The Arts Matter! COVID-19 Reality, Response and Recovery

2020, Arts + Culture, Series Distant Not Disengaged

The impact of COVID-19 on the arts and culture sector has been catastrophic. We’ve seen museums, libraries, galleries and performance venues going dark; screenings, concerts and festivals cancelled and postponed; film and television productions paused indefinitely; the shutdown of artists’ studios; and more. Artists, creatives and the organizations that support them saw their livelihoods instantly thrown into crisis, and have experienced a devastating loss of revenue.

Yet when we look to the glimmers of inspiration that have made us feel connected during this global challenge, we see artists leading the way. Opera singers perform arias from balconies. Musicians live-stream concerts from their homes to raise money for good causes and fill us with a sense of joy and solidarity. Institutions have made it possible to visit their collections virtually, digital art clubs are being formed and authors are giving online readings. The arts help us to cope in dark times, even during a pandemic that prevents us from gathering to appreciate art and culture alongside each other in the same physical spaces. 

The precariousness of the arts sector is not new. It has experienced many disruptions and challenges over the last decades. The loss of affordable artist studios and cultural spaces, unstable funding, implications of digital technologies, and demographics changes in audiences are only some. But this instability has been brought into sharper focus by the impacts of COVID-19. Due to the very business model of the arts sector, it will continue to experience instability and uncertainty for many months to come. 

Arts and culture build community, foster openness and offer critical perspective. They connect people across racial and social divides and encourage us to act when we see injustice. And during a time of loss, uncertainty and physical separation, these things are more important than ever.

Join us for this important conversation as we will hear from some of our local arts administrators, artists and creators. They’ll illuminate the on-the-ground reality of the arts sector during the pandemic, and how it is responding and envisioning recovery for a stronger and more sustainable future. 

Note: Please bring to the event a physical artifact that represents how arts and culture are meaningful for you. Maybe it’s a sculpture, vinyl record, book, ticket stub - whatever resonates for you and that you are comfortable showing to others and talking about.

Thu, 14 May 2020

12:00 - 1:15 p.m.(PT)

Online Event

ASL interpretation will be available at this event. Please see "Accessibility, Technology and Privacy" below for more details.

Distant, Not Disengaged

Distant, Not Disengaged was created as an experimental and innovative online event series to illuminate the urgent issues and opportunities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The series was a collaboration between SFU Public Square, the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and community partner CityHive.

Watch the Series Recap


Tonye Aganaba — multidisciplinary artist, musician and arts facilitator  

Franco Boni — Artistic and Executive Director, PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Navida Nuraney — Assistant Director, Cultural Services, City of Vancouver

Dan Mangan — Musician, Co-Founder and VP Business Development, Side Door

Brenda Leadlay — Executive Director, BC Alliance for Arts + Culture


Mark Busse

Mark Busse is a creative strategist, communication designer, engagement specialist, and facilitator with a strong belief in the power of curiosity, creativity, conversation, and community as catalysts for positive impact and change. Mark’s career has put him on the frontier of applying design methods to social and strategic questions in business, community and the arts, and he is an outspoken design industry writer, speaker, and activist, serving on various industry boards, advisory councils, and education programs. For the past five years Busse served as Director of TILT Curiosity Labs at HCMA Architecture + Design, helping the firm explore, experiment, and seek new discoveries, approaches, and opportunities. Busse is a Dialogue Associate with the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

Live Graphic Recording

Created by Sam Bradd from Recording for Change

Further Reading

Distant, Not Disengaged Final Report

Learn about the series’ impact on community connection and dialogue in this report featuring testimonials, media highlights, supporting resources and more.


Distant, Not Disengaged Events