Expert author: Carmen Croitoru
Last update: June 4th
Expert author: Carmen Croitoru
Last update: June 4th
The National Institute for Cultural Research and Training (INCFC) launched an interactive platform for monitoring the cultural domain in Romania during the COVID-19 crisis, which is available in English as well. INCFC also started the online debate series “Tomorrow’ culture. About change”, which discusses the position of the cultural sector under the current COVID-19 circumstances. More information and English summaries of the debates can be found here.
The crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic forced the implementation of some restrictive measures — primarily of physical/social distancing — aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. The measures taken to protect the health and safety of Romanian citizens in this context have affected the whole society, destabilizing the economy, the functioning of institutions and the private sector. Thus, in the cultural field the following consequences were manifested:
Governmental measures and other initiatives
The authorities have taken a number of measures to counteract these negative effects:
3.18.2020 – OUG 30 / 3.18.2020 is issued, which provides allowances for independent artists and individuals:
• Art. 15, paragraph 1: providing a compensation equal to the gross minimum wage per economy for authorized natural persons and individual enterprises.
• Art. 10: the method of granting technical unemployment in the case of SRLs and NGOs that temporarily suspends the employment contract. Thus, the employees benefits from a state subsidized allowance of 75% of the salary, but not more than 75% of the average gross salary in the economy.
3.18.2020 – OUG 29 / 3.18.2020 is issued which includes economic and fiscal-financial measures with an impact on the cultural sector:
• Art. 1: Implementation of a multi-annual programme to support SMEs in order to reduce the effects of the spread of COVID-19, by guaranteeing credits and subsidizing the interest for this financing.
• Art.10, paragraph 1: Small and medium-sized companies, as defined by Law no. 346/2004, who have totally or partially interrupted their activity based on the decisions issued by public authorities, during the period of emergency, having been granted a certificate for emergency situations issued by the Ministry of Economy, benefit from deferred payment of utilities, electricity, natural gas, water, telephone and internet services, as well as the deferred payment of the rent for the building destined for registered offices and secondary offices.
3.23.2020 – OUG 32 / 26.03.2020 was issued, following consultations between the Ministry of Culture and the independent cultural sector. It stipulates that natural persons who obtain income exclusively from copyright and related rights, according to the regulations in effect, will receive a compensation equal to 75% of the average gross national wage guaranteed from the general budget consolidated by the County Agencies for Payments and Social Inspection or the Agency for Payments and Social Inspection of the Municipality of Bucharest. The data subjects must not obtain income from other activities and must declare on their own responsibility that they are unable to carry out their activity based on the decisions issued by the competent public authorities according to the law, during the state of emergency period.
3.25.2020 – The National Institute for Cultural Research and Training announces the establishment of the Register of the Independent Cultural Sector, useful in all the steps regarding the mobility and support of this sector, determining the regulatory needs and ensuring its presence in the future national strategy in the field of culture.
3.25.2020 – The Administration of the National Cultural Fund announces that it keeps the call for the second financing session of 2020 open, precisely to support the cultural operators in the context of the aggravation of the crisis caused by COVID-19. Moreover, some of the public cultural institutions (National Dance Centre, National Heritage Institute, Clujean Cultural Centre, National Museum Complex ASTRA Sibiu, Studio M Theatre in Sfantu Gheorghe) announce that they will not attend this funding session in order to show their solidarity with the independent cultural operators, whose resources have been drastically diminished.
3.27.2020 – The Ministry of Culture has launched the ACCES Online 2020 financing project, dedicated exclusively to the private sector, as a financial support tool for cultural projects, which have the capacity to be disseminated exclusively in the online environment. The project was designed in particular to help artists who, during this period, can no longer perform their artistic activities with public. For this reason, the Ministry of Culture decided that this year, the annual funding session through the ACCES Programme should be dedicated to cultural operators in the independent sector. The projects submitted under the ACCES Online 2020 programme must be in the fields of theatre, music, dance, visual arts and intangible heritage. The amount allocated to finance the selection session is LEI 1,000,000 (EUR 207,000). The maximum amount that can be requested for a cultural project / action is LEI 50,000 (EUR 10,300). To be eligible, the cultural offers submitted under the ACCES Online Programme must run between May 30th and August 31st, 2020. The deadline for submitting the participation file is April 30th, 2020.
4.1.2020 – The Ministry of Culture, through the Project Management Unit, as Operator of the RO-CULTURE Program, funded by the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021, announces the launch of the second session of the call for funding, entitled “Strengthening cultural entrepreneurship and the development of the audience and the public”. The call aims to increase access to culture, promote cultural diversity and strengthen intercultural dialogue. The budget of this call for projects is EUR 2,000,000. The value of the non-reimbursable financial support that can be granted to a project is between EUR 50,000 and 200,000. The deadline for submitting files is July 1st.
4.28.2020 – The Ministry of Culture announces that it will implement tools for the acquisition of contemporary art, for the national cultural heritage, in an attempt to stimulate the production and inclusion in the patrimonial stock of contemporary art for museums and state collections.
5.2.2020 – The National Cultural Fund Administration launches the 3rd financing session III / 2020 for publishing projects.
5.10.2020 – The National Institute for Cultural Research and Training launches the Registry of the Independent Cultural Sector and registration is started on the online platform, both for non-governmental organisations and for individuals. The purpose of the registry is to statistically determine the entities/persons that work in the cultural field and that are part of the following categories: non-governmental organisations and workers (individuals) in the cultural field.
