Job opportunity in culture: a personality

By the accession of Central European countries to the European Union we have gone along a thorny but much needed path to be incorporated into the economic and legal space with 500 million inhabitants. We have harmonised the legislation, regulated the conditions of operation of large and small businesses, adapted the import and export rules, as was required by the accession process. In doing so, each of us has gone a different road, although in the past we belonged together within the Soviet sphere of influence. The agriculture of Hungary did not amount to that of Slovakia, let alone the German one, copyrights, licenses, statistics and business management in the Czech Republic did not equal those in Poland.
The entire infrastructure underlying the economic and financial strength of each state was subject to protracted changes and we had to adapt. Often we read romantic accounts of what would have happened if European integration started from culture and not from coal and steel.
But when we delve deeper into the review of the existing infrastructure underlying the strength of the various national cultures, even a naive Dunno knows that there are differences among us shaped by the history huge that we would still sit in Rome today arguing over which management system culture is better and more modern. And yet, although the culture is not a part of the integration rules, the systems of funding, governance of institutions and education in culture in the individual EU countries are changing, and in a way harmonising as well.
One of the crucial tasks, in addition to the financial crises and turmoil which have affected the public budgets, was played by the great personalities of European culture, who were appointed in the second half of the 20th century to the posts of ministers of culture with their ideas and plans.

The Slovak cultural infrastructure and its management have been suffering due to the fact that the responsible Ministry of Culture struggled to be exclusive, without extending its activities in the area of cultural education, management of art schools and creative industries, which would have increased the budget of the Ministry and thus have given a greater weight to the post of the Minister of Culture in the Slovak Government.
Because the weight of governmental departments, whether we want it or not, is measured by the size of the cash available.
Another problem is the fact that while most of the ministries and institutions have gone through reforms in the process of European integration, the Slovak Ministry of Culture works more or less like it did in the communist era.
With all the emotional situations during the division of Czechoslovakia and creation of the new state, we Slovaks failed to define anew the modern role of culture in our national and civic life.
On the contrary, the Slovak cultural elites have given up on their irreplaceable role to say what culture will mean for the new State and what institutions and financing method ith will be based on.
The culture ministers took turns, some made greater efforts, some were only on a vacation there, but none of them has left a footprint in our culture like the great reformers of culture abroad.
And they just needed a couple of years to do that.
In each country, differences in cultural infrastructure and its funding are based on the five conditions:
Different attitudes to postulates of cultural policies as formulated by governments and municipalities
Different forms of infrastructure depending on the type of governance of culture
Different traditions of understanding the position of culture in society
Differing view of the decision-making bodies of the state cultural specificities
Forms of political regime, in particular as regards the promotion of culture
Cultural infrastructure is a particular area of public life, which, whether we admit it or not, is particularly affected by political and organisational fluctuations.
The refusal of Slovak cultural workers and artists to get involved in influencing cultural policy and cooperation to create a legislative environment for culture, and plans to modernise its structure and financing, is regrettable.
In Slovakia we have no systematic studies of the past decade, comparing our infrastructure with the more successful models, at least those of our neighbours, and that is also why we have got a problem to avoid on the one hand the feeling of inadequacy and traditionalism, and on the other hand, ignoring the European trends and closing our culture behind the fences of passivity.
Yet we could find a few examples around us, worth of following.
The first example – United Kingdom: from the invisible hand of the market to strong regionalism
The Department for Culture was established in the UK quite late, but the first Minister Jenny Lee developed with her team a critical governmental report – a strategy on the state of cultural infrastructure – already in 1965.
With our Strategy 2016-2020, we are 50 years late.
She pushed through a three-year financing of major cultural projects and also introduced the “arm’s length principle” copied in Slovakia Today.
She founded an arts fund, which collected finances for building cultural infrastructure, she initiated the establishment of Regional Arts Associations, which cooperated with the central Arts Council, whose finances increased significantly.
Although Minister Lee was on her office for 4 years old only, she initiated building and renovation of 100 theatre buildings for school and student theatres especially outside London, for culture to raise its audience.
