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Alliance for equitable arts and cultural work,
We, active practitioners and institutions in the field of art, working in Baden-Württemberg, came together on June 12th 2020 to form an open, independent, and interdisciplinary alliance for equitable and inclusive conditions in the arts and cultural sector. This alliance will actively bring about systemic changes on a regional, national, and trans-national level.
What motivates us is the concern for the future of the arts, and the conviction that the arts sector can only remain independent if the structural conditions change radically, for cultural workers and the field at large1.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has yet again highlighted the deeply precarious and unequal conditions within the arts and cultural sector. These concerns are amplified by a sector founded on the (self-) exploitation of working people, that is, both freelance workers, as well as those employed by institutions. Discrimination based on social and ethnic origins, race, age, gender, ability, or the responsibilities of child care remains a pervasive problem in the arts and cultural sector. The current conditions do not allow most of those concerned to build up savings or other securities, and in particular limit the scope for action of underserved individuals and communities.
Since the 1980’s, that is to say, since the onset of neoliberalism, publicly funded arts and cultural institutions have been under political pressure to systematically align with economic criteria, and be tailored to the model of private companies. The result has been, and continues to be, a massive reduction in permanent positions, the commercialization of public institutions, and the mandated focus on quantity, especially in terms of visitor numbers. This quantifiable product and commercial production-oriented logic has proven completely untenable under the stresses imposed by the corona pandemic.
Many independent associations and organizations already work beyond institutional funding, i.e. on the basis of voluntary work and unsecured project funding, without long-term prospects.
Competition, attention, and winner-take-all principles overdetermining factors in the arts and cultural sector, and are often the only criteria of “success”. For the vast majority of artists, the lack of basic necessities and secure income, affordable studios, storage or rehearsal spaces continue to be an existential issue. This, and other imbalances, create questionable competition for resources that are mostly based on non-transparent accessibility. The first to fall by the wayside are various disadvantaged people.
Due to the structures mentioned, and the pandemic scenario of reinforcement of exclusions and hierarchization ("market cleansing"), this current situation urgently needs to be counteracted. It is important to ensure that “high culture” and socio-culture, large stages and independent theatres, museums and artist co-operative galleries, institutions as well as international and local artists are not being pitted against each other. The cultural landscape must remain diverse and complex.
The numerous aid and emergency programs, which are currently being laid out - especially in Baden-Württemberg - for workers and institutions in the field of the arts, are an encouraging sign that politicians are aware of the importance, concerns and needs of the arts—and this gives rise to hope for a common solidarity, in face of the current crisis and also after having overcome it.
However, the closure of all arts and cultural institutions while private businesses remain open, regardless of existing health and safety measures, in the so-called ‘lockdown light’, has painfully demonstrated that the social importance of the arts is still not fully recognized by some parts of politics. This demonstrates clearly that the arts, not just in times of crisis, clearly lag behind economic interests. It is highly problematic and we do not understand why moreover, with the second lockdown, they were denied any educational work.
We are highly concerned that the many aid packages will be followed by budget restructuring which would hit the arts with great severity. This would mean that we would fall even further behind the current inadequate funding policies. This requires new approaches and structures that go beyond the current crisis and give long-term security to the independence of the arts and their emancipatory potential.
For the absolutely necessary change in the arts and cultural sector, the existing funding policies and working practices must be fundamentally questioned and re-organized with the participation of the active protagonists from the arts, politics and administration. The financial basis for transparent and fair, diverse and inclusive (working) conditions must be created, instead of continuing to rely on the (self-) exploitation of arts and cultural workers and the structural deficits of public institutions. This means we need funding models which are based on long-term radical equality of institutions and artists which - for example, in their role as applicants - guarantee and allow adequate and binding payment for everyone working in the arts and cultural sector: for artists, as well as freelancing or employed curators, dramaturges, cultural producers, mediators, graphic designers, technical teams, mask, stage and costume designers, restaurators, assistants, interns, authors, translators, cashiers, security and cleaning staff, journalists and many more. This is impossible under the given funding conditions.
The sum that the federal, state and local authorities in Germany spend annually on culture is 11.4 billion euros, which represents merely 1.77% of the federal budget and 0.35% of GDP 2. This is an extremely low percentage. In the European comparison, in terms of cultural expenditure of the total public budget3 Germany ranks 15th, together with France, Slovakia, Romania and Finland. In the comparisons within the federal states, Baden-Württemberg ranks 8th in terms of cultural expenditure (states and municipalities) per inhabitant with 114.64 euros, just below the average and far behind Saxony (212.95 euros) in 8th place4 (all figures: as of 2017).
