image of Nan van Houte

Public funding for the arts

All over Europe cultural budgets are under pressure. We'll have to make a stronger case for public funding of the arts. During this meeting in Paris, IETM hopes to foster a fruitful dialogue between representatives of the (public) administration, arts councils and national funds and representatives of the arts field. We suppose that if we better understand each others needs, we may unite forces and create common ground in the defense of public budgets for the arts.  

Do you agree that departments for culture, both on national, regional and local level ,are in many countries struggling to defend budgets as much as we, their (potential) grantees are? Would you poke them to participate?

image of Fernanda SAFADI

Although I cannot give an opinion based on the situation in Europe, I would like to take this opportunity to share a bit of the sector's reality in Brazil.

Having heard many IETM voices that usually tend to be very Eurocentric, I think it might be insightful to share the reality of other countries outside the old continent.

In Brazil, funding for the arts comes mostly from the private sector. The huge corporations, which are usually the only ones providing grants for culture, receive enormous tax incentives to do so. This is basically a way of the Governments - whether at a local, regional or national level - to deposit their responsibility of developing a cultural sector in big corporations, such as Petrobras. The results? The money being invested in culture by such corporations actually become an extension of their marketing budgets.

These budgets, which are built with tax money that should be going back to the citizens, serve to nothing more but to promote their businesses.
To keep it short, there is no dialogue between the sector and the Ministry of culture. Simply because they transfer their responsibility of supporting the arts to the private sector and they have no interest in augmenting their responsibilities or even open a dialogue with the ones that challenge the current structures.

The saddest part of this is that such a model is seen a "benchmark" for other Latin American countries like Argentina, where currently there is a proposal in the government to adopt similar practises.

Posted 5 years 6 months ago
image of Toni Gonzalez


I wouldn't say that the performing arts sector in Spain was strong and highly creative, but in 30 years it developed substantially. Regular framework funds for artists and companies were implemented and new venues and creation centres were opened. All of this at a local, regional and national level. A broad array of public institutions covered different aspects of the development of the performing arts. However, the modernization process was not finished yet, there were still reforms to do: the high political dependence, lack of democracy in cultural institutions and some new expensive buildings without artistic projects, only built to feed the real state bubble and increase the public debt.

But the austerity policies of the Troika beat Spain in 2011. At that moment the public funding cuttings started and the axe harmed the endowment state in its public health system, education and culture. And culture was who suffered the most, being reduced the public budget around 50% in average in four years. Moreover, in order to collect more taxes, the government raised the TVA for culture from 8% to 21%. The results of this policy has been the disappearance of a great deal of performing arts independent sector and the precariousness of those who have survived. Now is not easy to produce new works and worse if you feel as an artist the need to be innovative. Innovation doesn’t sell in Spain and now sell is the main way to get funds to survive.

In 2016 the situation is more stable, people are used to this new situation. Moreover, new political movements are taking over local and regional institutions. These new politicians are more sensitive to the arts and culture, and some situations have been reversed in big cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia ….. However, the threatening hands of the Troika, and its austerity policies have left little air the Spanish cultural sector for breathe.

The question is, what artists would get of an advocacy plan of IETM in a European level? Is realistic that IETM alone or in coalition with other cultural sectors will be able to soften the hard hearts of the European politicians and bureaucrats? From the South of Europe the challenge is enormous but there are not many other chances. We should try it. We should make pedagogy of the public values of the arts and convince them or, why not, change them.

Posted 5 years 5 months ago
image of David Pledger

The situation in Australia

In May 2015 the then-Arts Minister George Brandis withheld $104 million from the budget of our arms-length national arts agency, the Australia Council for the Arts. The $104 million was intended for a new Ministry-run Fund that excluded independent artists. Under the #freethearts campaign, a national coalition of independent artists and representatives of the small-medium sector instigated a Senate Inquiry into the Arts to investigate the government’s action. The campaign was successful in ousting the Arts Minister when there was a change of Prime Minister in September. It also created a new arts leadership for the sector and its activism retrieved $32 million of the unding.

Throughout the process the #freethearts organisers tried in vain to productively engage with the Australia Council. Whilst the Australia Council’s purpose is to champion and advocate for the arts, it was unwilling or unable to defend itself from the government’s threat to its mission. As the campaign progressed, it became clear that the Council’s operation and values were mightily skewed to the 28 Major Organizations whose funding is protected by an agreement between the federal and state governments and funneled through the Australia Council. The agency’s refusal to release data to the independent artists and small-medium sectors and journalists comparing touring activity between the Majors and the small-mediums jeopardized the sector’s efforts to defend itself. More disturbing, Council’s failure to extend funding deadlines caused untold distress to the sector. The cream on the cake was the decision of senior Council managers, including the CEO, to pay themselves performance bonuses of $150,000 in a year in which they had given up more than $70 million of funding without a fight.

