Is Arts Policy to the benefit of the Autonomous Artist? The Position of Artists in Flemish contemporary Arts Policy
Centre for Studies on Media and Culture (CEMESO) Vrije Universiteit Brussel Brussels, Belgium
Arts Management, Department of political Science Management University of Antwerp Antwerp, Belgium
The role and position of artists in Western arts policies is much debated within academic and policy literature. Whereas Anglo-Saxon literature focuses on the role of artists both as cultural entrepreneurs and as symbol creators in the (regional) development of cultural industries, the ongoing debate in continental Europe is about the benefit of government support for the autonomous artist. Recent attention paid to the artist, follows a period in which continental European cultural policy makers focused mainly on aspects of arts participation and arts management. Previous international research shows that efforts on the level of marketing and changes in organisational structure have not been effective in increasing audience attendance, nor in creating cost efficiencies. On the contrary, they had the paradoxical effect that overhead costs have raised.
These findings raise important questions for the role and position of the individual artists. This paper aims to examine the recent situation of individual artists in Flanders. The Flemish performing arts are flourishing as never before: the Arts Decree of 2004 provides a solid statutory framework, subsidies have been raised significantly since 2001, and the number of artistic companies and productions has increased. One of the novelties of the Arts Decree is the greater attention to the artist. Besides professional arts organisations, individual artists are now also eligible for subsidising. Consequently, artists are no longer compelled to embed their artistic work within an organisational structure in order to qualify for public funding.
In this paper we will examine to what extent the growth of the arts budget since 2001 has been to the benefit of the artists. This research is based on a data-analysis of unpublished source material on cost and income structure of Flemish arts organisations and the evolution of subsidies and labour costs within these budgets. This research leads to conclusions that are relevant not only to the Flemish situation but also of importance in an international perspective. Our findings confirm the internationally noticed paradox: the more the arts have been embedded within organisational and management structures, the more the situation of the individual artists has become vulnerable.