Commentary: European arts spending cuts have an effect on U.S. arts

Larry Rohter, The New York Times, 3/25/12

Europe's economic problems, and the austerity programs meant to address them, are forcing arts institutions there to curtail programs, tours and grants. As a result, some ensembles are scaling down their productions and trying to raise money from private donors, some in the United States, potentially putting them in competition with American arts organizations. For Americans used to seeing the best and most adventuresome European culture on tour in this country, the belt-tightening is [also] beginning to affect both the quantity and quality of arts exchanges. For artists and administrators in Europe, such changes are deeply disquieting, even revolutionary. In contrast to the U.S., Europe has embraced a model that views culture not as a commodity, in which market forces determine which products survive, but as a common legacy to be nurtured and protected, including art forms that may lack mass appeal. But countries with governments led by conservatives or technocrats -- like Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands and Britain -- have had their culture budgets slashed. So have others that are being forced to cut public spending to remain in the euro zone, including Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland. In practical terms that has meant that smaller companies, especially those engaged in experimental and avant-garde efforts, bear the brunt of the projected cuts. Michael Nieuwenhuizen of the Netherlands Music Center [said] "we're going to lose some orchestras and choirs." And in the dance field, said Sophie Lambo of the Internationaal Danstheater of Amsterdam, "it's going to be a tsunami."

 

Commentary: Some of Europe still makes the arts a priority - why can't the U.S.?

Carla Escoda, Ballet To The People blog, 3/3/12

The 2012 budget for the NEA has recently been slashed to $146 million. Compare this to the budget for the National Arts Council in Britain, which after a drastic 15% cut still stands at $475 million or about $8 per capita vs. the U.S.'s miserly 50. And Italy, where the government [funding] stands at a historic low of $530 million or $9 per capita. Last November, Germany's Culture Minister Bernd Neumann announced a 5.1% increase in state 'investment' in the arts. 'Subsidy', he said, belonged to the past. This was a stake in the nation's future. Immediately upon which the European Unionannounced a $2.4 billion funding programme for arts and culture, starting in 2014, marking a 35% increase in EU support for ailing cultural industries - on top of what EU member governments have already committed. Though Europe is in deeper economic crisis than the U.S., the arts remain a key priority. Europeans understand that in dire economic times, performing arts serve an even more critical function than in times of prosperity. Europeans aren't the only ones who've figured this out: Venezuela has made a massive investment in El Sistema, a network of orchestras which targets social change through classical music education for nearly half a million of the nation's underprivileged children. Venezuelans don't think this is a "nice to have" but an absolute "must have", not a cultural policy but a highly targeted national security strategy to keep disadvantaged, at-risk youth off the streets and out of the correctional system. In America, where the prison population has tripled in 20 years, with one out of every 99 adults currently behind bars, and the costs of incarceration estimated at $74 billion in 2011, clearly not enough policy-makers are thinking about arts education as a solution.

 

Commentary: European funding model would have saved Vancouver theater?

Mike Hager, Vancouver Sun, 3/11/12

Hours after news broke of the Playhouse Theatre company's demise, Vancouver's theatre community reacted with sadness, disbelief and anger at what they see as another cultural institution failing in these tough economic times. Playwright Morris Panych said he knew of the company's financial woes but was surprised the company's board couldn't handle a debt load not unprecedented in an industry that experiences financial ebbs and flows based on things like endowments and changing audience numbers. "It's a huge loss and I don't think it should happen. I think somebody should get their act together," Panych said. Actor Jay Brazeau, [who] has taken part in several Playhouse productions, said a European model of government funding for the arts should be adopted. "European people are marvelous for defending their culture ... and I think we have to fight for our culture here," Brazeau told The Sun. "The government has to realize we need these things. It can always be saved you just can't give up."

 

Commentary: European 'culture of entitlement' gives U.S. indie filmmakers an edge

Canadian film marketer/distributor Adam Daniel Mezei on his PMD For Hire blog, 2/28/12

Two months in Europe developing my professional networks, speaking at Berlinale-themed events, meeting some UK indies, revisiting my old Prague haunt, and things of that sort, and I've got a number of reactions I wanted to share about the state of indie film in the European Union. Here's why I think the US will remain at the top of the indie filmmaking leader board for a long time yet.

European filmmakers are afflicted by chronic cultures of entitlement: Most well-off Western European nations (Germany, France, the UK, for example) maintain robust public funding regimes for the arts, although I realize my British friends will tell me that's debatable. I was shocked by how public funding regimes radically skew artists' expectations. European filmmakers I chatted with believed that the marketing, distribution, and eventual sale of their passion projects was the government's responsibility. This "gimme gimme" culture has got to stop or else excellent would-be filmmakers are going to tumble off the radar.

European publics don't believe in crowdfunding: All-or-nothing crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter [or] IndieGoGo aren't succeeding here because European publics take on a similar attitude to artists: funding for the arts is government's responsibility, not ours. German colleagues told me the public thinks crowdfunding is basically a bunch of bunk, and in some cases, potentially scam-like.

Risk-aversion vs. risk-seeking: I know you all hate when I do this, but it's true: Americans are taught to absorb mega-amounts of risk, while Western Europeans (and to a large extent, Canucks) don't have to work as hard because they always know there's a government willing to bail out their dinghies if they their strategy proves unsound -- or, in our filmmaking context, their film is a total box-office flop and racks up paltry sales.

 

With film music, Brussels orchestra veers from usual business model

Eric Holmberg, Reuters news service, 3/13/12

The Brussels Philharmonic used to wait by the phone and occasionally a filmmaker would call. The symphony orchestra did, after all, perform the music on Martin Scorsese's 2004 movie "The Aviator", winning the Golden Globe that year for Best Original Score. But after one million euros ($1.3 million) in public funding cuts over the past two years, patience has become a luxury. General manager Gunther Broucke solicited movie producers at a film festival in Ghent last year: The orchestra wanted work. Among the first to call were producers for "The Artist", the silent French film which won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Original Score at the Academy Awards in February. A mix of film music, a new record label and an expansive tour schedule have since solidified the philharmonic's finances with 800,000 euros in additional income, nearly offsetting the public funding cuts. Public money accounts for 80 to 85 percent of the orchestra's budget.

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