Whilst I am in agreement that departments for culture both on national, regional and local level need help from the professional arts sector to defend their budgets, we discovered in Australia that our main problem was the national agency itself.

How it got to into that situation is partly due to the fact that the agency had become more conservative and closer to the government’s agenda than the arts sector realized. It was partly due to the corporatisation of the agency and partly due to a profound disconnect between it and a large part of the arts community. The upshot is that the Australia Council’s demise has ushered in Year-Zero for the Australian arts scene.

So we realize the necessity for a wholly new approach that talks to philosophy rather than policy, invention rather than innovation and social value rather than money. In Australia, and with some notable exceptions in local government, the development of that approach is possible only from within the arts community.

This year, an initiative called ArtsFront 2025 will put artists in the centre of what has hitherto been an artist-free zone – cultural policy. We’ll probably call it something else. Every idea will be ‘on the table’. We’ll look up from the pavement to the horizon. We’ll suspend our personal biases. We’ll make something new for the future. We have nothing to lose. Truly. Now we really do have nothing to lose!

Posted 5 years 5 months ago
image of Elena Polivtseva

Hi David. I was wondering if it's possible to find more information about the initiative ArtsFront 2025 - is there a webpage or a social media account? Please keep us posted. Thank you.

Posted 5 years 5 months ago
image of Cristina Carlini

THE SITUATION IN ITALY - I leave my personal opinion, 'cause one of the Italian problem is that the sector doesn't have an official one. We've been very bad at defending ourselves together, and we're actually paying the consequences of it.

Italy had to deal with the same crisis problem of Spain, with less and less money from 2011 to 2014. In 2015, the national fund for performing arts (FUS) was totally reformed, and its amount in some way stabilized (not very much increased, but still this changed the negative tendency).
The change of FUS is very deep and crucial. It even changed the timing of funding, from year-to-year to 3-years-plan, with 2015 as first access and no more application until 2018. It was designed as an instrument to push and promote innovation, and actually in the new selection process some of the organizations that were receiving money only thanks to history and not activities were even canceled from the list.
On the other side, of course this was not a perfect instrument, and there are lots of problem to deal with. The selection process itself wasn't very clear, there are even lawsuits against the Ministry right now. The Ministry is reacting with a closure, stressed and tired of the complaining: they're loosing the connection with the sector, and the feel is that they hadn't a clear view of the new FUS in the first place.
The sector is not reacting with positive discussion, asking for a wide confrontation between all the organizations and the Ministry, but pointing the fingers to each other and to who has received more money.
Also, I think that the instrument could be improved, but that in some cases the organizations themselves were not able to design a 3-year-plan with impacts and complex list of activities, such as EU application, and that we have to learn to do it (and fast).
That's the national level. I think that nothing is perfect, but everything can be solved. I'd like to have IETM helping to build a "safe area" for discussion with the Ministry in Italy, and convince them to take active part in the EU discussion such as Paris, but I know it's hard work.
But I think also that when we want to reach performing arts in Italy, most of all the contemporary ones, it's the regional and local level the one is strategic the most, and with more impacts to the audience and the society. Of course it's impossible to generalize, but let's say that the local level often has that view that the Ministry hasnt', and supports new creation and contemporary performing arts with sincere enthusiasm. The problem is, to deal with crisis and to respect EU regulations, the government had cut lot of the local money, and when a Municipality has to choose between sacrifice theatre or sacrifice welfare, of course it will sacrifice theatre.
At some point, we'll have to deal with the fact that we don't have enough money to let the sector remaining only public funded, that performing arts have to enter some kind of market without loosing value and quality, and that society and Ministry has to take care and responsibilities with the sector about it.
Do I think they are struggling as we are? Of course they do. But we need to stop talking about money for a while, and re-build the communication process first.

Posted 5 years 5 months ago
image of Kenneth Davidson

Economics and finance transform qualitative properties into quantities: numbers and percentages; "capital".

