New research shows that cultural creation centers are key to supporting local communities during crises

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The research team at a recent Scottish Parliament event promoting their findings. Source: University of Stirling

Experts from the University of Stirling are calling for arts and culture to be prioritized in funding decisions after new research has shown the importance of cultural centers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A team led by Dr Katherine Champion investigated how arts organization Creative Stirling and social enterprise The Kitchen at 44 King Street have transformed their operations, mobilized their networks and redeployed their assets to provide for the local community during COVID lockdowns.

Between March 2020 and October 2022, organizations delivered creative packs to local children, distributed Christmas packs to families, organized free online workshops on tackling social isolation, and provided advice to people unable to work due to the pandemic, including local artists. The Kitchen at 44 King Street also set up Stirling Community Food – offering surplus food for free – which was hosted at Creative Stirling.

Dr Champion said: “Creative Stirling and The Kitchen at 44 King Street have been instrumental in supporting local communities, pooling and redistributing resources, sharing information and connecting with local people in need. Their actions have been integral to surviving and flourishing in an unprecedented time of crisis.

“This is an important example of the power and role of arts and culture in meeting societal needs in times of crisis, something other arts and culture organizations can learn from. What is worrying, however, is that in the current context of cost-of-living economic uncertainty and public funding crises, the learning and development opportunities of this period may be undermined.”

The research, which included the expertise of Dr Maria Velez Serna and Dr Susan Berridge from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling, highlighted the challenges facing the cultural center and produced a number of recommendations for policy makers.

Dr Champion added: “We need to look at how agencies, government and policy can help address the issues that cultural centers face, including access to funding and the physical space available for these organizations to operate.

“There needs to be a serious conversation about integrating the arts from the beginning into supporting the community. Arts and culture is still often seen as a ‘nice to own’ or ‘add-on’ to policy areas, rather than an opportunity to offer critical support from the outset – we hope this research will demonstrate the significant role of the sector.”

The researchers’ recommendations include designing appropriate funding and support mechanisms, giving more funding autonomy to community leaders who are attuned to local needs, and preserving the physical spaces that house cultural and creative hubs.

The team will share their findings at a workshop on June 2 at Creative Stirling. They also recently attended an event at the Scottish Parliament where they met First Minister Humza Yousaf and discussed their observations with other MPs and cultural organisations.

More information:
Mapping the ecology of care on Creative Hub during COVID-19. … 08993/RSE+Report.pdf%20)

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