In Defense of the Catalonian Arts Council – CoNCA

The Councillors of the Catalonian Arts Council have resigned in block to protest by the threaten of the new Catalan government to eliminate their executives competences.

This is their letter:

“In Defense of the CoNCA”

After a long 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 preamble of Law 6 / 2008 declared:

“After more than twenty-five years since the recovery of democratic freedoms and the restoration of its national institutions, Catalan society has reached a maturity that requires public authorities to rethink the cultural management model and support and promotion of artistic creation in order to adapt it to current requirements and new challenges. The opportunity to create the National Council for Culture and the Arts was founded after stating the need to generate new forms of cultural and support to creation policies. However, there must be added the conviction that policy of arts and culture expansion and development must be maintained outside of the specific and accidental political circumstancies, and in any case, society is the sole owner of the cultural assets of the country and should participate in decisions that affect within the model represented by the Arts Councils […]”.

In compliance with this law, the Parliament appointed the eleven members of CoNCA’s Plenary, by the Government’s Presidency proposal.

It is worth reminding that the law creating the CoNCA meant a new management of public resources to support the arts, as well as a democratization of cultural policies through participation and co-responsibility of members coming from the cultural sectors and not from political parties. The model implies that CoNCA’s institution is mainly based on three aspects:

• First, the Law seeks to avoid partisan cultural interventionism, placing in hands of an independent body the responsability of organizing the government policy to support and promote cultural and artistic creativity, thereby avoiding the subsidies to obey partisan criteria.

• Second, with the Law, the treatment of support to creativity, the more fragile and vulnerable area of ​​cultural productions, is distinguished itself, and separates the consideration of its problems with regard to cultural industries. Thus, the CoNCA especially serves purely artistic and cultural criteria, principles of risk, innovation, talent, social and collective involvement, and so on, which are the criteria governing support policies towards cultural industries.

• Thirdly, the Law seeks to establish through the CoNCA a continuity guarantee in certain cultural policies in order to prevent, with every new legislature, the general framework and guidelines for action initiatives to change, since they can only strengthen with a long term plan.

The presentation to procedure, from the Catalan Government, of the bill on Administrative Restructuring and Agility, involves a substantial change in this model. In this sense, it aims to ruin the timid advances in governmentalisation of support and creativity promotion policies, it seeks to reorganize again cultural policies through a political and administrative recentralisation, and it means an involution because it gives all the power of cultural policies and subventions awarding back to the political decision-makers from the Catalan Ministry of Culture.

The arguments to empty the CoNCA from its powers are the criteria of efficiency and savings. However, the new model proposed by the bill means no savings because subsidies will continue to be provided following procedures required by the law, but it directly from the Ministry, with the added risk that the criteria could not prioritize artistic appreciation. Also, the new model does not automatically imply higher efficiency, which otherwise is a primary objective of the CoNCA, while it surely implies less guarantee of transparency and objectivity. This is even more evident when the Ministry of Culture has no plans currently to include the Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries (ICIC) in the new structure that will concentrate all the subsidies, the “Single Window”, when these subsidies are by far the more important given by the Ministry: in 2010, 42 million Euros, representing 44% of the grants awarded by the Ministry.

It is worth remembering that, since its inception, the CoNCA has been supportive with the budget adjustments due to the economical crisis, and has seen its budgets substantially decreased against the deployment envisaged by the current law, to the extent that the budget of the CoNCA already represents only 2.9% of the overall Ministry of Culture.

In recent months, the CoNCA Plenary has expressed its opposition to the bill by a legal opinion, and with the utmost respect for institutions it has been holding talks with the governmental, political and cultural authorities (President of the Government, representatives of political parties present in the Parliament of Catalonia, Ministry of Culture and representatives of cultural sectors), in order to show the danger that means the current bill with respect to the existing model.

However, so far, it has been impossible to achieve that the Government changes its intentions expressed in the bill, nor the politicians who are willing to defend the model that exemplifies CoNCA form a parliamentary sufficient majority to prevent the bill to prosper. Not even after the manifesto promoted by cultural associations through the platform “No retalleu la Cultura” [Don’t cut culture].

In consequence of the above here, and consistently with the responsibility that we acquired in the Parliament of Catalonia when we were appointed, the undersigned members of the CoNCA Plenary, considering that the bill involves a political and cultural regression which empties the institution from its fundamental contents and converts it into an irrelevant body, we resign the position of members of the Plenary of the National Council for Culture and Arts of Catalonia.

Francesc Guardans

Xavier Antich

Sílvia Munt

Rosa Vergés

Chantal Grande

Marta Oliveres

Manel Camp

Jordi Coca

Manuel Forcano

Juli Capella

Barcelona, ​​November 7th, 2011