Reinventing arts and culture during COVID-19
Chris Millado, artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), said artists and cultural workers have largely been affected by the measures put in place to prevent the spread of the illness.
STAR/ File
Reinventing arts and culture during COVID-19
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With mass gatherings prohibited due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the arts and culture sector is looking at ways to reinvent itself to a “new normal” in the post-pandemic recovery period.

Chris Millado, artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), said artists and cultural workers have largely been affected by the measures put in place to prevent the spread of the illness.

Movie screenings, theater performances and concerts were just among the many events that have been cancelled when strict quarantine protocols were adopted in March.

At the CCP alone, Millado said some 3,000 artists, cultural workers and production staff have lost their income sources due to cancelled events because of the public health emergency.

Thousands more in the arts and culture sector are reeling from the impact of the pandemic nationwide.

CCP has lost P90 million in revenue from sales due to cancelled events because of the enhanced community quarantine, said Millado. This is on top of the millions lost from venue rentals that have been closed for almost two months.

But the quarantine period is just the beginning.

According to Millado, it is anticipated that the live arts, or those that involve gatherings of people, would have a very slow recovery in the post-pandemic period.

He underscored the need for the entire sector to look at ways to adapt to the present environment.

Going digital

For Millado, the current situation – while challenging given its impact on the entire sector – also opens opportunities for innovation.

“The arts sector also has a dimension that is not totally reliant on the live interaction,” he said in an online press briefing on Thursday. “We are looking at the digital arts.”

Millado said digital arts, such as online streaming of content, is not expected to sustain significant impact due to the pandemic.

In fact, with more people shifting to the web while locked up in their homes, consumption of content online has seen a surge in recent weeks.

“We’re seeing here an opportunity to innovate in arts production and the delivery of arts and cultural content,” said Millado.

“There’s some beginning experimentation on how to use the digital platform to approximate the experience of the live performance,” he added.

Over the past weeks, several artists have used technology to continue to ply their craft and support COVID-19 response efforts.

Among them is National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, who spearheaded a live concert series to raise funds for food and health support for urban poor communities across Metro Manila.

“Through Bayanihan Musikahan, we want to uplift the spirits of Filipinos everywhere with music and critical support,” said Cayabyab.

“Seeing artists and people pitching in has been overwhelming and inspiring, so we will continue to raise funds for a community-based COVID-19 care center,” he added.

At the CCP, Millado said an extensive part of their collection has already been digitized and is ready for use.

He said they are also learning the ropes of virtual reality to allow people to tour their galleries and exhibits without leaving their homes.

“We are vigorously pursuing how we could continue to deliver live arts through the digital platform,” he said, noting their decision to continue with the annual Virgin Lab Fest, but this time online.

“This becomes an opportunity for playwrights and artists to retool and upscale themselves in online production and delivery,” said Millado.

The CCP is also looking at upskilling their existing content to incorporate live interviews and annotations while these are being streamed online.

Arts for therapy

Another potential involves the use of arts in therapy to support post-pandemic recovery.

“A lot of our counselors and psychologists are already pointing out that all of us… will be suffering some sort of post traumatic stress… because of this whole situation that we’re all facing,” said Millado.

“I think that is where the arts, as one of the creative channels, would definitely help in addressing,” he added.

He said various groups are looking at ways to contribute to the efforts to address the impact of the pandemic.

They are also developing modules on arts for well-being to address therapy- and rehabilitation-related issues that have come up because of the situation.

Millado noted how people in quarantine have turned to the arts to manage the impact of COVID-19.

“It tells you that a big side of this pandemic is not only the virus that attacks us physically, but also the anxiety, the mental well-being, the emotional health that we need to attend to,” he said.

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