Culture for post-COVID recovery

Gunnar Prause,
Tallinn University of Technology,

Wismar University Business School,

Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) have been intensively studied within the last decade due to high economic growth potential and positive impact on innovation and regional development. Baltic Sea Region (BSR) enjoys a prospering CCI sector with a large number of agile creative hotspots around the BSR deploying directly their innovation energy or in cross-sectoral cooperation with traditional companies. Consequently, EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) recognises the CCI sector as an important contributor to smart regional transformation and sustainable development. Meanwhile, some EU-projects like “CTCC” project or “Creative Ports” project investigated the CCI clusters within the BSR and contributed to the facilitation of creative-traditional and the transnational cooperation.

This prospering development has been interrupted with the appearance of COVID-19 pandemic where the CCI sector together with tourism industry suffered most under the anti-COVID measures mainly based on lockdowns and social distancing. However, the CCI sector proved its creativity by launching innovative ideas and new channels to distribute cultural products and to meet their clients. Special importance devolved on digitalization strategies where the number of virtual concerts, exhibitions and other cultural offers exploded during COVID times but in parallel, also the demand and consumption of culture and cultural products via digital media increased significantly. A well-known case concerns the museum world where despite the fact that 95% of the museums closed their doors during lockdowns, the number of accesses to online museum websites increased by 200% showing that the cultural demand during Corona times increased and the clients used new channels to consume cultural products. Hence, social distancing and isolation seem to drive the demand for culture.

This observation seems to be in line with results from other science disciplines. A detailed analysis of COVID impacts from the psychological perspective highlights that social distancing and isolation measures caused severe mental health problems within the population representing a topic that have been neglected in the public discussions until now. Surveys from several countries revealed that COVID-19 measures are responsible for growing number of depressions and even suicide due to anxiety, unemployment fears, family aggressions, and social isolation. A representative German online-panel from this year with 5000 persons in the age between 18 and 69 years pointed out that the lockdowns had in general a significant negative mental impact on the normal population and that nearly half of those people who suffered already before COVID-19 from depressions indicated a worsening of their mental situation even up to suicide ideas.

These observations motivated OECD to reflect about an extension of the traditional role of the CCI sector by advocating cross-sectoral cooperation between CCI and health institutions since the experiences of lockdowns made evident the importance of arts and culture for people’s mental well-being “and possibly, through the increasingly documented psychosomatic effects of cultural access” also to health. The OECD approach tries to tackle simultaneously two challenges by supporting the CCI economy after the pandemic and at the same time by facilitating and accelerating the recovery of post-COVID mental problems of the society. By doing so, new opportunities can be established to capitalize the role of arts and culture in the prevention and treatment of illness across the lifespan, contributing to solutions for health and welfare systems with the consequence  to reduce hospitalization or medication rates. As a side effect, such approaches contribute to accelerate digitalization for regional development.

Meanwhile, first cities and regions recognized the advantage of CCI potential for post-the COVID recovery as well as a driver for social-economic regional development. Beyond the in issue of post-COVID recovery, CCI involvement in cross-sectoral innovation projects with traditional companies seems to be prospering also in issues related to climate change, aging society or the support of creative and cultural tourism. The BSR with its long Hanse history and its common Baltic cultural background can play the role of a test lab for whole Europe in the development of successful inter-cultural COVID recovery concepts as well as for trans-regional smart development.


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