Art and culture organizations and institutions across the UAE launched numerous initiatives and programs to support and sustain the cultural sector in the UAE in light of the health crisis. Below are a few such initiatives:
* The Ministry of Culture and Youth launched the #CultureUpFront initiative encouraging community members to share cultural and artistic content on social media platforms following the closure of museums, galleries and art exhibitions as part of the precautionary measures taken by the UAE to limit the spread of the virus.
* Alserkal Avenue launched its platform, alserkal.online, in response to COVID-19 shutting down galleries. It presented new exhibitions from its contemporary art galleries, with over 300 works on view from 15 galleries and project spaces. It ensured continued community engagement while also encouraging potential art collectors and patrons to buy from artists.
* Sharjah Public Libraries gave free access to 6 million digital books for a period of three months (April to June 2020). The resources include titles in more than 10 languages.
* "Maktaba", an initiatives of the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, announced e-registration applications for the electronic library that includes millions of audio books, scientific documents and visual contents in different languages, including Arabic, English, French, German and Spanish.
* Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation provided over 300,000 titles through its digital platform and over 3.5 million digital materials.
* Jameel Arts Center launched the Open Call for Art Jameel Commissions: Digital, as an adapted 3rd edition of its commissions program, welcoming proposals that create digital, interactive experiences that speak to global audiences online.
* Sharjah Art Foundation compiled a list of online resources, workshops and courses designed for those looking to learn new skills or enhancing their knowledge. This list, which is updated regularly, includes local, regional, and international reading materials, blogs, films, videos, exhibition tours, podcasts and other digital learning tools made available by reputable cultural organizations and institutions from around the world.
* In collaboration with international cultural organization, the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, held the annual Abu Dhabi Culture Summit virtually, with discussions on "the role of culture in uniting the world in times of crisis", which also addressed the current global situation and its impact on culture from social, economic and psychological angles.
* Emirates Publishers Association announced measures aimed at supporting local publishers through platforms that publish audio and electronic books. Through these initiatives, Emirates Publishers Association will support the publication of 100 e-books by local publishers on international publishing platforms such as Amazon Kindle, iBooks and Kobo.
The migration of cultural initiatives to digital platforms demonstrated the resilience and agility of the cultural sector in the UAE and around the world. This experience has shown the potential of digital platforms for the cultural community, and some highlighted examples are:
* The 2020 edition of the Culture Summit in Abu Dhabi was live streamed on YouTube and open to all, which allowed for greater participation from people who were interested and wanted to benefit from the sessions and engage with them.
* As a result of Alserkal's online platform, artists, creatives and the general public were able to visit galleries, explore podcasts, articles, virtual discussion, join film screenings and organize to offer support to those most impacted by the health crisis, both within and outside the cultural community.
* Countless amounts of cultural resources were made available to the public in the UAE and elsewhere, to allow for continuous engagement with culture and artists, and to provide a cultural outlet for people to cope with the pandemic.
Among the observations in the transition of cultural activities to digital platforms in early 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic are the increased participation of diverse groups from across the country, and the reduction in costs associated with hosting programs in person. The transition has further reinforced the importance of building a comprehensive framework for the digital cultural economy, providing the necessary protections, and thereby empowering digital creativity. The Ministry of Culture and Youth has made this a priority for the cultural sector moving forward.