Towards a sustainable arts policy

Position Paper | Year 2016
Towards a sustainable arts policy
Class of the Arts

In 2015, the Class of Arts of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB) organised a Thinkers’ programme on the topic of ‘Art & Money’. Bearing the current cost-cutting measures in mind, the need was felt to hold a debate on the importance of art and culture in Flanders. The purpose was to thoroughly analyse the societal relevance of the entire Flemish arts and cultural sector. This analysis, of course, exceeds the visual arts, with music, architecture, performing arts and literature also being tackled. This Position paper wants to further explore the recommendations made during the Thinkers’ programme, with particular focus on the term ‘sustainability’. It wants to highlight several basic ideas on and principles of how the art and cultural scene is managed, to clarify the Flemish art scene’s current context, and, consequently, to  make some new, more specific recommendations. A sustainable art scene requires strong and creative actors, and therefore sufficient means to allow the artist to work and live, as well as appropriate surroundings and sufficient contact points between the arts and society, which is what we will be thoroughly addressing in this Position paper. Additionally, we noticed how the Flemish art scene has experienced some dramatic changes over the last couple of years. For a long time, the government was rather a passive spectator, but ever since the former Arts Decree was implemented (2004), it gradually took charge of policies, subsidisations and regulations. Meanwhile, private initiatives somehow seem to be taking over from government again, raising a number of important questions. For instance, which forms of governance apply to culture? How should cultural policies on a Flemish, municipal and communal level be related? What about the relationship between government and private actors? What about the revised Arts Decree? The reflections in this Position paper provide a number of action points that should be tackled in order to reach a consistent and sustainable Flemish policy on arts and culture. We made twelve recommendations, the following of which can serve as an example. ‘Digital bureaucratisation can be a barrier for young, small and innovative initiatives. Artists, initiatives or institutions that do not have the means to employ professional ‘case writers’ or that cannot afford to hire a part-time assistant to follow up on the bureaucratic burden risk being left out. Vested institutions often also experience how bureaucratisation can be counterproductive. The procedures proposed in the Arts Decree need to provide a greater balance between planning and controlling.’

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