Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

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John F
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Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by John F » Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:58 am

March 24, 2012
In Europe, Where Art Is Life, Ax Falls on Public Financing
By LARRY ROHTER

European governments are cutting their support for culture, and American arts lovers are starting to feel the results.

In Italy, the world-famous opera house La Scala faces a $9 million shortfall because of reductions in subsidies. In the Netherlands, government financing for arts programs has been cut by 25 percent. Portugal has abolished its Ministry of Culture.

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 [that's "adventurous" or "venturesome," Mr. Richter] European culture on tour in this country, the belt-tightening is beginning to affect both the quantity and quality of arts exchanges. At least three European troupes that were expected to perform in January at the Under the Radar theater festival in New York, for example, had to withdraw as they could not afford the travel costs, and the organizers could not either.

“It is putting a pretty serious crimp in international exchanges, especially with smaller companies,” said Mark Russell, artistic director of Under the Radar. “It’s a very frustrating environment we’re in right now, tight in part because of our own crash, but more generally because it seems to me now that every time we get around to the international question, we have a meltdown and go back to zero.”

For artists and administrators in Europe, such changes are deeply disquieting, even revolutionary. In contrast to the United States, 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.

“Culture is a basic need,” said Andreas Stadler, director of the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York and president of the New York branch of the European Union National Institutes for Culture. “People should have the right to go to the opera.” Over all, he added, “Culture is much higher on our political agenda than it is here, because it is so linked to our identities.”

Germany and France, the largest and most stable economies in Europe, are suffering the least and can even point to increases in financing for some officially favored programs, genres and ensembles that are seen as promoting the countries’ images abroad, like film.

But other countries with governments that are 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 the case of the Netherlands, the culture budget is being cut by about $265 million, or 25 percent, by the start of 2013, and taxes on tickets to cultural events are to rise to 19 percent from 6 percent, although movie theaters, sporting events, zoos and circuses are exempted. The state secretary of education, culture and science, Halbe Zijlstra, has described his focus as being “more than quality, a new vision of cultural policy,” in which institutions must justify what they do economically and compete for limited funds.

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. Large, established institutions, like the Rijksmuseum, the van Gogh Museum, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Dutch National Ballet, are in a better position to fend for themselves.

“The economy is not that good any more, so to get support, you have to be a large company with an international reputation,” said Michael Nieuwenhuizen, the senior project manager for international affairs of the Netherlands Music Center. “Plus, the government wants to see value for the money and links that to the markets, so that if you have an audience, you get rewarded.” As a result, he added, “we’re going to lose some orchestras and choirs.” And in the dance field, said Sophie Lambo, managing director of the Internationaal Danstheater, of Amsterdam, “it’s going to be a tsunami.”

In the boom years before the economic crisis hit late in 2008, it was not uncommon for touring European orchestras, ballet and opera companies and theater troupes to travel beyond New York, to cities like Minneapolis and San Diego. That has now become more difficult, and when it occurs, the European performers expect their American hosts to cover more of the costs.

“We have less money and have changed our concept of cooperation,” said Mr. Stadler of the group of European cultural institutes, which has 44 members. “We expect more from our partners and we will negotiate tougher.”..

The crisis is also affecting what kind of art is performed and how it is made. After returning from Europe last month, Nigel Redden, director of the Lincoln Center and Spoleto arts festivals, said that a trend toward new work with fewer characters or players, especially with commissioned pieces, seemed to be growing. “Many playwrights are writing things for three performers instead of eight, and if you are a composer, you may be writing for a chamber group rather than a symphony,” he said. “That also is a factor of the current climate: artists want to have their work performed, and smaller productions are inevitably less expensive to put on.”

Some of those scaled-down works are now beginning to find their way to the United States. The lineup for this summer’s Lincoln Center Festival, announced last week, includes “Émilie,” a 2010 “monodrama” opera for a single singer, written by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, which had its American premiere last year at Spoleto...

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/world ... roups.html
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by maestrob » Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:50 am

Well, is it a popular revolt against Eurotrash? The article doesn't really say, but I say it's high-time this sort of thing happened in Europe, whose governments have supported some pretty awful stuff.

FDR promulgated experimental theatre during the Great Depression in order to keep actors employed. Is Europe now becoming more conservative than the U. S. was then?

It's amazing to me to think of cuts of 25% or more for the Concertgebouw or Berlin: perhaps now they'll start listening to the public at large and program works that can fill seats, rather than playing to half-empty houses with wierd and bloody stagings of Mozart. I'm just saying..... :mrgreen:

absinthe
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by absinthe » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:28 am

Just a shame it can't go back to the better F D Roosevelt days, public financing of the arts.

Not much hope of anything happening in the UK with our Pleb government. They wouldn't know a symphony if they tripped over it.

nut-job
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by nut-job » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:33 am

maestrob wrote:It's amazing to me to think of cuts of 25% or more for the Concertgebouw or Berlin: perhaps now they'll start listening to the public at large and program works that can fill seats, rather than playing to half-empty houses with wierd and bloody stagings of Mozart. I'm just saying..... :mrgreen:
I never saw an empty seat in the house on any of those "Eurotrash" DVDs.