As the figures above show, a significant increase in public funding for arts and culture in Germany, in general, and in Baden-Württemberg, in particular, is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for a transparent and participatory discussion about the existing allocation, between all parties involved. The promotion of culture must finally be declared a mandatory task of the state. This is the only way to counteract, in a binding and sustainable manner, the precarious working conditions in the cultural sector, in which around 1.3 million people are employed - almost 40% of them as freelancers (as of 2017) 5.
As an extension to existing forums, we want to be competent, critical advisory partners working closely with municipal, federal and national authorities, to help shape solutions, to bring demands and suggestions into budget negotiations, and to approach the political systems. It is only together that we can establish alternative structures, accurately analyze, and eliminate the systemic errors, which have arisen and stabilized over decades, in cultural policy and cultural financing.
In addition to the concern of helping to shape the necessary changes of the existing cultural-political structures through our knowledge, experience, criticism and creativity, it is equally important to us to put ourselves to the test, through developing our own working, thinking and decision-making methods concerning an equitable, diverse and inclusive arts and cultural sector. How are the institutions and active protagonists set up in our alliance, how transparent and democratic are their decision-making processes? How critical of discrimination and sensitive are their actual working practices? Last but not least, we also have to ask ourselves what functions and responsibilities public arts and cultural institutions have, in an immigration country, in terms of social imbalances, growing nationalism, right-wing radicalism, digital surveillance and the climate crisis. How do we deal with (self-) censorship and sexualised violence within the arts and cultural sector?
These questions can only be negotiated from multi-perspective points of view and in collective processes. There is as much to unlearn as there is to learn anew. In this sense, how can already existing resources and opportunities be used more cooperatively and in solidarity?
Our alliance is not only concerned with the old and new, pandemic related problems in the arts. It also asserts itself for strong systemic changes which think the arts in solidarity with other areas of society. We are concerned with a cultural, social and political change that does not follow the principle of the strongest but makes vulnerability its starting point.
This new alliance is open and currently incomplete. We are looking forward to many more participants from different fields and contexts of the arts.
1 For us, the term "art and cultural workers" includes all freelancers and employees in the arts and cultural sector: from artists, curators and dramaturges to security and cleaning services.
2 from: Statistische Ämter des Bundes und der Länder (ed.), Cultural Financial Report 2020, 2020, p. 19-20. The 2017 public cultural expenditure on which this is based relate to the fields of theatre and music (34.5%), museums, collections and exhibitions (19.1%), libraries (14.1%), cultural affairs abroad (6%), public art colleges (5.1%), monument protection and preservation (5%), administration (2.5%) and other (13.8%). See: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Bildung-Forschung-Kultur/Kultur/Publikationen/Downloads-Kultur/kulturfinanzbericht-1023002209004.pdf (last accessed on 8.1.2021).
3 from: European Union (ed.), Culture Statistics. 2019 Edition, 2019, p. 194. The comparison between European Union countries published here refers to expenditure on culture, broadcasting and publishing. See: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/de/web/products-statistical-books/-/ks-01-19-712 (last accessed on 8.1.2021).
4 from: Cultural Finance Report 2020, as note 2, p. 24.
5 [from: Statistische Ämter des Bundes und der Länder, press release no. 145, 22 April 2020. Occupations in the cultural sector are very broadly defined here and range from "technical media design" to "acting, dance and the arts of movement" and "teaching activities in extracurricular educational institutions" to "museum technicians and management". It is not possible to identify who is working in the more commercial or more subsidised sector in the various categories used here. At the same time, it can be assumed that many who work in the publicly funded arts sector are not included here: such as security and cleaning staff. See: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/2020/04/PD20_145_216.html (last accessed on 8.1.2021).
Team Work Conditions stands up for a sustainable and substantial change of work conditions for independent artists and for a radically equal and solidary relationship between artists and institutions. We want to end continuous self-exploitation and enforce appropriate payment for artistic work.
Therefore, we created an initial list of demands for structural changes within the alliance, as well as in society as a whole. Besides a permanent representation of artists within the alliance, an outwards turned council shall be formed that, along with representatives of cultural institutions, will be a contact and consultant for cultural politics.
This council will, for example, enforce new standards for cultural promotion under which, among other things, artists, producers and institutions will be equated, fee agreements and pension schemes will be natural, an urgent anti-racism clause will be mandatory, and climate- and resource-friendly production will be negotiated.
