The Swiss foundation Pro Helvetia wants to become more digital and support artists with digital initiatives. A great idea that comes at the right time.

Pro Helvetia is a public foundation of Switzerland that supports and disseminates Swiss arts and culture. The foundation has a worldwide reach through its global network and stimulates cultural production. Now Pro Helvetia has announced to foster digital skills and support digital cultural formats.

Under the theme “Bridges to the Future”, Pro Helvetia is adjusting its activities in all funded sectors to become more digital. The foundation is also launching ten calls for proposals, as the Arts Council announced on Tuesday.

For example, in performing arts, digital and hybrid productions and their tours will be supported. In another program, literary artists can submit applications to produce podcasts, digital reading tours, or book trailers. In the fields of design and interactive media, studios will be given the opportunity to present their projects in online meetings; support will also be given to marketing strategies that can be used to tap into a new audience.

COVID forces artists to find new channels

The COVID pandemic mainly caused the digital move of the foundation. Artists of all kinds have been heavily hit by the pandemic, especially those relying on live performance to support their incomes. With the lockdowns, many artists have lost their primary sources of income.

Pro Helvetia is launching “Bridges to the Future” one year after the Federal Council imposed a shutdown on Switzerland for the first time, while at the same time imposing a broad ban on the cultural sector. “Temporarily, the cultural sector has become more local”, Pro Helvetia director Philippe Bischof is quoted in the press release. He also said it is now paramount to develop new future-oriented models of international cooperation and networking.

Digital boom: NFTs and platforms 

Culture and arts are an industry that has recently seen more digitization. One example is the NFT boom: NFTs, Non-Fungible Tokens, are a way to digitize arts such as music, digital paintings, or collectibles. With NFTs, owners can protect their intellectual properties and develop new ways to monetize their arts. For example, NFTs can be programmed so that every time the token is resold, parts of the proceeds go to the artist.

Another way arts has experienced digitization during the pandemic is the emergence of digital art galleries. Users can log in online and see paintings and bid for them. That provides a way for people to still enjoy arts during the lockdown, and it provides a marketplace for artists to sell their works.

That Pro Helvetia has picked up on the trend is great, and it will be of help for some of the struggling artists out there. But digitizing arts will take time to develop because even though artists are likely to jump on the opportunity, the question is whether there will be a demand by customers. It’s another experience to look at arts in real life or through a digital platform. That said, at the moment, a digital platform might be better than nothing.

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