The pandemic has closed museums, shuttered concert halls and cancelled theatre performances across the globe, threatening the livelihoods of artists, technicians and musicians and leaving many in the cultural industries fighting for survival. A new study by the Hertie School’s Helmut Anheier, Katrin Winkler and the Technische Universität Berlin’s Janet Merkel explores how five cultural capitals – Berlin, London, Paris, Toronto and New York City – supported their artists, creatives and cultural organisations during this unprecedented crisis.
The research project, supported by the Allianz Kulturstiftung, focuses on the response of each city between March and late summer 2020. While each had to address individual challenges, they also shared similar problems, such as the uncertainty of the pandemic’s progression, ever-changing rules and restrictions or coordinating between multiple layers of government.
Where some fared well, others lacked in their response. In Berlin, for instance, local governments reacted quickly and generously to support the cultural scene with special funding grants and adapted emergency programmes based on feedback. In London, the Mayor of London’s culture and creative industries team helped distribute aid more efficiently, but at the same time there was a significant delay in financial support from the national government. A coordinated, multilevel response worked best in Paris and Toronto. In Paris, the city could rely on burden-sharing with the national government, and Toronto integrated the broadest spectrum of governmental tools into its response, such as tax relief for cultural organisations. Meanwhile, in New York City, officials worked closely with private foundations to mobilise funds for a cultural rescue effort.
Helmut K. Anheier is Professor and past President of the Hertie School, and member of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA. His research centres on indicator systems, non-profit organizations and philanthropy, culture, and organisational studies.
Janet Merkel is a Senior Researcher at the Technical University Berlin’s Institute of Urban and Regional Planning. Her work focuses on creativity as a socio-cultural and socio-material process and brings economic and cultural sociology into urban sociology for a better understanding of creative industries development in cities.
Katrin Winkler is a Research Associate at the Hertie School. Her work focuses on questions of cultural policy and cultural diplomacy.