the arts. This is less than expected and necessary, especially for individuals who are not part of an organisation, argues De Standaard, on June 3rd, 2020.

_________________________________ May 2020

In view of the current crisis, a new platform was created for visual artists of the French-speaking community in Belgium: Fédération des Arts Plastiques

Art Cares Covid sells artworks of which 60% of the price will be paid to the artist and 40% to the non-profit organization A Travers les Arts. This Belgian organization pays for urgent food supplies and medication delivered to elderly people during the confinement.

Austria raises 90 million euro support fond for artists. During the second part of the year artists will receive a monthly aid of 1000 euro. Read the full article (Dutch) published in De Morgen on May 28th, 2020.

Els Silvrants-Barclay from State of the Arts reports back on the meeting between Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès and the delegation of representatives from the cultural sector on Radio 1 (May 25th)

Flemish Minister of Culture Jan Jambon forms new Social Relaunch Committee without representative for the Cultural Sector. Read the full article (Dutch) published by Het Laatste Nieuws on May 17th, 2020

Belgian HR-company for cultural jobs Amplo published revealing figures about temporary and freelance contracts in April. Compared to April 2019 the amount of contracts went down by a staggering 79%.

De Morgen paints a grim picture;  research by The National Bank of Belgium reveals that most of the people who are currently relying on temporary unemployment due to COVID-19 will eventually lose their jobs, while those who are unemployed oftentimes cannot count on any support at all. (May 13th)

Two new coalitions have arisen to defend and negotiate the interests of the heterogenic cultural sector: No Culture No Future (FR) and Artiestencoalitie (NL).

Interview with Pierre Dherte from No Culture No Future on La Première, RTBF radio, broadcasted on May, 13th

An open letter signed by 300 prominent artist from various disciplines addressed to Belgium’s prime minister Sophie Wilmès was published in De Standaard (Dutch) and RTBF (French) on May 11th. The letter recapitulates the current situation, explains why the implications of corona-related shutdowns are much more severe in the cultural sector than elsewhere, and demands a series of support mechanisms.

State of the Arts, rekto:verso and Kunstenpunt launch Tuesday Talks a live panel featuring different guest speakers every Tuesday, 20h

_________________________________ April 2020

An article about the protection of artists during and post COVID-19 (Dutch), published in De Morgen on April 27th, 2020

An overview of the various support programmes in Belgium, Flanders, and Brussels, published on on 17 April, 2020 (in Dutch)

On the Move (OTM), a cultural mobility information network operating across Europe and internationally, has created a regularly updated overview of all the international measures, initiatives and COVID-19-related information

An article by Jesse Van Winden about the lack of support for the cultural and creative field in The Netherlands, published in rekto:verso on April 17th, 2020

An article by Wouter Hillaert (Dutch) published in rekto:verso on April 15th, 2020, gathers no less than twenty testimonies to the government’s insufficient support measures for people in the cultural field, twenty people slipping through the cracks

April 10th update: SOTA has created an overview of its own concrete actions and the measures implemented by the Flemish Government

April 3rd update: Wouter Hillaert, Michiel Vandevelde and Bart Caron react to Jambon’s declaration of intent for the Arts sector in rekto:verso (all articles in Dutch)

An article about the emergency measures announced by the Flemish Government, published in De Standaard on April 1st, 2020

_________________________________ March 2020

For Brussels-based artists, the complicated political nature of the region makes the corona crisis even more uncertain, published on on 31 March, 2020

An overview of the measures taken by Smart and the (European) actions regarding the current situation (French/Dutch)

March 30th update: Jan Jambon has published a declaration of intent for the Arts sector (Dutch). SOTA is currently working on their reaction

An open letter about flexible working by Wouter Hillaert en Kobe Matthys (Dutch), published in De Standaard on March 27th, 2020

An analysis of the financial impact of the corona crisis in the cultural sector by Wouter Hillaert in rekto:verso on March 21st, 2020