The performing arts is one of the fields most severely affected by the pandemic. At the forum themed “COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts – The drastic action of the cultural, sports and tourism sector” held by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST), Deputy Director of the Department of Performing Arts Le Minh Tuan said that COVID-19 pandemic has exceeded the level of a traditional crisis. Over the past nearly two years, the crisis has caused many difficulties and challenges for art performce activities. Many art units and artists have not been able to introduce artworks to the public in the traditional form.

These difficulties have not been reflected by the closure and suspension of the cultural institutions such as theatres, cultural and art centres and public cultural spaces. COVID-19 pandemic has caused performances, festivals and other cultural and art events to be suspended or cancelled never return to normal.

Many experts, creators, artists, and actors have seen their salary or remuneration cut. A large force of artists, actors and actresses have been maintaining their lives with wages lower than the regional minimum wage. Even many young and qualified artists were forced to quit their job. In addition, artists who won many awards have also had to earn their living through other jobs to pass the difficult days.

Le Minh Tuan shared that the above difficulties had negative impacts on creativity and ability of artists, especially those who are joining the preservation and development of traditional art forms.

The programme "Immortal Stars" expresses deep gratitude to heroes, wounded and fallen soldiers and revolutionary contributors. (Photo: THUY DUONG)

However, following a quiet period, the performing arts industry has made positive changes to match the situation. Many theatres have organised online art programmes such as "Immortal stars" by Viet Bac Folk Music and Dance Theatre on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of Wounded and Fallen Soldiers’ Day, “Historical Autumns” by Vietnam Contemporary Arts Theatre to mark the 76th anniversary of August Revolution and National Day, and “Vietnamese Melodies” by Vietnam National Music Song and Dance Theatre.

Notably, the online art series entitled “Connecting love to overcome the pandemic”, which was conducted by the Department of Performing Arts, attracted 12 central art units. The programme was broadcast live from many localities around the country and via digital technology platforms. They conveyed timely meaningful messages from the cultural, sport and tourism sector to frontline forces and people in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The programmes have brought about emotions and encouraged people and frontline forces to overcome all difficulties and challenges to join hands in overcoming the pandemic. They received positive response from audiences.

Tuan also noted that in order to overcome difficulties due to the pandemic, the Department of Performing Arts set out several measures, including the innovation of thinking in creation and performing activities from art units, especially in traditional arts, to introduce many unique programmes and performances to audiences via many online platforms and social networks.

In addition, the Department of Performing Arts has also encouraged art units to change their approach to audiences, especially young ones. The department has also proactively mobilised social resources to sponsor programmes and projects related to traditional art forms, thereby helping art units to develop high-quality plays to serve the people.

Regarding the field of cultural heritage, direct tours to museum and relic sites have been also very quiet over the past two years. Le Thi Thu Hien, Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage, said that many museums and relic sites operating under an autonomous mechanism have not earned any revenue. Several museums were allowed to open intermittently, but the number of visitors has decreased by 85-90%. Non-public museums in provinces and cities that have been applying the social distancing under the Government’s Directives No.15 and 16 must be closed. Non-public museums in provinces and cities that have not had to implement social distancing measures are also basically closed because there have been no tourists.

In that context, like the performing arts industry, technology has been one of the effective solutions for cultural institutions in the field of cultural heritage. Hien also noted that solutions of applying technology to promote the heritages’ values have been simultaneously implemented in many museums and relic sites including Ho Chi Minh Museum with the virtual exhibition entitled “Simple and noble examples”, Vietnam Fine Arts Museum with a 3D virtual reality tour, and the National Museum of History with the application of 3D virtual interactive technology to learn about national treasures.

During the virtual tour to the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum. (Photo: Vietnam Fine Arts Museum)

According to Hien, in the near future, the cultural heritage industry will continue to actively carry out necessary measures to boost the introduction of cultural heritages online and promote activities on mass media as well as through educational and experiential activities and free tours. The application of technological advances will be enhanced in digital transformation and the digitalisation of information and documents related to the artifacts and exhibits in the museums and relic sites, towards the display, introduction, education and communication in the digital space in the coming time.

Talking about the pandemic’s impacts on the whole cultural sector over past two years, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung stressed that many fields in the sector have suffered “deep hurts”. The sector faced “four noes” at times: no art performances, no major sport events, no tourism market or international tourists, and no large-scale art activities.

However, the minister said amidst challenges, the whole sector should look back together and take a more positive and drastic approach to remove the difficulties in the near future. With great determination, the sector has developed plans and action programmes for 2021 and the next five years with high quality and feasibility. The shifts in arts and sports will make significant contributions to the combat against the epidemic launched by the Party and State. Online art programmes and television theatre models will not only satisfy artists’ passions but can also be considered “spiritual vaccines” that give people strength to overcome the pandemic. He also required the greater efforts to multiply the doses of "spiritual vaccines".