Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium, is proud of a rich cultural heritage made famous by Flemish Masters such as Peter Paul Rubens and Jan van Eyck, surrealists like Delvaux and Magritte and contemporary artists like Luc Tuymans and Michaël Borremans. Supported by the region, young artists have often been able to develop groundbreaking work.
In November 2019 a newly formed Flemish Government decided to cut funding for art & culture projects by 60 %. Evidently, this would be a great loss. Immediately after the government's announcement to cut funding, State of the Arts, a newly founded platform for all artistic fields in Flanders, wanted to show the public that -60% funding equals -60% culture. And mobilize them to support our arts & culture.
With a non-existent budget, the challenge was to spread a clear and focused message through a mechanism that is simple, shareable and accessible.
Describe the creative idea (40% of vote)
Using the official Flemish colour, yellow, State of the Arts covered various existing works of art
by Flemish artists for 60%, sent them the image and asked them to share it on their social media profile.
On november 14, 2019, at 12 am, all artists shared the image simultaneously, using
the hashtag #thisisourculture. More than 500 artists, directors, singers, writers,
performers, actors and illustrators shared photos of themselves or their work, covered for 60%. Showing that 60% less funding equals 60% less culture.
Once the social media campaign was launched, 60% yellow became a symbol of protest, visible throughout the whole country. It was used on people's profile pictures, featured in new artworks and even incorporated into performances, like a piano performance where only 40% of the music was played. The yellow coverage was also recreated in shop window displays, on billboards, and even in theatre performances.
Describe the execution (40% of vote)
When the Flemish government cut cultural funding by 60%, we created a simple yellow surface that covered 60% of the image it was placed upon. The color yellow was not randomly chosen. This is the exact color of the Flemish flag, used by the Flemish government in all its communication. We used only the color yellow, and the 60% coverage. No logo, typography or any other design element.
This way we created a minimalistic, clear and focused symbol that resonated with people on an intuitive level and needed no explanation.
The public now had a strong symbol to show their dismay. Profile pictures, flag, mouth masks, clothing, street art, art pieces, ... were all covered for 60% creating an organic national movement of protest.
List the results (20% of vote)
The hashtag #thisisourculture instantly became viral. 60% yellow became a symbol for peaceful protest against this funding cut. People showed support and changed their profile pictures, created new artworks, etc.
The campaign resonated in all regions of Belgium: both in Flanders and Wallonia, reaching more than 8 million people: that's 80% of the country’s population. Generating around € 1,6 million in earned media attention and more importantly, making the decision to cut funding a highly criticised decision. A nationwide petition was set up. More than 4000 protesters marched the streets, demanding the funding cut to be canceled.
Under all this pressure, Minister-President Jan Jambon was forced to make a gesture and increase funding for arts & culture again. After this campaign, State of the Arts became the main negotiating partner between the artists and the Flemish government, in an ongoing debate about support for artists.