The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the restriction of public movement which led to the closure of non-essential businesses. For the arts and culture industry worldwide, it meant the cancellation and postponement of shows.
While we enjoy entertainment and art at home through online streaming and browsing, artists, freelancers, and creative industries are suffering a great loss.
The loss of livelihood of artists led Fringe Manila Creative Producer Jodinand Aguillon and Festival Director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan established ilostmygig.ph – a website that collects data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s arts, culture, independent businesses, and creative industries.
Messrs. Aguillon and Pamintuan participated in a Zoom call by the World Fringe Network with Fringe festival managers and directors around the globe, where they discussed the effects of the pandemic on those who “rely on the gig-economy.”
“The urgency to establish ilostmygig.ph happened because the team at Pineapple Lab and Fringe feel that artists, freelancers, and small businesses seem to be left behind when it comes to the national response to the business and labor sector,” they told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.
“While cultural agencies – both in the public/nonprofit and private sector in different countries have come up with grants and initiatives to help out freelancers and artists, we have not heard yet of a plan [here] that artists can access during this time. We feel that a more structured strategy and plan would be important for our [LGUs] and government to come up with a stimulus package that can help independent artists, freelancers, and the local creative industry,” they added.
The website is inspired by initiatives done in countries such as Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
Similar to the international framework, the Philippine website includes a questionnaire to collate information on total income lost, the number of jobs lost, number of industry workers affected, as well as respondents’ testimonials. It is also a platform that gives information on future opportunities and resources.
The website went public on March 26 (6 p.m.). As of April 6 (12 a.m.), the survey tally showed 1,946 people have been affected, 3,370 projects have been lost, and that there has been a total loss in income of P34,611,759. The tally is updated daily.
“From there, we want to publish a public report to highlight the impact and needs of the creative communities,” Messrs. Aguillon and Pamintuan wrote. “We are currently updating the website and sharing links/info submitted with regards to job opportunities, free up-skilling opportunities, best practices, etc.”
After gathering data, online fundraising options and partnerships will be sought for artists’ income and to pursue artistic practice online.
“We hope to get donations and funding from both local and international cultural agencies so we can come up with a grant that artists and creatives can apply for,” they wrote.
THE ONLINE TALKS
Aside from gathering data, the team kicked off an online conference on March 27 called, “Re-imagining How We Gather, Creatives in the Time of Corona,” where artists and cultural workers shared their experiences on how they were coping at the time of the quarantine.
“We initially started a survey in preparation for the first online gathering, which asked users to suggest topics and pressing concerns they want to talk about. We had close to 60 people from different industries respond,” they wrote.
The topics included: finding ways to earn money during the enhanced community quarantine period, exploring possible ways and means to sustain art activities in the community, art support by the government through programs and incentives, and getting better online presence for a local artist.
The episodes of the online conferences will continue beyond the duration of the enhanced community quarantine. (Visit https://forms.gle/BQyWSpC7nkPJwo766 to suggest other topics. For upcoming conferences, visit https://www.facebook.com/pineapplelabph/).
“Think about our world during the enhanced community quarantine without the arts – no movies, no music, no online museums and galleries, no dancing, no designers making apps like TikTok or Houseparty, no free online concerts, no online art classes, no food shows, no YouTube, no theater plays and musicals available,” Messrs. Aguillon and Pamintuan wrote. “All these are possible because of artists and creatives. Shouldn’t we want to take care of them and champion cultural rights, too?”