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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by nut-job » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:34 am

absinthe wrote:Just a shame it can't go back to the better F D Roosevelt days, public financing of the arts.
Is it the great depression or world war that you think of so fondly? :shock:

John F
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by John F » Sun Mar 25, 2012 2:33 pm

maestrob wrote:Well, is it a popular revolt against Eurotrash?
No reason to think so. Non-operatic organizations are being cut too, and as far as I know, the artistic direction of the major opera houses isn't debated in the European parliaments, unless managerial corruption or incompetence is involved.
maestrob wrote:It's amazing to me to think of cuts of 25% or more for the Concertgebouw or Berlin: perhaps now they'll start listening to the public at large and program works that can fill seats.
Nobody ever accused the Concertgebouw Orchestra of alienating its audience, and tickets to the Vienna Philharmonic's subscription concerts have always among the hardest to get anywhere. No, it's about the money which is being diverted to prop up the Euro, and possibly also about the conservative governments in Germany and France that are against subsidies on principle, but haven't had an excuse until now to go against the people's wishes.
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by absinthe » Sun Mar 25, 2012 2:34 pm

nut-job wrote:
absinthe wrote:Just a shame it can't go back to the better F D Roosevelt days, public financing of the arts.
Is it the great depression or world war that you think of so fondly? :shock:
Moose! Honestly! What's the matter with you?

Unless my history misled me, in spite of those dolorous times, one redeeming feature was
public support for the arts and in particular American composers. American art and music became
great during and because of those times. Hundreds of professional and semi-pro orchestras were
created and many local composers commissioned.
Even CBS and NBC had their own orchestras (the latter, I believe, took on Toscanini once he'd
got fed up with pizzas and Mussolini).

So there yer go.

nut-job
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by nut-job » Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:03 pm

absinthe wrote:
nut-job wrote:
absinthe wrote:Just a shame it can't go back to the better F D Roosevelt days, public financing of the arts.
Is it the great depression or world war that you think of so fondly? :shock:
Moose! Honestly! What's the matter with you?

Unless my history misled me, in spite of those dolorous times, one redeeming feature was
public support for the arts and in particular American composers. American art and music became
great during and because of those times. Hundreds of professional and semi-pro orchestras were
created and many local composers commissioned.
Even CBS and NBC had their own orchestras (the latter, I believe, took on Toscanini once he'd
got fed up with pizzas and Mussolini).

So there yer go.
I don't think that is accurate. During the great depression the Works Projects Administration supported musicians who were on relief rolls. The "art" funded by the WPA was very utilitarian.

The US did get an influx of musicans and composers fleeing fascism and Nazi invasions, including Bartok, Martinu, Hindemith, Reiner, Szell, Toscanini, etc, but they found support from privately held organizations. The NBC symphony, which was created for Toscanini was created by the National Broadcasting Company, which was a privately held corporation.

Orchestras were supported by private foundations in those days. The Louisville Orchestra, which made a name for itself by commissioning a lot of works from well know composers, was supported by local business leaders and by a grant from the Rockefeller foundation in 1953. The National Endowment for the Arts, the main federal support for the arts, was created in 1965.

The golden era for American Classical music was probably the 1950's, when there was a lot of optimism in the US.

http://www.louisvilleorchestra.org/wp-c ... a-City.pdf

Today, the Louisville orchestra is bankrupt, the orchestra has been on strike for more than a year, and orchestra members were denied unemployment insurance because according to the local authorities they weren't fired, they quit. Amazing the difference a few decades make. :(

John F
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by John F » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:02 pm

For what it's worth, Roosevelt's WPA founded some orchestras of its own, such as the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, to provide work for unemployed musicians. I don't believe any of them still exist; today's Illinois Symphony Orchestra is a different organization.
John Francis

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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:12 pm

In Europe, Where Art Is Life, Ax Falls on Public Financing
First, I think this has been going on for a long time. I can remember public radio commentary on the subject from as long as 15 years ago. The unique Frankfurt Ballet is a case of the ax falling and a beheading taking place.

Second, I question the "where art is life" part. My experience and impression is that in general even most educated Europeans are just like their American counterparts in not knowing the difference between Beethoven and Roll Over Beethoven. Government arts support will always be the subsidy of a poorly appreciated few; it is only a question of degree.

None of this is to say that I find any diminishing of serious arts funding anything but deplorable, but as the saying goes, "what are you gonna do"? Thank God there seems to be a minimum level at which art is irresistible.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by nut-job » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:18 pm

For whatever reason, the classical music world seems to be 100 times more vibrant en Europe than in the US, at least based on what is recorded. Europe has Chandos, Hyperion, CPO, Naxos, and other labels that find orchestras and artists who bring forth an endless stream of undiscovered music to record. The US economy is about the same size as the entire EU, and is there even one independent record label in the US that could be compared? I don't know if the difference is in government support or public involvement, but there is something going on there that isn't happening here.

