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The Arts Council, Innovation & Society

Call for COVID-19 projects a success

Shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia launched a call for projects under the title «Close Distance». The aim was to encourage cultural practitioners and institutions to develop new formats containing innovative ways of coping with restricted mobility. Within two months, nearly 600 projects were submitted proposing new forms of national and international cooperation and presence in public spaces. Around ten per cent of the submitted projects have been selected and endowed with a grant.

What impact does and will the COVID-19 pandemic have on artistic production? This was the question put forward by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia in early April with its call for projects under the heading «Close Distance». It invited Swiss artists and cultural institutions to find ways of coping with the new insurmountability of distance in what used to be an open, cross-border cultural domain, and to create innovative artistic formats adapted to the current circumstances. For the COVID-19 pandemic with its restrictions on gatherings, closing of borders and distancing rules has radically disrupted the habitual systems of artistic production and presentation. Research, creation and presentation as well as, above all, international dissemination and networking remain severely constricted. Planning for the future has likewise become extremely difficult.

The «Close Distance» call for projects proved unexpectedly successful. Within two months, no less than 591 projects from all parts of Switzerland and from all arts disciplines supported by Pro Helvetia were submitted. Many had devised new possibilities of cooperation with international artists and cultural institutions. Of these projects, 59 have received support with grants ranging from CHF 5,300 to CHF 35,000. «The fantastic response proves that numerous cultural practitioners and organisations have taken the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to test new creative solutions and artistic approaches. The projects selected for support show highly promising strategies for the future and contribute new ways of thinking about mobility in the world of culture,» says Seraina Rohrer, Head of Innovation & Society and Member of the Executive Board at Pro Helvetia.

Many of the projects experiment with technology and digital formats, while others have developed new analogue formats of presentation and performance. In the words of Seraina Rohrer: «We are assuming that some of the innovative formats will continue to gain in importance and that institutions promoting art and culture will have to think about how such productions can be supported in future. The crisis is by no means over and quite a few of these formats will no doubt be here to stay.»

Media information:

Lisa Stadler
+41 44 267 71 51
lstadler@prohelvetia.ch