The solidary commitment of the art institution to an equal relationship with, and the active support of artists in their demands of politics – e.g. for the next double budget – is an important requirement. For this reason, representatives of institutions as well as artists of any discipline are very welcome.
The founding members of the team can be reached via the email address above:
→ Anna Gohmert
→ Astrid S. Klein
→ Melanie Mohren
→ Anna Romanenko
→ Ülkü Süngün
For diversity, anti-discrimination and intersectional perspectives of action in the cultural sector.
Team diversity deals with the following questions:
What forms of structural discrimination and exclusion are reproduced within the field of art and culture? How can this change? How can art and culture become diverse and anti-discriminating? How do people of different (ethnic) belongings and attributes feel seen, addressed and taken seriously by cultural and art institutions and the affiliated committees?
There are numerous mechanisms and structures through which artists – and other people that are employed within the field of art and culture – are excluded from a participation with equal opportunities.
Team Funding Structures is concerned with the analysis and development of sustainable funding models for cultural work. Beyond this, the team was responsible for the preparation of grant applications and the successful acquisition of funding for the alliance.
Currently, the team develops and coordinates the advertisement for a future vacancy in administration. Fundamental considerations and discussions for the development of a long-term financial structure of the alliance are also part of this team’s occupation.
Henceforth, we want to establish a dialogue with sponsors in order to co-design sustainable models of funding.
This team’s aim is to provide transparent, equitable, inclusive and diverse criteria for payment in the arts and culture sector with a lasting effect. We want to further grant the freedom of art, while all workers within the arts and culture sector are helped to stronger social security. After a survey of the current situation, the team develops arguments for a mediation between art workers, customers and politics, works out model contracts, and advises on a ‘Basic Income – Art’.
The arts and culture sector, as well as all other fields, will have to perform processes of transformation. It must be our aim, not only to react on demands from outside, but rather to actively develop these. The alliance for equitable arts and cultural work wants the systemic change. This does not only refer to social questions, the fight against exclusion politics and inequality, but also to sustainable and resilient acting in arts and culture.
In 2015 the United Nations agreed upon AGENDA 2030, where 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were expressed that must be achieved by 2030 in order to preserve the planet and make human survival possible.
A complementary AGENDA with a focus on the arts and culture sector and neighbouring disciplines (architecture, urban planning, etc.) in Baden Württemberg and beyond, shall be developed by the Team for Sustainability and Resilience. While doing so, the question of how we can create sustainably while preserving the freedom of art and culture, will be central.
Within this macrosocial transformation, artistic and cultural institutions and cultural workers can take on a notable role of mediation where they not only perform this change themselves but also initiate processes of awareness and rethinking. Thereby, they will contribute to solidarity and social cohesion.
Team Feedback works on an evaluation of the alliance for equitable arts and cultural work, Baden-Württemberg. The aim is to get to know the structure of the alliance better and to find out who exactly we are. Additionally, we want to distil individual allies’ motives to join and where they see the alliance’s tasks.
For a first response, the following questions are central: What participants and institutions do we consist of? How many individuals are part of our alliance? What fields of culture and art do they belong to? How many representatives of institutions are part of our alliance? What fields of culture and art do these institutions belong to? How diverse are we? What were the reasons to become part of the alliance? What are the expectations of the alliance? What tasks should (and can) the alliance take on? (What tasks do we want to take on?) – short term (until the end of the current funded period), mid term and long term.
Overview: Team Feedback tries to develop an interdisciplinary overview where other alliances, networks, associations etc. that deal with the same or similar questions as our alliance, can be found. This overview is supposed to serve the teams for research, e. g. with respect to payment.
The connection with other stakeholders, alliances, networks, associations etc. shall be simplified. Possible contact points with other representations of interests shall be clarified. These could be made available on the website and interconnected with other stakeholders in the area of representations of interests.
We are intensely connected to all other teams as we hope to provide useful research material for all. However, in the work process we will work especially close with Team Diversity, Team Work Conditions and Team Funding Structures.
The Team Political Visibility is the interface between all teams, bundles their content, and transmits and forwards it to the appropriate political committees.
On the one hand side, Team Political Visibility deals with the way in which the alliance appears in a political public. At the same time, – through divers intern and public formats – we pursue an open, critical and productive dialogue with political partners, especially on communal and county level.
This team is supposed to develop concrete suggestions for strategies of political visibility (e.g. with respect to the upcoming double budget 2021/22) that can be passed on as tasks for the other teams.