(And cultural capital?) We know pollution, extinction and global warming all show up eventually on the balance sheet, even one which leverages debt and risk as entries of profit and loss. [1] ______________ In Budapest we discussed DEMOCRACY. One of my groups noted shifts of meaning, that meaning is fluid. Our example was the meaning of the word 'Arts'. Before the 19th century, in English the word meant both 'Arts' in the sense we use today and also Science, Technology, and the idea of skills. (Social skills)? Things are slippy. [2] And our business now? Is it all after the fact? [3] ______________ In his Tractatus, Wittgenstein asserts the identity of Aesthetics and Ethics [4]. We can say Art and culture are themselves (transcendental) moral compasses. And we point to this when for example, the cultures and art of North Korea suggests itself, or Soviet Russia — to us instrumental propaganda. American art of the 40s and 50s does not get discussed in the same distinctions. Perhaps it should be. But we can argue social and political change and identities do clearly benefit from cultural support and expression. ______________ For Felix Guattari, our present ecological crisis is something which proceeds from social, political and existential roots. He thus asks "how do we change mentalities, how do we reinvent social practices that would give back to humanity — if it ever had it — a sense of responsibility, not only for its own survival, but equally for the future of all life on the planet …?" [5] He identifies the tools for this as "psychoanalysis, institutional analysis, film, literature, poetry, innovative pedagogies, town planning and architecture - all the disciplines". [6] So how do you empower and support these disciplines? Through a new education? [7] As service industries? Serving whom? [8] A Disneyland kulturkrieg? The new capitalist nomenklatura? LVMH? Is this brinksmanship? ______________ How is a 'new ethics' to be formulated and communicated if its adoption needs must also be decentralised and universal? [9] And is this really a 'private interest'? [10] Then again, for all its "interdisciplinary learning", perhaps the UNESCO proposed World Core Curriculum [11] is more shadow play? Maybe I am a cynic. Maybe happiness is something you can have 24/7. (A Brave New World?) Maybe not. ______________
So, are we all supposed to be teachers now? And if we need a new education, what does it look like? [12] The games industry? A virtual elephant in a future virtual room? [13] Who pays the piper? [14] And what is the piper going to play? [15] Do we not want pipers any more? Is that policy? (This last is a leading question, but let it stand).
________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ____________________________

[1] “The business world is heavily devoted to compliance, not ethics. Legislature has mandated it so compliance has become the lowest common denominator. Everyone knows that compliance is a check the box exercise for external accountability, but it’s not strong for ethics.” — Carucci, Ron, Will Your Ethics Hold Up Under Pressure? Forbes, Feb 3, 2016 @ 09:30 AM ______________
[2] " Reality, as an internally coherent and limited universe, begins to hemorrhage when its limits are stretched to infinity." — Baudrillard, Jean, Two Essays, Trans. Arthur B. Evans, 1. Simulacra and Science Fiction, Science Fiction Studies, #55, Volume 18, Part 3, November 1991. ______________
[3] Stanley, Alessandra, A Booming Market for Art That Imitates Life After the Financial Crisis, New York Times, February 7, 2016. ______________
[4] "Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same." — Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Proposition 6.421, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, London: Kegan Paul, 1922, p88. ______________
[5] Guattari, Felix, Chaosmosis, an ethico-aesthetic paradigm; trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis, Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995, p119. ______________
[6] Ibid, p135. ______________
[7] "The world will not change and find peace if there is not a new education." — U. Thant, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. UNESCO. ______________
[8] «I think that artists are the elite of the servant class», Jasper Johns. Quoted in Crichton, Michael, Jasper Johns. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977, p17. ______________
[9] "The fateful question of the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent the cultural process developed in it will succeed in mastering the derangements of communal life caused by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction. In this connection, perhaps the phase through which we are at this moment passing deserves special interest. Men have brought their powers of subduing the forces of nature to such a pitch that by using them they could now very easily exterminate one another to the last man."
— Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 1929. p40. ______________
[10] "Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. ... If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual 'lag' must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul." — Dr. Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Oslo, 1964. ______________
[11] cf. Eger, John, Common Core Embraces Broad Definition of the Arts, 07/31/2014 08:55 am ET | Updated Sep 30, 2014. ______________
[12] cf. Loxton, Rachel, Glasgow University £1billion plans set to turn West End into tourist magnet with 'museum district', Evening Times, Friday 5 February 2016 ______________
[13] "In June 2014, UKTI’s Creative Industries Sector Advisory Group launched the Creative Industries International Strategy, the stated aims of which were to double the value of creative industries exports to £31bn, double the amount of creative businesses that UKTI helps (from 7,500 to 15,000), and double the value of inward investment in creative UK businesses by 50%. The strategy did not set out UKTI’s plans for different parts of the UK." — House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, Creative industries in Scotland, Second Report of Session 2015–16, p17. ______________
[14] Atkins, Margaret, Should He Who Pays the Piper Call the Tune? CUCD Bulletin 32, 2003. ______________
[15] Miller, Phil, Creative Scotland to hold first 'advocacy' event for Westminster, co-hosted by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, The Herald, Wednesday 27 January 2016. ______________

