Malta’s business community, across sectors that include hospitality, retail and construction, is reporting its mounting concern about the ongoing economic impact of the resurgence of COVID-19.

However, obstacles to survival at least equal in magnitude are being faced by contributors to the arts and culture sector. Cultural leaders are once again urging the authorities to recognise the sector as an economic engine in its own right and one that faces unique and daunting challenges as a result of the pandemic.

Sustainable and sustained support is essential if the long-term negative effects on operators in arts and culture are to be avoided.

In developed countries, the sector is reportedly one of the hardest hit, with only hospitality and tourism reporting greater losses. A report released recently by the Global McKinsey Institute has ranked arts and culture as the segment that will take the longest to recover.

These macro-level findings reflect a worrying and internationally significant slump in the sector. If a staggered recovery scenario is pursued, where steps that slow the spread of the virus and address public health are delayed or disjointed, the report further estimates that arts and culture may not return to financial health until 2025.

This contrasts with indicators that other hard-hit sectors will reach optimal financial health by 2022.

However, any thriving society knows that the contribution of arts and culture is vital for reasons that go beyond the nation’s economy.

The sector not only includes for-profit groups working in film, architecture, music, design and recreation facilities. Arts and culture also provide the lifeblood of local communities, transferring information in ways that otherwise go neglected and supporting solidarity and dialogue at a time when both have come under increasing strain.

Local leadership is critical at this particular time, to ensure the future of arts and culture as a stable contributor to the Maltese economy and way of life.

As the nation pulls together to weather this storm, it is essential for individuals and communities to stand up for arts organisations and performance venues in their localities.

Providing support for such initiatives sends a powerful message of social solidarity, just as restaurants and bars are rallying public support and finding innovative ways to maintain relevance in a post-corona world.

The arts education sector is facing its own challenges, as we report today. Concerns have been expressed about one-size-fits all COVID-19 safety protocols being made to apply to studios that teach diverse disciplines. This sub-sector, which supplies Malta with a stream of up and coming artists and performers in drama, dance and music, is clearly in need of assistance to continue doing so.

The arts must not be considered an also-ran in the education sector but an essential facilitator of success and self-fulfillment for a multitude of talented Maltese young people.  

The authorities have the responsibility to encourage leaders in the arts and culture sector to access vital resources, to better serve their communities in all the ways that only the creative arts can make possible.

Without a resolute commitment towards the cultural wellbeing of the people of Malta and Gozo, not only will the arts sector continue to deteriorate but the greater risk is a loss of the creativity and passion that cultural contributors bring to national discourse.

They do so by providing alternative and hopeful ways to understand a world that has never felt more overwhelming.

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