The Catalan Arts Council Reduced to an “Advisory Agency”

IETM - International European Theatre MeetingI was asked to write this article for “IETM Engage!”, newsletter of International European Theatre Meeting. The newsletter main goal is to highlight activist operations and present initiatives outside the network to reduce the impact of public cultural budgets cuttings in Europe and other restrictive laws for the cultural and artistic development.

What was a major change in Catalonian cultural policy when the first executive Arts Council in Southern Europe was born in 2008, has lost its executive responsibilities. On December 21, 2011 the Catalan Parliament approved a new law that drives cultural policies back to the periods of greater political interference.

The reason given by the Catalan Government for this change has been the need for restructuration and more flexibility for the public administration in this time of crises. Thus, the Catalan Arts Council’s capacity to distribute public funding through subsidies for the development of artistic creation has been revoked and transferred to the “Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries – ICIC” now renamed “ICEC – Catalan Institute of Creative Enterprises”.

After five years of debate between the cultural sectors and political representatives, in 2008 the Parliament of Catalonia approved the creation of the “National Council for Culture and the Arts – CoNCA”. The law sought to avoid partisan cultural interventionism, placing in hands of an independent body the responsibility of organizing government policy to support and promote cultural and artistic creativity, thereby avoiding that subsidies would be manipulated by partisan criteria.

Now, the new law approved in December gives the responsibility to subsidize artistic disciplines to the “Catalan Institute of Creative Enterprises – ICEC”. The ICEC will promote artistic creativity by means of “cultural enterprises”, cultural consumption and new markets for Catalan culture. In that sense, the new “ICEC” considers as “cultural enterprises” either individuals or companies engaged in business activity.

Thus, at one stroke the government of Catalonia has fatally wounded the autonomy of arts sectors and the support to non-profit innovative arts, leaving markets and business companies the responsibility for arts development.

 

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