Posted 5 years 5 months ago
image of Anna Lengyel


As in all things, context is king in this matter, too. So if we compare public funding of the performing arts in Hungary to the US for instance – not just the amounts, but the attitude, as well – Hungary is still relatively well off. In fact, a new tax policy, which was introduced a few years ago, allows companies or private persons to support theatres and write it off from their taxes. All performing arts institutions can receive up to 80% of their box office income in such a form (and most of the time they manage to raise this support, though some brokers demand a relatively low, 5-15% fee). However, once this special tax was introduced, public funding was either reduced or some cities now demand rent from some theatres which used to be able to function rent-free. So in effect this new form of funding ends up being most advantageous to the richest theatres, and the issue has been raised that it has too strong an influence on the programming of non-commercial theatres, since now the box-office aspect of any managerial decision carries almost twice the weight. At the same time though, there is something to be said for this almost entirely new phenomenon in the Hungarian arts, namely that the taxpayer – a company or a rich private person – can decide what (s)he or it wants to support in this form: sports (another option for the same tax-break) or the performing arts (and if so, which company).
This new way of funding, however, must be examined in the larger context of what is happning in the Hungarian theatre in general. The great majority of theatres are now run by lackeys and ideological allies of the Fidesz government. After their landslide victory in the 2006 local elections everywhere but in Budapest, Fidesz quickly took over almost all of the theatres outside of the capital, mostly appointing mediocre entertainers – often with no management experience, which in some cases led to the bankruptcy and the loss of as much as half of the audience of the given theatre – with no vision other than sg. along the lines of „theatre has to give you hope rather than discuss issues, after all we do not go to the theatre to suffer, but to forget our problems and have a good time, and never mind quality or the taste of the Budapest liberal elite“. This hostile takeover brought about the end of some legendary theatres, like the Kaposvár Theatre for instance and lowered intellectual, aesthetic and emotional expectations in most of these institutions. One or two newcomers surprised their party and the professional elite by a genuine ambition, a better-than-average taste and some good productions (e.g. in Kecskemét).
The more well-known, national landslide victory of Viktor Orbán in 2010, followed by his even more unfathomable new win in 2014, brought about a similar takeover of the majority of Budapest theatres, though not all of them. The world-famous Katona József Theatres remains in good hands, as does the very successful, high-quality Örkény Theatre. Despite initial efforts to the contrary, the city ended up leaving the biggest straight-play house, the more mainstream Vígszínház in its female director's – a great rarity – experienced hands, and just this month the centrally located art-house theatre, Radnóti was also given to a woman for professional reasons. The nationalistic, partially far-right Orbán regime clearly doesn't have enough people to do an even mediocre job of running an entertainment theatre, even if good taste or a neutral political stance are not among the requirements.
But they weren't going to leave the National Theatre in the hands of the enemy. The final three years of Róbert Alföldi's five-year term (2008-2013) as managing and artistic director were darkened by regular neo-Nazi hate-parades around the theatre and similar talk in Parliament. On the street they called him a "faggot", a "pervert", "a kike", "not worthy of the National Theatre", in Parliament he was consistently referred to as "Roberta" by the far-right Jobbik.
The government chose different methods to get rid of him: in three years they halved the funding of what they see as the most important Hungarian theatre in drastic steps and without warning, thereby making it almost impossible to keep the National afloat and financially sound. Alföldi managed even that, and unlike numerous Fidesz-friendly theatres, never once put his institution in the red. He rose tickets sales by 40%, attracted a whole new young generation, put the theatre on the international map for the first time, won numerous awards with his own directorial work and forged one of the strongest ensembles of what used to be a loose group of stars.
Despite this outstanding success and a unique bid for the open call for the next five years, his contract wasn't renewed, and the theatre was given to the only right-wing theatre-maker with any real quality, a formerly truly great director, Attila Vidnyánszky. Since 2006 and then 2010 this man has become a key player in the Hungarian theatre world, upon his word relevant laws are changed, and funds get drastically decreased or increased. No wonder he hasn't been able to stage a single outstanding show since, or that in an international discussion with theatre directors he makes the impression of a state secretary rather than a theatre-maker.
Basically though, any theatre that serves as a mouthpiece of the government or as what they call a "theatre of hope" can and sometimes does get almost limitless funding, a very few others get the same as before (Katona, Örkény, Vígszínház, Radnóti), while others are bled dry.
