Support measures for the Romanian cultural sector in response to the COVID-19 crisis

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©Albert Dobrin

28 March 2020

Cultural sector in Romania has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Early March, cultural organisations started to postpone their events (exhibitions, music concerts, film festivals, workshops, masterclasses, theatre plays). Later on, rescheduling resulted in cancellations due to the lack of certainty.

Artists in Romania generally work under two forms of contracts: full-time individual contracts with cultural institutions or organisations (state funded theatres, opera houses, museums, libraries) and seasonal contracts varying from project to project and depending on the availability of funds.

Artists working on a full-time contract are financially secured because institutions pay their salaries during this emergency period, while independent artists find themselves in a critical situation due to the cancellation of events and the ban on any public gathering. The situation has severely affected their revenues on which they are very dependent.

Almost two weeks ago, when businesses and all sorts of activities started to slow down, and the events were cancelled, the artists sent several online petitions and open letters to the Ministry of Culture asking for concrete support measures. Without any action in place, they put public pressure on national authorities.

Shortly after, some initiatives of support for independent artists were undertaken both on public and private level.

First announced (March 19) was the fund created by Fundatia9, which is the only cultural foundation in Romania privately held by a bank – the BRD Groupe Societe Generale. Our sponsor (BRD) allocated € 60.000 to build a program for the independent artists. The program is designed to support the artists in these difficult times by providing them micro grants (€ 1500-3.000) to create and produce artworks that can be presented online. It is an artistic creation fund that encourages the work from home through the use of media and online tools and platforms.

Luckily, we managed to secure extra funding, thus the available budget rose to almost € 80.000 to be spent on this programme. The call for projects is due to be launched next week.

On Thursday, March 26, Cluj Cultural Centre, a network of local cultural organisations, financed by the local municipality, launched a call for projects to be made in 48h under specific themes: “heroes”, “responsibility”, “together”. The programme is intended for independent artists, and the total amount granted per project is € 300 gross.  More information.

On March 27, the Senate of Romania announced the measures taken to support independent artists (meaning those who are not under contract with public cultural institutions such as museums, theatres, etc.). Artists can benefit from a government allowance of up to 75% from the minimum wage in Romania by submitting a request to the National Agency of Unemployment. The measure was taken upon proposal by Vlad Alexandrescu, a Senate member belonging to a new progressive party – the Save Romania Union (USR) and a former Minister of Culture (2016). According to him, around 10.000 independent artists will benefit from this measure. More information on the Senate website.

Also yesterday, March, 27, the Ministry of Culture launched a call for projects under the programme ACCESS Online dedicated to the independent cultural organisations (so others than publicly funded institutions) whose works can be presented online. The call is covering the following artistic domains: visual arts, music, dance, theatre and immaterial heritage. Deadline is April 30 and the total budget is 1.000.000 lei (around € 208.000), the maximum grant per project is 50.000 lei (around € 10.000). More informaiton.

By Anca Drăgoi, Executive Director at Foundation9

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