John F
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by John F » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:16 pm

The difference is that mainstream philistine America is indifferent to the arts and hostile to governmental support of them, as witness the pathetic funding of the National Endowment for the Arts and the constant effort to take even that away by abolishing the NEA, and the elimination of music education in most public schools nationwide. Whereas in Europe, the arts and culture are seen as very much in the public interest and worthy of public support.
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Re: Europe: Fiscal austerity = cuts in arts subsidies

Post by PJME » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:17 pm

La Monnaie/De Munt feels the financial pressure aswell, but will survive at the cost of visible/audible/artistic cuts. Several smaller companies however ( from La petite bande to Het Zuiderperhuis) may well disappear.

From La Monnaie's/De Munt's website: interview with Peter De Caluwe, director

Belgium is one of the Eurozone countries with a high level of debt. One obvious option would be to make cuts in arts funding. How is La Monnaie doing in this respect?

Of course, our philosophy of seeing ourselves as the opera house of the European capital is a way of ensuring that politicians don’t threaten our existence. After all, Belgium also has the Vlaamse Opera and the Opera de Wallonie. Nevertheless, we have had to make some painful cuts in the last few years in order to achieve the necessary savings. It was bad luck that we had to negotiate our budget up until 1913 in 2008/9, during a period of such great financial uncertainty. As a consequence not only did we have to cut back the production budget, but we also had to make some redundancies. In 2000 we had 492 employees, but by 2013 there will only be 422. We had to reduce the choir from fifty to forty members, for example. Of course that’s not great, but given the current situation I don’t think it’s unfair. Out of the 34 million euros we receive in subsidies from the government, 33 million is spent on salaries and operating costs at La Monnaie. In other words, the building is placed at our disposal and we have to ensure that the finances are sufficient to keep going.

Even though appearances can be deceptive, an evening at the opera conjures up the image of luxury and opulence.

Absolutely, and in this respect an opera house is undoubtedly a sign of a healthy society. I have no concerns on that front. People who can afford it always yearn for luxury. Without luxury there is no culture. I find it problematic to say that people are starving in Africa, and therefore we don’t need opera. We in the theatre business can’t help Africa, but a healthy society can – if it so desires. Of course opera is elitist, but the elite has always changed the world and produced new ideas. Opera must influence and challenge this elite in a positive sense. Europe cannot distance itself from an art form that is more European than any other. Otherwise it will lose its own identity.

Read the entire article at:

http://www.lamonnaie.be/en/398/

and
As a foreword to the 2012-2013 season, Peter de Caluwe wrote an impassioned essay called “A plea for the cultural sector”:

http://www.lamonnaie.be/fr/416/Carte-bl ... -de-Caluwe

Here are a few salient paragraphs (in translation):

Art and culture are, in a society of abundance and prosperity (the one in which we still live), important for the welfare of its citizens. Art brings cohesion and proposes a reflection. It is an essential framework for “living together”. To avoid weakening or disappearance of this essential element of democratic life, minimum technical adjustments would suffice for most of our institutions to solve problems that have been on the table for years, and are here to stay and ever more threatening. But for this we need the will and daring of politicians.
But our leaders are struggling with so-called competing priorities: security versus social security, culture and education versus prison and police? Balanced relations between these areas will give birth to a healthy and serene society. Increasing the role of culture and education in the daily lives of our citizens will reduce violence and bring more harmony. In the long term, we believe that many repressive measures would then be superfluous. But no one can or wants to make that choice.

Let’s be clear, we want it clearly stated that the word subsidy is not a dirty or shameful word. In our economic sector too the principle of return on investment can be applied. Just open the newspaper. It’s always about investments. Only in culture, politicians and the press talk about subsidies. Recent studies, including one commissioned by Serge Dorny, our compatriot at the Opéra de Lyon, show that public subsidies are equally or primarily investments. Each euro allocated to culture generates triple the revenue in return. The arts sector is therefore proposing a more than acceptable return on investment and is positioning itself as an important agent of economic life of our society, not to mention, of course, its decisive contribution as “spiritual food” for human life. In the film sector, the “tax shelters” helped elicit large private sector investments. It is high time that we look closely at how a similar device can be implemented in other sectors to promote cultural life in our country.

Let me be even clearer: we are absolutely open to changes. We are also constantly in a process of modernization. As a creative company, it is our interest to adapt to changing situations. This is the guiding principle of our attitude, even at the management and coaching levels. The proof is that La Monnaie in the last ten years we have reduced the number of permanent employees by 15%, and yet have obtained the same results through a more efficient organization. So we are a company that, at each level, assumes its responsibilities, and we are surviving thanks to the professionalism of our staff, the dedication of our artists and the loyalty of our audience and our generous donors.

The same kind of vision and creative treatment is needed from our government. Compared to some other European countries, we can certainly still feel relatively spared, the violent and tragic budget cuts made elsewhere have spared the Belgian cultural sector, but … Give us time and a clear perspective. Think with us. Do not take hasty decisions, “musts” that are harmful, but invest with us in our future and be proud of what we can achieve together. We are not a sector on the back of which it is possible to make further savings. We are facing a situation where there is no more flesh, where only the bones remain. It’s decision time. Our future depends on it.

Still, (cultural) Europe is definitely frightened.

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