The impact of COVID-19 epidemic on the Finnish culture sector


The effects of the current situation are reflected in the employment of dance artists. Live performances are canceled and the artistic productions have moved to the digital platforms. To help the professionals overcome the crisis, financial support is offered both from the state level and through foundations in the form of new grants.

A still image from short dance film Body Language Zone

A still image from short dance film Body Language Zone by Kim Saarinen & Johanna Keinänen.

In March, the Finnish government presented restrictive measures and guidance to limit movement of people, closing public places (e.g. schools, libraries, museums, theaters) and ban gatherings of more than 10 people, etc. Since declaring a state of emergency, these broader restrictive measures have taken place throughout the country.

On 4th of May, the government announced a decision to ease these restrictions from the beginning of June, for Finnish society to slowly resume a normal life. Many of the practicalities are still to be clarified but for example, until further notice, gatherings of 50 people will be allowed. In addition to public gatherings, these restrictions apply to cultural events. From the 1st of June, several public indoor premises will be opened in a gradual and controlled manner. This includes cultural venues and leisure centers.

What these actions mean in detail for the creative and performing industries and the arts sector will be shown in the next few weeks. Still, until the end of July, all public events with more than 500 attendees are banned but at this moment the officials are discussing if public outdoor events exceeding 50 participants will be given permission.

Effects on the cultural field and its funding

In these exceptional times, several measures in Finland have been initiated to help the arts and culture fields financially. The majority of these resources apply in many respects, also to the performing arts and dance sector.

New funding schemes to the arts and culture fields have been introduced in the past weeks and the support comes from both governmental and private organizations or foundations. These efforts include new forms of funding from several sources: Ministry of Education and Culture, Arts Promotion Centre Finland (operating under Ministry of Education and Culture), private foundations, municipalities, ELY Centres (The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment operating under Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment) and Business Finland, a government-owned public funding agency for research funding, development and innovation.

The grant and subsidy opportunities listed below offer resources and emergency funding throughout Finland for both individuals and organizations in the arts and culture sector.

Arts Promotion Centre Finland
Long-term COVID-19 grant for private individuals and artists operating in the creative sector, a total of EUR 8,7 million.

Short-term joint COVID -19 grant support from several foundations and the Ministry of Education and Culture, a total of EUR 1,5 million.

Ministry of Education and Culture
COVID -19 grant for cultural communities: associations, foundations, cooperatives and companies in the arts and cultural sector, a total of EUR 9,3 million.

General grant to support the activities of national arts institutions in response to the need for additional funding following the pandemic, a total of EUR 3,2 million.

General grant to support the activities of state-funded museums, orchestras and theaters due to operational constraints caused by the pandemic, a total of EUR 18,1 million.

Business Finland
Funding or business development for mid-cap companies and SMEs (oy, oyj, ay, ky, osk) with 6-250 employees, max. EUR 100 000 per company.

Kone Foundation
Home residency, a three-month work grants for artists, a total of EUR 1,48 million.

The Finnish Cultural Foundation
Academic and artistic grants via regional funds, based on applications received in January, a total of EUR 13,5 million.

The Kordelin Foundation
Digital Leap for Culture -grant for individual professionals and working groups in the field of culture for the creation of literature, art, and public education, max. EUR 3,000 per grantee.

The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and Föreningen Konstsamfundet
A temporary aid “Culture in the Now” for artists and cultural sector professionals, a total of EUR 400,000.

The Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes
‘Together Alone’ open call for international art projects, EUR 1,500 to 5,000 per chosen project.

During the last months, several cities and their cultural services have offered subsidies and grants for solo entrepreneurs or working groups, for example, the city of Helsinki a total of EUR 300,000.

Also, many regional art associations and organizations are offering small grants for their members.

Employment in Finland the arts during the crisis

Independent art practitioners are heavily affected by the epidemic. They have lost a majority of their work opportunities, as teaching and performances during the spring (and autumn) are canceled. Information about their future economic situation stays unclear. The crisis will have long-lasting effects on the whole performing art and dance field’s employment.

To manage the coronavirus crisis the Finnish government exceptionally allows solo entrepreneurs and freelancers to apply for unemployment funding (for three months) to prevent them from bankruptcy or forcing them to shut down their businesses.

The culture field has remained active

Due to restricted gatherings and public places being closed, the contribution of dance practitioners is seen in the form of new ideas and developing ways to communicate and interact online. The Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s Stage24 streaming service has broken viewer records and their page was loaded up to 10,000 times a day.

Other current activities include recently launched Target Helsinki, a group consisting of dance artists, visual artist, sound designer and a stylist. This art project functioning a digital playground has invited people to reflect and react to dance and visual arts online. UrbanApa will be hosting #StopHatredNow event online from May 11–15 presenting tools for inclusive, anti-racist and feminist action.

However, most of the events and performances on digital platforms are free content. This alone does not support the artists suffering from the loss of earnings.