Since 1998, a British Department for Culture designated the four priorities:
· fostering general availability of culture,
· care for quality and innovation in culture,
· promotion of cultural education in primary and secondary schools,
· creating connections among cultural industries and non-profit parts of culture as an aid in the financing of cultural activities (i.e. everything what we are discussing all the time, but with no real result).
In defining what the British regard as culture they did not omit architecture, and design, and more than thirty years ago they put the emphasis on cultural industries, what we were not able to do before 2014, but the British are again somewhere else.
A majority of cultural institutions is indirectly supported by the cultural department using the arm’s length principle through Non-Departmental Public Bodies and, in addition, through the so-called Quangos, or quasi non-governmental organisations, a variety of civil associations, private foundations, and private companies that take care of cultural life.
Culture in the British government is also a responsibility of the Departments for education and labour, the departments for foreign affairs, defence, economy, which is responsible for copyright.
The presentation of British culture abroad is ensured by the British Councils as not-for-profit organisations.
It is interesting to study the situation in the management of culture in Scotland, which started to build its national cultural infrastructure later in the 20th century.
Its population is 5 million and is therefore comparable to Slovakia and with it as an example we can add a little bit to our self-confidence.
Since 1999, the Scottish Parliament has its budget, in 2005/6 it amounted to 26 billion pounds (approx. 35.5 billion euros) which is used to finance culture as well.
The task of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also to manage culture, but neither it nor the ministry for education and youth manages cultural institutions directly.
Across the UK have the well-proven “quangos” are used which is a big challenge for Slovakia’s cultural policy.
The Scottish government is directly funding the Scottish Arts Council, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Royal Commission for the Arts.
The Department for Education funds the Scottish National Museum, the National Gallery and the National Library as the primary educational institutions.
The Scottish Arts Council is the largest channel for the funding of artistic life.
It reports to the Government and is financed by 50 % from the proceeds of the National Lottery of Scotland.
It provides special additional funds for the International Film Festival in Edinburgh, which was started already in 1947, the Scottish Ballet, the Opera the National Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra.
The advantage of the Scottish cultural infrastructure is
- the ability to leverage the traditions of the arm’s length principle ingrained in the UK, while we in Slovakia still have not overcome the Communist centralist model
- the fact that they defined culture as one of the essential attributes of the Scottish identity, which is not defined through a language as is the case in Slovakia, but with an emphasis on creativity
- the ability to separate a part of the institutions as the primary sources of education of citizens, which forces museums, galleries and libraries to be a part of the educational progress of the entire country.
These plans still have not been produced in Slovakia, and the idea that the National Gallery is primarily an educational and then a cultural institution is a heresy.
Yet the most recent exhibitions in the Slovak National Gallery do have a distinctly educative nature.
A second example – Ireland: bloody fights against the occupants and copying of cultural infrastructure
Since 1922, independent Ireland has been too much busy with its autonomy, but the establishment of the Ministry of Culture showed clearly the responsibility of the State for the development of the newly conceived national culture.
Great personalities of Irish descent leave their copyright to cultural institutions, to help them survive even in the times of budget cuts.
Shaw bequeathed to the National Gallery his rights to Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, kept even after his death.
We have not seen anything similar in Slovakia yet, maybe because we do not have anybody like G.B. Shaw.
However, it was not earlier than 1973 when the Members of Parliament defined anew the essential role of culture and artists in the public life of Ireland.
At the same time it is replicating the cultural infrastructure in the UK.
In 1988 the Council for Business and Arts was founded which led to an increase of private sponsorship of arts by as much as 40 %.
For already 25 years they have known how to involve private entities, let us not be afraid to say the snobs, and their interest in the system of financing culture.
The interesting thing is that Local Arts Officers were established in the regions, who are in charge of, for example, contact between pupils and local artists, for supporting local writers, a small library in the name of balancing the differences between various parts of the country.
The directors of major cultural institutions meet regularly in the Council of National Cultural Institutions, where they together critically reflect on the cultural policy of the state and the relevant department.