The field that has to deal with the most severe issues is the independent scene. In the Hungarian performing arts the independent sector plays an outstanding role. 8 to 9 of 10 invitations to the most prestigious festivals are for the independent companies. The most well-known names, directors who get invited most often to work in leading European and world-theatres are independent theatre-makers like Árpád Schilling, Viktor Bodó, Kornél Mundruczó, András Dömötör or Róbert Alföldi, with the only notable exception of Tamás Ascher from the Katona József Theatre. It took the thriving independent performing arts two decades to be acknowledged as more or less equals, but the funding was always way behind. So the 2008 Performing Arts Law – despite its holes and unsolved issues – was a major triumph for the indies, since it guaranteed a minimum of 10% of local subsidies for the independent scene. 2009 was the only year when some of the most outstanding independent companies got a funding at least closer to what they deserve if you compare them to the state or city theatres. It was also the only year right before Orbán's full overhaul that applications for annual funding were read and evaluated by a committee of theatre experts with no political loyalties, but delegated by the unions and professional associations, in the course of a fully transparent evaluation process.
The 2010 Orbán win brought about the rewriting of the Performing Arts Law with the 10% taken out of the equation and Vidnyánszky loudly claiming repeatedly that there is no need for the independent scene (which, by the way, he doesn't know at all). Since then the independent scene has been gradually bled out (not entirely yet, but close), Viktor Bodó's famous Sputnik, one of the leading companies of the country had to pull the plug, while Krétakör downsized to an absolute minimum, since their meagre annual subsidy was cut in half for openly political reasons by the minister's special committee with not a single professional reason being quoted. As a result, Schilling tore up Krétakör’s contract with the ministry and vowed not to take any money from the state as long as this mafia is in power.
The National Cultural Fund, which – until recently – was the most important source for project funding (the annual subsidy doesn't cover that), was also taken over by the government, and committees are fully ignorant of the independent applicants and are possibly told not to fund those critical of the regime, so several of the leading indies have gone empty-handed for years now. The final blow just occurred when in January 2016 the Fund was overtaken by the almighty Hungarian Arts' Academy, whose 85-year-old president (a formerly unknown mediocre architect) openly boasts that their decisions of who to fund is based on national loyalty rather than artistic excellence.
At the same time the ministry pretends to consult with the Association of Independent Performing Artists, whose co-president I am, but after months of detailed talks and seeming agreement, they have just published the new call for this calendar year three months later than promised, and rather than increasing the budget, which was also a promise, they decreased it once again. This strategy of bleeding us out is really clever, it is not open censorship, but at the end of the day it is even more detrimental in some ways, for it undermines the artists morally to such an extent which often makes the work impossible. Artistic directors of small companies, who are often also producers, end up spending every waking hour racking their brains how their company could get funding, which severely cripples creativity and often robs them of all artistic inspiration. Half give up, the other half spend most of their time working abroad (all the names listed above).
And it is not international coproductions we are talking about here. That would be great. But for every winning EU-grant we need to come up with more than half of the funding from other sources, mostly Hungarian ones. The National Cultural Fund used to have a creed according to which anyone who won an EU grant was worthy of getting half of matching funds needed from them. A logical decision, since the Fund never had a thorough or transparent evaluation process, so they had every reason to trust the EU decision. But this system was suspended three years ago when my company, PanoDrama served as a test balloon and got zero of the needed funding (4500 euro altogether) despite having finished 7th among 316 among the applicants with 94% of the available points in the EU. Since there was no protest, the year after that 10 of the 13 applicants came away empty-handed, even though in both cases there was plenty of money left. As a result of this strategy hardly anyone dares apply for EU grants any more, since the decision about matching funds isn't made until you are halfway into the project often with 70% of the costs having occurred, and since just a decision might finish smaller companies off for good.
Coming back to the original question, it is important to know that in Hungary there is very little tradition for private or corporate sponsorship apart from the tax break mentioned above. Efforts have been made to very little avail, which has a lot to do with a widespread lack of social responsibility, but also with the shocking poverty that about 40% of the population lives in. As a theatre-maker I can't in good conscience expect help for my projects from the wealthy as long as there is a single child going hungry every day in the heart of Europe in 2016. And at the moment there are about 700-800 thousand children suffering from severe malnutrition and hunger on a daily basis.
Altogether, I would say the taxpayer money spent on the arts in Hungary should be enough. The problem is with how the money is divided. Billions are wasted every year through institutions like the Hungarian Arts' Academy (with no financial control) or theatres led by incompetent management for ideological fodder, while most of the best are bled dry.
I would like to finish by suggesting that we might want to open up the debate to include education, which is strongly tied to culture, and which in Hungary is in the gravest danger right now.

Posted 5 years 5 months ago