The new Strategic Vision Statement for the Arts has been published. In this policy document, Minister of Culture Jan Jambon sets out the main lines of his arts policy for the coming years. As described in the Arts Decree, the Vision Statement also contains considerations for assessing subsidy applications. The Vision Statement is a further elaboration of the Culture Policy Memorandum 2019-2024 and includes input from the Landscape Sketch of the Arts 2019.
Nine key elements
The Vision Statement describes nine key elements of the new arts policy:
- The importance of diversity and freedom of expression in the arts is emphasised. According to the Vision Statement, “Censorship, self-censorship, intellectual pride and stereotypical thinking” are the “greatest threat […] to creativity”.
- The subsidised arts field is divided into four categories (see below).
- For the minister, an equitable distribution of resources in the Flemish arts landscape is of great importance (‘landscape care’ is the term used for this). This applies to Art Decree subsidies as well as infrastructure investments. The unique character of and the complementarity between artistic activities and projects are a guiding principle here. Also important for example is a balance between disciplines – with greater attention given to the visual arts, architecture, design or urban themes – and complementarity with other government administrations.
- The individual artist is seen as the cornerstone of the arts landscape and arts policy. The minister will look for appropriate instruments (in the ‘dynamic space’, see below) to support artists in different phases of their lives. Fair practice, fair pay and cultural governance must be guiding principles.
- A commitment is being made to the interaction between arts and heritage. This means that (innovative) reinterpretations of repertoires and traditions have an advantage in the assessment of subsidy applications (see below). The government is also launching an art heritage programme to deal with the legacy of contemporary artists.
- Building and strengthening international relations and career opportunities is a crucial theme. Existing support measures for this are being used more intensively and new measures may be developed.
- Entrepreneurship and self-reliance should be promoted in the arts sector. In consultation with education, it will be examined how extra attention can be paid to entrepreneurship in higher art education programmes. The initiatives regarding supplemental funding from the previous legislature will be continued and/or evaluated.
- The importance of art as “lever for community building” is underlined. The Vision Statement aims for sufficiently high-quality and accessible arts offerings for children in education and for a broad layer of the population. The expertise of (art) education organisations should be better shared, the role of social-artistic work needs to be recognised, arts organisations need to invest in public relations, and cooperation with partners from other social domains should be encouraged.
- The government aims to simplify, streamline and make more efficienttheadministration, assessment and justification of applications under the Arts Decree (and other cultural decrees). With respect to this and other aspects of the arts practice, digitisation a focal point.
No additional cuts to the totality of available resources wereannounced. However, it is stated in various guidelines that the possibilities will be examined within the available budgets. In addition, specific guidelines imply changes to the Arts Decree and the associated procedures. Consultation with the sector regarding this isplanned.
Arts Decree reform
The current Arts Decree provides for various subsidy instruments. The most important are the operating subsidies for arts organisations (ca. 56% of the total resources available through the Arts Decree), the subsidies to Art institutions (ca. ⅓ of total resources) and project subsidies and grants (around 5 to 7% in recent years).
Currently seven organisations are supported as an Art Institution. 209 organisations receive operating subsidies. Hundreds of different artists and organisations were awarded a project-based subsidy each year (including some organisations with operating subsidies under € 300,000).
The vision statement announces four new categories of subsidisation. Each are intended for a specific profile of actors in the arts field. These are subsidies for the following:
- The ‘dynamic space’: this includes the project-based subsidies, which are “defined in terms of structure, purpose and time” (including the projects and grants). A “relevant percentage” of the Arts Decree funds will be reserved for this. As with the current scheme, these subsidies can be used for up to several years. However, these resources may no longer be combined with other subsidy categories.
- The ‘broad field’: this is similar to the current operating subsidy scheme, which is valid for a period of five years.
- The ‘core institutions’: this is intended for “structurally embedded” organisations. They are subsidised for a period longer than five years. They conclude management agreements with the Flemish government and are subject to visits and audits. They combine their artistic work with a number of specific responsibilities that are determined in consultation with the government. The procedure for applying to become a core institution is still under review.
- The ‘art institutions’: this is in line with the current scheme. Like today, they conclude management agreements with the Flemish government. The length of their subsidisation period is the same as that of core institutions.
In the existing scheme for operating and project subsidies, an application dossier can be profiled using one or more of five functions (development, participation, presentation, production and reflection). In the new scheme this is still the case for the dynamic space and the broad field. Core institutions must excel in at least two functions and art institutions (like today) must fulfil all functions.
The broad field, core institutions and art institutions are expected to offer development and growth opportunities to artistic talent. The latter two must also set an example in the area of good governance and fair practices.
In order to implement the proposed decree change and to convert these into concrete procedures, the application date for operating subsidies of 1 December 2020 was postponedfor a maximum of one year.
The assessment system of the Arts Decree will be evaluated and adapted if necessary. The principles of a peer-to-peer approach and intersubjectivity remain a focal point, as in the current system of advisory and assessment committees. In addition, this system enables better landscape care.
The Vision Statement closes with five considerations for validating subsidy applications. These are a translation of some of the guidelines stated. After the assessment, the ranking of applications is tested against these criteria. Applications that match one or more of these criteria therefore have a greater chance of receiving a subsidy. This applies in the case of project-based and operating subsidies:
- Occupies a unique place in the arts landscape or offers insights that are not dealt with anywhere else
- Works in an innovative, artistically meaningful or quality way with cultural heritage, the canon and/or historical traditions
- Has unique international added value or potential
- Involves children and youth in a unique way
- Pays special attention to the vulnerable position of the individual artist