In Slovakia directors are at the mercy of the Minister of Culture, and have no autonomous councils behind them which would protect them against his arbitrary behaviour and the Minister may fire them at any time.
In doing so, the Minister assumes no direct responsibility for the activities of these institutions.
On the contrary, the Ministry made ordinary officials from the directors.
For example, the minister approves and signs all of their business trips, including those to Krakow right nextdoors.
No surprise then, that in these posts are not attractive to cultural personalities from abroad who would change the old management methods and bring a new fresh breeze within their walls.
Example three — France: from the revolutionary catdhphrase of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité to a leader of the European culture
France is a typical centralized model of cultural infrastructure, but we owe them for the implementation of the protection of the cultural heritage as the role of the state which has been in place since the French revolution of 1793.
They started by opening the royal site of Louvre.
The Ministry of Culture has existed since 1959.
André Malraux (otherwise, a former Marxist and Communist) personally elaborated a programme of availability of cultural assets, and wrote:
“in the sector of culture the most important is the democratisation, the availability of the cultural good, and the creativity of arts”.
Every year, the Ministry of Culture participates in drawing up the French national development plan, and the culture is winning an increasingly bigger budget and also a more important place in the government.
President Charles de Gaulle introduced the cultural mission of the French State.
His minister Malraux had a great authority, already by then he had been awarded the Goncourt Prize, and although he was Minister for only 10 years, all of his followers are based on his reforms and, in particular, on the role of culture in public life, which he personally promoted.
From 1793 onwards there is the tradition that the State protects artists and their creative works, museum professionals, and teachers.
A process was started of creating large museums and galleries and public libraries.
A great deal of attention was paid to training cultural employees and to protection of cultural industries.
Malraux built the “houses of culture” as points of improvement of the French people in the aesthetic and spiritual field, and spaces for the teaching of the codes and conventions of the modern culture.
He conceived those as the departments of the present time.
After problems with their financing, nowadays they have been transformed into centres of cultural events and are funded by local governments.
The Communist idea – a house of culture in every village – has left us with huge spaces that towns and villages are unable to use, but the state and the Ministry seceded those to small market merchants and weddings.
Fortunately, some were harboured by non-governmental associations, for example, the Pôtoň Theatre in Bátovce.
Our Ministry does not pay attention to that, though.
Jacques Duhamel was also one of the great French culture ministers who brought the “civic culture” in the system formed by Malraux.
In 4 years he changed the financing of culture and attracted the “young wolves” of the Ministry of Finance who then began to be interested in culture.
They made the fundamental and permanent improvement on the financing of culture possible.
“You cannot decree culture,” the minister said and scouted the best managerial talent in the famous school Ecole Nationale d’Administration so that the most capable officers started their careers at the cultural ministry.
The third significant Minister was Jaques Lang.
He doubled the budget of the Ministry of Culture to the much desired level of 1 % of GDP.
Founded by 22 regional funds for the support of modern art and arranged contracts between the Ministry and local governments.
In 1981 he brought culture to economic departments in new ways of financing of books, music recording, films, audiovisual media … and it lasts to this day.
We’re 35 years late.
At the same time praised private patrons of culture and appointed “cultural protectors” each year selected from small and medium-sized businesses.
He opened culture both horizontally and vertically and also among the sectors of culture and the various State institutions.
The fact that culture in France has long been recognised as a factor of economic development fundamentally affects the quality of life and personal and social development, and, consequently, the rise of civil awareness.
In particular, it was Lang who caused that culture would not concentrate only in the major cities.
The French are constantly redefining the role of a culture, thus trying to avoid accusations of elitism.
Lang, who served as a Minister less than 8 years, stands at the beginning of strong cultural actions.
Especially famous were his press conferences, one of which I saw and I can confirm it.
Four hundred journalists, all TV stations, vehemently gestikulating Minister, in today’s terms a celebrity – and still knowlegeable.
The Ministry of Culture does not have a monopoly in the financing.
