Monthly Archives: May 2015

Action points for a change of policy

Published March 5th 2015

 1. Art as equally valued within the diversity of practices in society

Society flourishes on a multiplicity of practices (science, education, health-care, trade, politics, …). We believe the position of the arts, in this palette, needs to be reinforced. One important element for achieving this goal, is the enhancement of the social and economic position of the artist within the field. In order to achieve this, there needs to be a better collaboration between the various involved ministries.

a) Implementing & enforcing the CAO wages for all artists working for institutions and other commissioners. Stop funding institutions who don’t respect these agreements.

b) Collaborating with the federal government for an improvement of social security status of the artist:
– translation of the art.1 bis of the social security into Labour Law
– retaining RSZ reductions for artists
– cancelling article 63.2, which limits the period of eligibility for unemployment benefits

c) Safeguarding and promoting intrinsic properties of the arts within inter-departemental dialogues (eg. education, sciences, social affairs, tourism, foreign affairs, internal affairs,…) in order to strengthen the ‘kunstendecreet’ in correlation with activities belonging to other domains.

d) Ordering a study to enhance the possibilities for artists to work internationally. In the past every Belgian embassy had a cultural attaché for local support in a foreign country in relation to culture, but after the federalization of culture these functions were cancelled. Finding solutions to overcome this gap.

e) Enhancing communication and partnership on an inter-communal level between Flemish and French speaking institutions.

2. Diversity of players within the arts field

Proliferation is inherent to the arts. A healthy arts field is composed of a variety of players. This is often mistaken for fragmentation within the field, while on the contrary, variety strengthens an ecosystem. Therefore the aim is to nourish this diversity and not to blindly obey the imperative of ‘bigger is better’.

a) Reinforcing the direct support of artists:
– 2015 – 2016: reconsidering cuts in direct subventions (project subvention, development grant, etc…)
– from 2017 onwards, increasing the budget for direct support to 35% of the total budget for the arts.

b) Putting the ‘core costs’ of subsidized organizations and institutions in balance with their ‘overhead costs’: raising the artistic budget (artistic creation and payment of artists’ wages) within the total budget of these organizations to 50%. Enforcing more transparency of these figures. Instigating a debate about the definition of ‘core’ and ‘overhead costs’.

c) Reserving a minimum of 25% of the structural support budget for small and artist run organizations in order to guarantee sustainable support for experimental players within the arts field. We applaud the proposition of the 3 year project subventions, only if this does not hollow out structural support for small organizations.

d) Stopping the unbalanced distribution of cuts: By favoring big organizations, an unhealthy polarization risks to arise, in which the majority of players become dependent on a powerful few. Safeguarding the diversity of players within the arts field, in particular the small and medium players.

e) Guaranteeing the autonomy of the different players. Stimulating partnership and collaboration between organizations of different sizes and profiles. Protecting smaller players from forced mergers with larger scale operations under the false pretense of ‘optimization’.

f) Coordinating, in dialogue with ‘steunpunten’, a database with an overview of all infrastructure, services, materials, etc., available for organizations and artists within the Belgian territory. Such a ‘pool’ can be an alternative way of saving by utilizing more fully existing resources.

g) Developing a transparent concept and vision of the dynamics of the various players within the sector, not focusing solely on the inflow of ‘young talent’. Working towards an integrated vision, which also takes into account midterm mobility, as well as outflow or de-institutionalization.

3. Diversity of art forms

We also emphasize the importance of the diversity of art forms. The intrinsic value of experimental, trans disciplinary, artistic research, social-artistic practices, etc… requires our full attention. Policy has to be responsive to this diversity, with a refined palette of parameters. Standardization in the arts is a contradiction in terms and often means the elimination of many art forms. We applaud the bridging of the divide between different disciplines in the new ‘kunstendecreet’, but we would like to raise awareness of the singularity and specificity of different art practices.

a) Guaranteeing a balanced allocation of funding, spread over all art forms, including experimental and research-based practices.

b) Guaranteeing that the constellation of the different Commissions mirrors the diversity of art forms, and that they include peers of these different practices. Such diversity within the Commissions guarantees precise evaluation and customized support. Follow the advice of the Commission.

c) Search for forms of co-financing on a Flemish level, across policy-boundaries, specifically for trans-disciplinary labs. Trans-disciplinary research requires co-funding models between education, socio-cultural work, science, innovation, …

4. The particularity of the models to finance the arts within the diversity of supports

Public subventions are inherent to the specific and complex economical organization of the arts. Other models of financing must be treated with caution. They cannot replace the existing system of subsidies. We refuse the Anglo-Saxon model of obligatory private income sourcing for culture. It is important not to confuse the organization and economy of a free and autonomous public arts sector, with a so called cultural ‘industry’ run by the logic of the market.

a) Safeguarding the principle of state subsidies as the main instrument for supporting the arts.

b) Avoiding quantitative pre-conditions for funding applications (such as minimum number of presentation dates, minimum amount of own income within the production budget, etc …). Ensuring that such selection criteria do not sideline the role of the commissions.

c) In the case of funds being raised through a Tax Shelter, these funds should be transferred directly into the budget of the ‘kunstendecreet’. Tax shelter money should remain a public good.

d) Commissioning a study to examine how the possible spill-off of artistic activities can flow back to the budget for the arts.

5. Diversity of organizational models for various art practices

SOTA strives for the self-organization of artists, because they know better than anyone, the specificity of their own practices. Self-organization should not be confused with the self-reliance of an entrepreneur within so called ‘creative industries’. One cannot apply one standardized model to the complex ecosystem in which artists work. Small, bottom-up organizations and self-organized networks can develop more closely alongside artists.

a) Guaranteeing the independence of artists and the organizational framing of their practices, by allocating structural funding to artist-run organizations and initiatives. Delegating this role to large scale institutions is not a solution.

b) Guaranteeing access to structural support for workspaces, residencies and alternative management offices. Rectifying the current discrepancy between disciplines in this regard.

c) Ensuring that a minimum 15% of expenses in project subventions can be spent on overhead and administrative costs. This percentage embodies the average overhead costs within shared workspaces and communal administrations.

d) Organizing a study in order to simplify the bureaucracy for individual artists and small initiatives so that the administrative costs can be minimized.

e) Commission a study on the development of cooperative self-organizational models and on peer to peer systems as production models for the arts.

f) Collaborate with the Regions and City Governments to recognize workspaces as a single category within city development and urbanism.