Flanders Culture grants: Innovation in danger in Brussels

Flemish Minister of Culture Joke Schauvliege kills arts experimentation and innovation in Brussels.

End of June, Joke Schauvliege confirmed the final rankings of the various arts sectors advise commissions which were published a few weeks before. This was the last step of a long procedure for the renewal process of multiannual structural fundings for many art&cultural organisations in Flanders and Brussels (2013-2016). The results are terrible for many Brussels-based organisations which are now facing a complete cut of their main and often sole fundings from the Flemish authorities: Bains Connective, Filmmagie, Sint-Lukasgalerij, Octurn, Danscentrum Jette, Irma Firma, Nadine, Ars Musica, Freemusic, Y (Kultuurkaffee), Corban, Globe Aroma, De Parade, Cimatics, iMAL, Mediaruimte (Lab[au]). This is also a big disappointment for many newcomers with innovative projects which were rejected: Komplot, Les Ateliers Claus, ZebrArt, ZSenne, Great Investment, Bookman, NMT Productions, Platform Kanal.

The Minister's instructions to the advise commissions were perfectly applied: reduce drastically the number of organisations (going from around 350 to 250). And of course, the members of the commissions of the different art sectors did save their own skins (most of them representing an organisation itself subsidized) while endorsing the Minister's policy to concentrate the resources in a few visible structures increasingly supported: KAAI Theatre (1.845.000, a raise of 300.000), KVS (2.365.000), Beursschouwburg (980.000), Rosas (1.605.000), Ultima Vez (1.040.000), Wiels (850.000, raise of 250.000), Buda (1.000.000) ,Tooneelhuis (3.000.000),...

One may wonder if the Minister and the general advice commission for arts&culture (Adviescommissie Kunsten) has made a global analysis of the consequences of these decisions. They will kill in Brussels so may art structures supporting experimental, laboratory, emerging, unrecognized and innovative practices so much needed in our complex digital and fast changing world. The policy of concentration is made at the expense of a rich network of small actors working on artistic practices less visible but carrying future.

Digital art and new media art are paying a heavy price with major Brussels actors now deeply threatened: Cimatics (todaysarts.be), iMAL and Mediaruimte (Lab[au]), 3 dynamic and internationaly known organisations which support many artists and propose activities for a public more and more interested by digital cultures. Constantvzw is the only one supported but just for 2 years.

We think that without a deep reform of the advise commissions currently organised along a rigid sectorisation between traditional artistic disciplines, many existing and new actors working in experimental, interdisciplinary, emerging, hybrid or research practices or developing innovative socio-artistic projects, will never be included.

And the Brussels-Capitale Region will not be a helpful fallback for those who were rejected: due to the Belgian Flemish/Walloon problem resulting in an intricate institutional landscape, the Brussels Region has no competency for culture. Moreover the Flemish instrument for culture in Brussels - the VGC - has no budget margin for these new arrivals since it is already spending 90% of its budget to support these centers already receiving the biggest part of the funds (KVS, Beurs, Kaai,...) from the Flemish government...

Concentration kills the diversity of species and thus their evolutionary potential. In the fields of art and culture, it's the same. At the end, this is fatal.

Brussels, 25/6/2012

iMAL, Cimatics en Lab[au]
(the top 3 organisations when googling 'digital arts brussels' )

The official results on  meerjarige subidies 2013-2014/16.