In final appearance, outgoing NEA chair again calls US arts funding "pathetic"

Alexandra Svokos, editor of Columbia University's Bwog.com, 11/29/12

In the latest World Leaders Forum, Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor in the French Embassy, and recently resigned National Endowment of the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman, in his final public appearance in the position, discussed their respective country's relations between the government and the arts. It's no big secret that arts in France are much more publicly supported than in the US.  Rocco Landesman, speaking freely in light of his resignation, made this immediately clear when asked about government funding for the arts, saying, "one more time before I leave: it's pathetic."  The budget for the NEA is $150 million, he explained, while in France the arts budget is $9 billion -- which would be merely significant...if the countries were the same size. Given the straight facts, one would think that Antonin Baudry would sit back and arrogantly shrug for the rest of the talk.  But, of course, Baudry had his own complaints to make.   Baudry insisted France would be better with more private funding that Americans excel in.  Baudry works in the United States for French culture.  Despite having significant public funding, many of France's major cultural institutions need private donations -- Versailles, for instance, gets 25% of its budget from private donations -- and much of those donations actually come from America. Landesman pointed out that having a majority of funding coming from private entities is extremely volatile, especially during recessions.  As soon as the last one hit the US, donations immediately disappeared.  Moreover, government support is indicative of a nation's values.  By not supporting the arts, the government indicates that they are not a necessity.  Landesman has theories for why America has a "fundamental, visceral distrust of the arts."  Mainly, it is because we keep a "cowboy mentality," telling us to be emotionless and unaesthetic, thus creating a prejudice against the arts, which are believed to be "a little bit gay."

 

Germany boosts arts funding: "an essential investment in future of our society"

Kate Deimling, Art Info, 11/13/12

With all the European Union countries engaged in belt-tightening, it was not a surprise when France announced it was cutting cultural spending next year by 4.5% (even if it did contradict president FranÁois Hollande's campaign promises). But Germany is taking the opposite tack and will increase its arts spending for the eighth consecutive year. The German culture budget will rise by 8%, even as the country's overall federal budget is decreased by 3.1%. Arts spending is not seen as a subsidy, but as "an essential investment in the future of our society," German culture minister Bernd Neumann said. The biggest study in contrasts in the two countries is the fate of national monuments and contemporary arts. The Bundeskulturstiftung, the German federal foundation for the arts, will see its budget increase by €5 million ($6.4 million), bringing its total to €40 million ($50.9 million). Meanwhile, in France, the visual arts are losing 10% of their state support. Germany is spending an additional €30 million ($38.1 million) on a fund for the protection and renovation of national monuments, while France is cutting its national heritage programs by a whopping €85.5 million ($108.7 million), with over half that sum affecting national monuments. Le Journal des Arts points out, however, that France's culture budget of €2.43 billion ($3.09 billion) is almost twice Germany's culture budget of €1.28 billion ($1.63 billion) even though Germany has about 20 million more inhabitants. Germany's 16 Lšnder or states take the lead in financial support for the arts -- something that the French departments may have to become adept at, too, if such cuts become a national habit.

 

In the UK, a war of words over government funding cuts for the arts

Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian, 11/30/12

Nicholas Hytner has had a phenomenally successful run at the helm of the National Theatre. But it's his outspoken attack on the government over the future of the arts that's making all the headlines. Specifically, [he has been] questioning where the culture secretary, Maria Miller, stands on the place of the arts in British society. His fear is that the arts in England sit "on a knife's edge". Any further cuts would be a disaster, he argues. Not for the National Theatre (or the Royal Opera House, or the British Museum), whose privileged status and ability to raise private funds shelter them, but for the majority of other orchestras, galleries and theatres, especially those outside London. "We really are facing the same situation as we endured between 1979 and 1992 when 25% of regional theatres closed down. That is what will happen. We are right at the edge." It has been quite a fortnight for Miller and Hytner, who have been engaged in a war of words. Hytner had accused the government of doing "next to nothing" to encourage cultural philanthropy -- which is its major arts policy. He then called a press conference with Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning director behind the Olympics opening ceremony, to draw attention to the plight of regional theatres. In return, Miller published an uncompromising article, saying Hytner's claims were "outrageous" and the arts lobby's claims of impending disaster were "disingenuous" and "close to pure fiction". Hytner counters: "After the success of the past 15 years...I think there is widespread support for the idea of a modest investment in the arts. It's really, really pointless pitting the arts against the police, welfare, defence. We all have our own household budgets. You don't spend nothing on your child's birthday because it's an untenable luxury. It's necessary to accept that a balanced budget is a necessary for a balanced life, and the same applies to the nation as a whole. "

 

Commentary: Greece has cut funding 30% but its financial crisis is fueling the arts

Mark Lowen BBC News, 12/1/12

State funding for the arts has been slashed by 30% in the past two years but the experience of living through today's Greece has spawned new and exciting cultural ideas. In a small theatre in the capital, a young group performs their new show. They, like many, have done away with props and scenery as budgets are tightened and so they rely on their impressive physical expertise and wit. It is a visual feast: the actors play different roles and brilliantly act out inanimate objects. "The crisis gave me a push to come back to my country and do something," says director Sofia Paschou, "because I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to say. It's that whatever the very bad situation that we're in, we are going to stay and survive. We're going to continue living and working and solving and dancing." She says the crisis has brought together like-minded people who want to respond through their art. "Instead of being angry on the streets breaking things, let our anger make something more positive, interesting and useful," she says. The recession has, of course, made things tough. Big museums have cut back on security staff, leading to two major robberies this year and spending cuts have stunted important archaeological projects and excavations. But Maria Vlazaki from the ministry of culture believes the arts scene can continue to prosper. "This ministry always had limited funding," she says. "Of course we have far more problems now but in difficult times, culture survives. We have a wonderful cultural heritage but we don't rely on that. We will continue to be not just a country of ancient culture but of an exciting modern one too." Today, from the street to the stage to the studio, money is scarce but ideas are abundant and a new crisis culture is being born.

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