Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium, is proud of a rich cultural heritage made famous by Flemish Masters such as Rubens and van Eyck, surrealists like Delvaux and Magritte and contemporary artists like Luc Tuymans and Michaël Borremans. Supported and championed 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. For the broader public however, it's hard to imagine the dramatic consequences of this decision on art that hasn't been made yet.
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 ask them to show their support in response to our campaign.
Describe the strategy
Immediately after the government's announcement to cut funding, State of the Arts wanted to make the public aware of its dramatic impact on our art & culture. To do this, we needed a clear and focused message: "-60% funding equals -60% culture." And we needed to convey this message through a mechanism that is simple, shareable and accessible.
We covered existing works of art to visualize the impact of a piece of legislation in an immediate and simple way. We asked our most famous, influential artists to share their covered art on the most visual and active platform for artists: instagram.
We asked them to do so simultaneously, creating a yellow wall when viewing the hashtag #thisisourculture.
Giving the Flemish people a symbol to share that is both representative and easy to replicate across multiple mediums both on and offline. Showing that -60% funding means -60% culture.
Describe the execution
The decision to cut funding was announced on november 11,2019. Immediately, brainstorms were set up and the idea was presented at an action meeting on november 12. Over 500 contemporary works of art were covered for 60% and sent to the famous artists who made them. We coordinated the social media campaign by providing the artists a caption: "-60% funding = -60% culture", a hashtag #thisisourculture and a moment to share simultaneously on instagram: november 14, at 12 pm. By simultaneously time with the same hashtag, the artists created a 60% yellow wall on the platform. After this launch, several initiatives were co-ordinated by State of the Arts. Theatres painted their windows 60% yellow artists and art students painted new works of art that were 60% yellow, posters for cultural events were covered for 60% with yellow posters, and a 60% yellow profile picture filter was made available.
List the results
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 public pressure, Minister-President Jan Jambon increased funding for arts & culture by allocating 4 million in new funds. 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.