New Year Message: Uncertainty, Focus, Flexibility, Solidarity Back

New Year Message: Uncertainty, Focus, Flexibility, Solidarity

This image is an artwork that’s consists of 32 canvasses created by ECF staff, titled ECF Collage 2020 together.

Dear friends and partners,

We are living in truly extraordinary times. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the world and Europe hard, and we are still in the midst of a challenge that we may not even fully comprehend. Also, existing challenges like the climate crisis, growing inequalities, societal polarisation and shrinking public spaces have not gone away but have been further amplified by the Coronavirus crisis. All of these challenges on their own require a significant effort. Together they seem almost overwhelming.

Looking ahead to 2021, it would be silly to pretend that this will be a normal year whatever normal ever meant. There will be continued hardship and uncertainty. We will need to be patient, careful and flexible. But there are also reasons for optimism. There are vaccinations available; the major EU recovery programme is being rolled out, a sensible government takes over in the US, and there is a growing culture for climate action.

Culture, artists and cultural institutions have played a decisive role in helping us through this crisis of social distance, isolation and new borders. This crisis is tough enough. Without the support of our culture, it would have been almost unbearable. At the same time, and this is the tragedy, the cultural sector has been hit disproportionately hard. Cultural institutions are closed, artists cannot perform, theatre and film productions are on hold. There is a risk of prolonged cultural recession if we don’t act boldly in response to this.

Our immediate response to the Coronavirus crisis was to invest in a European Culture of Solidarity. All programmatic, advocacy, communication and operational activities and resources were dedicated to this purpose, and a flexible Culture of Solidarity Fund was created. Nurturing a European culture of solidarity is not a quick fix. It is a long game. It means enabling visible and tangible acts of solidarity now. In 2021, we will continue to invest in a European culture of solidarity with a two-pronged approach: Focus and Flexibility.

Focus: We believe the overall lines of our strategy ‘Challenge 2025’ are still very relevant. Some of our strategic goals have been further amplified, like the need for an open and safe European public space. Other strategic goals need new concepts, like cross-border cultural Experience. The need to Imagine a better Europe now has additional relevance and urgency.

Flexibility: The Culture of Solidarity Initiative is our flexible instrument to enable European cross-border activities in times of uncertainty and cultural lockdown. While it was initially established as a temporary crisis response, its relevance has not diminished, or instead, it has increased. Armed with the experience and lessons of the start-up phase, we will retool the fund, improve the impact, quality and representation by focusing on specific themes and geographies, and further develop the multiple partnership model. We continue to pursue public funders to come on board and aim to make the fund part of the European Cultural Deal for which we advocate.

Operationally, our priority is our staff’s physical and mental health, maintaining the foundation’s operations and developing a sustainable European funding model.

More information on our work plan 2021 here.

I look forward to working together in making 2021 a year of solidarity and new optimism.

With best wishes for a healthy and good year.

Andre Wilkens and the team of the European Cultural Foundation