"As the economic crisis deepens across Europe, the European Commission plans to launch the world's largest ever cultural funding programme, with €1.8bn allocated for visual and performing arts, film, music, literature and architecture. The commission's Creative Europe project plans to release the money between 2014 and 2020. If the scheme is approved late 2012, an estimated 300,000 artists are due to receive funding.
The proposal has received a mixed response from key cultural commentators, with some saying that banking on culture and the arts to help prop up EU member states and stimulate the economy is unlikely to work.
Dexter Dalwood, the UK artist nominated for the Turner Prize in 2010, is sceptical. “If the goal is to create social cohesion isn't it going to favour obvious visible targets like classical music, the performing arts and public art?” he says. “On paper this looks fine. [But] in reality who gets the money ? Is there a hefty application process where the outcome of the work has to be clearly stated? Is there any chance it could trickle down to the most needy creative people?” Dalwood suggests the most effective form of subsidy for artists would be to make affordable studios.
Others welcome the plans, although some suggest bureaucracy may pose problems. “Overall I welcome [the initiative]: who wouldn't think that more funding for the sector in these dark times is welcome? The problem will be the usual one, which is that governments and big bureaucracies like the EU find it very difficult to engage with small- and medium- sized enterprises, let alone individuals; and that the form-filling and accountability normally demanded by the EU will be very costly to administer and hugely frustrating for applicants,” says John Holden, visiting professor at City University in London.
The commission says that, along with planned funding boosts from 2014 for the film industry (€910m over seven years) and culture programmes such as European Capitals of Culture (€490m), with Guimarães in Portugal and Maribor in Slovenia designated capitals of culture for 2012, spending on culture would rise by 35%, accounting for inflation. A new financial guarantee facility will also enable small-scale cultural organisations to access up to €1bn in bank loans. “'Creative Europe' enables the [cultural and creative] sectors to reach their potential so that they can contribute to the Europe 2020 goals for sustainable growth, jobs and social cohesion,” says the “Creative Europe” policy document.
Indeed, Jordi Balta, the project co-ordinator at Inter Arts, a Barcelona-based non-governmental organisation, noted that the “Creative Europe” scheme is very much in line with recent policies pursued by the European Commission that emphasise the economic importance of the cultural sector. “It is also important for cultural policy to be integrated into other EU policy programmes such as regional development funding,” he says.
The European Commission nonetheless aims to radically overhaul how the cultural sector is funded. “Investment readiness in the sector is extremely low, since cultural and creative entrepreneurs often lack the business skills to market their projects to financial institutions,” according to a press statement. The commission suggests turning to “banking expertise”, with an emphasis on leveraging private investment and shifting the European mentality from grants to loans.
Dalwood also raised concerns about about whether UK artists would benefit from the planned programme in light of prime minister David Cameron's decision to veto a new EU treaty earlier this month [December]. “If it provides opportunities for residencies, travel and exhibition funding then I think it could be great, but now that Cameron is leading his march away from Europe can UK-based fine artists hope to be included in the funding?”
A culture spokesman for the European Commission insisted that these developments would have no bearing on eligibility for UK artists. “The UK veto at the summit will have no consequences whatsoever for the UK's ability to obtain future funding under the “Creative Europe” programme.The UK will join the the other 26 member states, and the European Parliament, in negotiating and adopting the programme in the coming months,” he says. Meanwhile, a campaign supporting a strong cultural component in the next EU budget called “We Are More” has been launched, garnering over 22,000 signatures so far online."