In protest against 60% funding cuts for Arts & Culture, more than 500 Flemish artists shared an image of their art, albums, movie posters, music videos,... covered for 60% in yellow, the official Flemish color. Creating a series of content and using their own art to convey a clear and focused message: -60% funding equals -60% culture.
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 René Magritte and contemporary artists Luc Tuymans and Michaël Borremans. Supported and championed by the region, young artists have often been able to develop groundbreaking work.
In November 2019 however, 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 mobilize them to support our arts & culture.
Describe the creative idea
Using the Flemish colour, yellow, State of the Arts covered 60% of various works of art
by Flemish artists and asked them to share the images on social media.
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 that
were 60% covered by yellow. Showing that 60% less funding equals 60% less culture.
Once the social media campaign was launched, the symbol was available on profile pictures, featured by artists 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. Making this a symbol of protest, visible throughout the whole country.
Describe the strategy
Immediately after the government's announcement to cut funding, State of the Arts, an open platform for all Flemish artists, wanted to make the broader public aware of the dramatic impact on our art & culture. And mobilize them to put pressure on the government to reverse this decision. 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 not only a number, but also the impact of a piece of legislation in an immediate and simple way. 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 sharing 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.
Describe the outcome
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.