Already in the year of 2002, 65% of all funds in the culture came from small and medium-sized companies, which fund particularly music, fine arts and museums.
Since 1982 contracts are in place between the Ministry and municipalities, or departments, with an agreed percentage which a municipality must invest to receive support for a cultural project from the Ministry.
It is an effective form of decentralisation of culture, which we still have not handled in our cultural policies and do not think about in the Strategy.
Example four – Austria: historical Vienna versus valley-based culture
Austria is a special form of a federal country with historically autonomous “Lands” and so the biggest change in the management culture occurred in Austria’s process of acceding to the EU in the harmonisation of legal systems with the EU.
They do not have a ministry of culture, but a single Ministry for education, science and arts being the umbrella for all libraries, the National Library and the Austrian Phonotek, or Mediathek.
The Ministry is just a patron of some of the major museums, and KulturKontakt is an independent Centre that communicates directly with the artists, local associations, sponsors, and also with the Ministry.
This highly decentralised system is exceptional.
In 2002, the Federation provided 34% of the support to culture, Lands provided 30%, municipalities % and the remainder was provided by Vienna.
While in 1976 culture received 0.65% of the GDP, in 1990 it was 0.76%, and 1.3% in 1997.
Every major bank has got its cultural foundation and Austrians also have an award for the Patron of the Year.
Since 1990, Austrians have had the law on sponsorship, which allows tax write-offs.
The management of major Viennese theatres is provided for by the Bundestheater Holding as a limited liability company with shared theatre services.
It receives funding from the Federal Government and the city of Vienna, just like KulturKontakt.
Since 1993, there has been the Austrian Film Institute (OFI) but there is a great role played by non-governmental organisations, for example the International Institute of Audiovisual Communication and Cultural Development, which has operated since 1969 and publishes analyses and studies, or an Austrian Cultural Documentation Centre.
The ministries may then rely on the results of these studies when drawing up their policies.
Therefore, the management culture by our neighbours gives the impression of a well-functioning industry, which is something Slovakia is still waiting for, and not only is it late but also very amateurish.
Example five – Germany: from losers po winners
Germany is an example of another type of decentralisation resulting from various positions of the German States in the Union.
Since 1998, Germany has had the function of governmental authorised representative for culture at the Chancellor’s Office, and a big role is played also by the Bundestag, the Parliament, and its commission for culture and media.
The culture of is financed by all state entities and when summed up, Germany spends 1.6% of public budgets on culture, which is only 0.4% of GDP.
45% is contributed by municipalities, 43% by Lands, 12% by the federal administration and 7.9% goes from private sources and foundations.
It should be noted that Germany is able to use a lot of funds for culture from the EU budget.
While in the recent years the Federation finances in particular the city of Berlin and its cultural development, which is reflected in a significant change of Berlin for a European centre of culture like Paris has been so far, the role of the major German foundations cannot be underestimated.
For example, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz manages 17 museums and 2 institutes.
In 2002 the Federal Cultural Foundation was founded as well, located in Halle.
Since 2004, they also have put a new policy in place to support film and established an association for filmmaking, which convenes once a year.
The law on filmmaking intended to draw economic operators into the financing of films, which is probably a simpler way than our law on the Audiovisual Fund which directly precludes such a cooperation.
It is interesting, however, that it is the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is responsible for the promotion of German films abroad!
In Germany, culture is the “Kulturhoheit”, the Cultural Majesty.
There are at least 640 000 people who work in the cultural sector, so it is rightfully a large part of the German economy.
In an effort to coordinate the cultural policies of the decentralised country the Deutsche Kulturrat was founded in 1981, in which 210 cultural institutions from all over Germany work together on independent critical comments used as then as the source to receive ideas and projects for the cultural policies of the federation.
Ralf Dahrendorf was the one who succeeded in pushing through the essential formulation to define culture, and yet he did not need to be a Federal Minister of Culture.
He was a sociologist, philosopher, and later the European Commissioner.
Since then, culture is defined in Germany as a space for free dialogue and creative partnership.