Initiatives from society and the cultural sector
Moreover, solidarity initiatives have appeared with the mission to support the cultural sector, but also to involve the cultural sector in supporting the efforts of hospitals in the current context. The Radio Romania Cultural Station announces the priority broadcasting of Romanian music to support the artists affected by the state of emergency. Cluj is launching the platform A single Cluj that brings together institutions and individuals from various fields, including culture, to mobilize resources to hospitals and authorities. Moreover, the Clujean Cultural Centre together with the Health Observatory launches the Artists Together platform with the mission to engage artists in an effort to inform and raise public awareness in Romania on the importance of observing the rules and recommendations communicated by the authorities during the state of emergency, as well as to inform the population about relevant factual data in the current context. In Bucharest, an initiative of several independent cultural entities generated the Pay the rent of an independent actor platform: the organisers call on the public to buy tickets to a theatre performance. The money from the tickets is donated to independent actors. By May 25th, 2020, almost LEI 51,000 has been collected for the current month only.
In addition to the responses from the authorities, society in general and the cultural sector in particular, institutions are continuously taking steps to continue their activity and stay in touch with the remote public. Mostly, this involves moving cultural activity to digital platforms for spectators, both for a fee and for free, and launching campaigns to connect with the public in the digital environment. Approximately two months after the establishment of the state of emergency, we further summarize the activity of the Romanian cultural sector and its reaction to the current crisis:
Theatres provided online videos of both shows that were scheduled to be premiered this season and shows from previous years. Despite their laudable efforts, there are a few limits to the experience of watching a filmed theatre play translating into a weaker technical quality of the online content: in some cases the image quality is affected by the distribution channels, sound is recorded most of the times from a single source, the viewer’s perspective is limited to the filmed frame, and sometimes there are interruptions in the transmission.
Similarly to the public theatres, the independent theatres have been using the digital environment to stream shows to the public at home. Some smaller theatres have managed to stream live shows as the plays were written for one actor only. Moreover, most of the independent theatres have prepared recurrent programmes addressed to children, artistic and dramatic residence programmes as well as cultural, social and humanitarian projects.
As the restrictive measures have been imposed, music institutions adapted their activity using digital platforms such as Facebook or YouTube to broadcast recordings of music shows and concerts from the previous years. A part of these institutions have also initiated cultural and educational programmes for children and, in some cases, they have been directly involved in producing protection equipment for the volunteers in the hospitals.
During this period, most of the museums have been promoting previously existing online content: virtual tours, panoramic images of their permanent exhibitions or 3D-mapped mobile cultural goods, along with posts about anniversaries or pieces from the current exhibits. There is a list of all museums with a virtual tour and a list of digital events created by the Direction for Mobile, Immaterial and Digital Patrimony within the National Institute for Patrimony. Moreover, some of the museums have created posts on Facebook about the current activity of their employees, but also about new exhibitions that are prepared for a launch after the end of the emergency state.
The county and university libraries that have been monitored have first of all chosen to make their digital collections more accessible by facilitating direct access to the online archives or platforms with online academic resources. In trying to connect with the public at home, libraries have created online programmes dedicated to a varied range of subjects and age groups, interactive challenges and virtual exhibitions for the art produced by the users. In some cases, the libraries have been involved directly in producing protection equipment donated to the county hospitals.
Publishing houses have started to offer free digital books or to propose substantial sales campaigns.
County-level cultural centres, popular schools for arts and crafts, centres for conserving and promoting culture – these types of institutions have used digital tools to adapt and continue their activity with the public. Thus, some of these institutions have offered virtual tours of their patrimony, some of the teachers continued their lessons online, new online workshops have been set up for the public, and the students of these institutions have been invited to take part in contests or to display their talent along with their teachers.
Essentially, cultural activity moves from offline to online, and thus, the digital environment acquires an important role not only in promoting, but also in carrying out the cultural act.
At the same time, cultural consumption adapts to this context, being constructed in the public discourse as an element of psychological comfort, but also as an act of solidarity with the cultural field and the people affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Reopening cultural institutions for the public – Legal provisions
May 14th – Decision no. 24/14.05.2020 is emitted instituting the state of alert on a national level and the measures preventing and controlling infections in the context of the epidemiological situation generated by the SARSCoV-2 virus. The Annex of the Decision 24/14.05.2020 allows cultural activities taking place in specific spaces, respectively in museums, libraries and exhibition halls. The activities should respect the measures for prevention and protection.
May 15th – The Ministry of Culture emitted the Order no. 2.855/830/2020 regarding the necessary measures for preventing contamination with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and for ensuring the proper development of activities in the cultural sector in conditions of sanitary safety. These measures refer to two types of instituțions: museums and art galleries, respectively libraries. Their provisions regard the employees and individual responsibility, access and contact with the visiting public, employers as well as the personnel working in offices.
May 30th – The Minister for Culture, Bogdan Gheorghiu, and the Minister for Health, Nelu Tătaru, signed the joint Order no. 2879/967/2020. It regards the necessary measures for preventing contamination with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and for ensuring safe sanitary conditions for the development of activities in museums and art galleries, libraries, in the field of film and audiovisual production, open air and drive-in activities. The Order was published in the Official Gazette, part 1, No 460/29.V.2020.
The measures apply to the alert state, in the context of a gradual relaxation of restrictions, corroborated with the necessity to ensure safe sanitary conditions for the activity of cultural institutions and other economic entities active in the cultural sector. The provisions regard the employees and individual responsibility, access and contact with the visiting public, employers as well as the personnel working in offices. The public institutions and economic entities undertaking activities in the cultural and creative sector are to abide by the provisions of the order.
Accordingly, by June 3rd, at least 24 county level museums and libraries (along with their various branches) have reopened for the public, and more and more are announcing their reopening in the upcoming days.