And it all happened as early as in the beginning of 1970s.
The understanding of the role of culture changed immediately, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a cooperation agreement with the Goethe Institute Jacket which ensures that the GI remains an independent organisation playing an essential role in culture and education both domestically and abroad.
GIs are in 126 locations in 77 countries.
The GI is headquartered in Munich.
The funding is decentralised.
It is one of further examples of how individuals have contributed to a significant change in the cultural infrastructure and the role of culture in society.
Example Six – Italy: the national culture is subordinated to the world’s importance of the Italian culture
Italy is a specific country whose cultural wealth does not belong to a nation, but to the whole world.
And yet, in its cultural policy, the main emphasis is on regionalism.
The Ministry of Cultural Activities and Heritage has been doing so only since 1988.
In addition, they have got the Ministry of Education.
In 1990 there was a big leap made in funding, but most of the money went to the restoration of historic cultural buildings.
In 2000 the cultural public budget was as little as 0.55% of the GDP.
Since then the funding for culture from the budgets of municipalities has increased the most, spending as much as 31.6 % of the whole GDP.
Since 1982, they have the law on the possible reduction of taxes, and private donations can be completely subtracted from tax, but only if the donations go to institutions administered by the State.
Since 1998, they passed a new law that allowed many of the cultural institutions to be passed into the hands of private foundations.
For example, many opera houses, the Venice Biennale, the higher film-making school are financed outside of the State budget.
During the reign of Mr. Berlusconi, there was a hot debate going on concerning the possibility of privatisation of cultural properties, which eventually resulted in the creation of an inventory listing properties which could be passed to private entities and those which had to remain under the auspices of the State.
In Slovakia, we also need such a list, being a result of discussions, as we are, like in Italy, buried under the heritage – look, there is at least one church in each village or a wayside shrine, which require attention and care, or there are some castle ruins on that rock over there, a library not working, and at least a memorial plaque or a commemorative room.
Drawing up an inventory, a list on the basis of a public debate in the parliament and among experts, of cultural heritage buildings and sites to be taken care of by the State, and those to be taken over by local self-government or private entities, under the supervision of the State, and under the conditions determined by the State, is not yet in sight. In Slovakia.
The Monuments’s Board would agree, the municipalities and communities would agree, the State would dictate the conditions, under which a manager of a regional gallery may be replaced, and funding would be clearly decentralised.
The analysis of some shifts in the cultural policies of European countries can be even beneficial, apart from the frustration.
It shows some of the ways we could choose, but more important is the finding that at the beginning of all of the reforms in this sensitive sector is a sense, a feeling of mission, and honest answers to the basic questions:
● How do we understand culture in Slovakia today?
● What is the place for culture and education in our public life?
● How will we educate future generations for culture?
If we answer each of the questions openly and avoid false declarations, we can undertake the task to compile a realistic strategy for the development of culture for the years to come, and not the description of the problems that we observe.
And this discussion would not involve just us – people from cultural sector, but financiers, managers and patrons.
One of the first tasks of this strategy would be to prepare a list of legislative steps, which would allow multi-sourced and multi-annual funding not only of large cultural projects, but mainly open the door to sponsors and patrons for partnership, to appreciate them, and finally create the space for genuine art market.
Our Ministry of Culture has given up the task to raise the quality of the art schools, and has to decide how it intends to ensure taught audience for the Slovak culture in the decades to come.
It indulges in centralised bureaucratic management of the national cultural institutions thereby making it impossible for management of culture to attract the best managers and great personalities from abroad.
It would be good, once we already have a directly elected President now, that the President also takes on a more prominent role in the field of culture, like Grand Travaux, the ex-President of France.
And, finally, let us describe creative potential of Slovakia and release the bureaucratic shackles that make it impossible for non-governmental organisations to make full use of their potential.
And all this requires Ministers, who will take their office with a vision, drafted bills, and, like their famous predecessors in Europe will leave indelible traces in the succession of our culture.

Magda Vášáryová