Series "Originally non-English"


Harry Hillman Chartrand
holds PhD in Creative Economy. He is Lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of New Brunswick. During his career, he started was Research Director for the Canada Council for the Arts, Chief Economist of Kultural Economics International, and established the companies FUTURES – Socio-Economic Planning Consultants and Compiler Press.
Funding the Fine Arts

International Political Economic Trends 1985, 2001, 2016+

Over the last thirty+ years the Fine Arts have found themselves in an increasingly tight squeeze between a rock and hard place in most Western countries. Their development shows why not every arts market segment can be measure by the same criteria – like an egalitarian community purpose, financial independence or adaptation to capitalist logic – and why there is still a need for Arts for Art’s Sake.
This is the English summary of an article originally published in 1985 and updated twice, the last being from 2016 in Spanish for the journal Córima. Revista de Investigación en Gestión Cultural.
In 1985, as Research Director of the Canada Council (for the Arts), I submitted a policy research paper entitled “The Arm’s Length Principle & the Arts: An International Perspective – Past, Present & Future”. Subsequently published in 1989 by the American Council for the Arts in “Who's to Pay? for the Arts: The International Search for Models of Support”, the study and especially its four-fold model of State funding attracted some attention in the world of arts management.
In 2001 the Association of Nordic Theatre Scholars requested an update. It was subsequently published as “Funding the Fine Arts: An International Political Economic Assessment” in Nordic Theatre Studies Vol. 14, 2002. In October 2015 the editor of Córima. Revista de Investigación en Gestión Cultural requested Spanish translation rights to the 1985 report plus the 2001 update and a 2016 update that was published as “Financiando las bellas artes: Tendencias internacionales político-económicas de 1985, 2001 y 2016” in issue no 1, July-December 2016.
The initial 1985 model proposed four State funding roles:
  • The Facilitator State funds the fine arts through ‘tax expenditures’, e.g. a charitable donation made by an individual or an organization. It supports diversity rather than specific types or styles of art, but depending on the preferences and tastes of corporate, foundation and individual donors. The policy dynamic of the Facilitator State is therefore random, standards of excellence are not supported, and the state has no ability to target activities of national importance. The Facilitator role is most common in the USA.
  • The Patron State funds the fine arts through an arm's length arts principle by distributing funding through an intermediary institution such as an arts council by apolitical criteria and with the objective of promoting standards of professional artistic excellence. The policy dynamic of the Patron State is evolutionary, responding to changing forms and styles of art as expressed by the artistic community. Granting decisions are made on the advice of professionals working through a system of peer evaluation which is often seen as promoting elitism, with respect to both type of artwork produced and audience served. Great Britain is the prime example of the Patron State with the Arts Council of Great Britain and its sister agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • The Architect State funds the fine arts through a Ministry or Department of Culture. Bureaucrats, in effect, make grants. The Architect tends to support fine arts that meet ‘established’ rather than ‘professional’ standards of artistic excellence as part of its general social welfare objectives. This policy dynamic is revolutionary, although inertia can result in the entrenchment of established standards, as has been observed with respect to France. The economic status of artists in the Architect State is determined by membership in official artists' unions from which he or she enjoys a form of income security by direct government funding. The strength of the Architect role is the fact that artists and arts organizations are relieved from depending on popular success. For example, since before World War II the government of the Netherlands has played the role of Architect, which was ended by the “Tomato Revolution” of the 1970s, in which the audience protested the content of Dutch theater.
  • The Engineer State owns all means of artistic production and institutions, and officially supports only art chosen by political commissars and meeting political standards of excellence to further political education, not artistic excellence. The policy dynamic of the Engineer State is revisionary with funding decisions constantly revised to reflect an ever-changing party line. The economic status of the artist is determined by membership in official Party-approved artists' unions. The Engineer role is attractive to a totalistic regime because it focuses the creative energies of artists toward attainment of political goals. Repressed artistic ambition results in an “underground” subversive of either party aesthetics or capitalist values, i.e. a “counterculture”. The exemplar of the Engineer role was the old Soviet Union and the artistic doctrine known as Socialist Realism, meaning realist in form and socialist in content.
Two changes have been made since 1985. First, the Soviet Union collapsed. The meaning ‘Engineer’ has shifted to State ownership, within its sovereign territory, of the electro-magnetic spectrum per international law including radio, television and the Internet. Ownership has rewards. Among other things, setting the rules & regulations governing content. Second, a new role has been added: Custodian. In a global knowledge-based economy the Custodial State is responsible for access to and conservation of the national knowledge-base, i.e., the public and private domains of knowledge. This is evidenced by national archives, museums and libraries, and by legislation controlling export of national treasures and a State mandate to protect, preserve and promote national culture(s), e.g., Heritage Canada or, Patrimoine Canada. It also includes living institutional treasures like the National Theater, Ballet, Gallery, Symphony et al and their Schools.
The role of the Fine Arts in the Arts industry
The Fine Arts, however, are but one market segment of the Arts Industry, or arts ecology. The Natural Sciences have three elemental disciplines – biology, chemistry and physics. The Arts today have four – literary, media, performing and visual art. Each uses a distinct medium of expression. Developmentally they cross-pollinate. Each is employed for one of five purposes: amateur, applied (commercial), entertainment, fine art and heritage. Each is either for-profit or non-profit:
  • Amateur art is motivated by self-actualization, -education, -reflection and - realization including of one’s own cultural heritage. It is less concerned about pleasing an audience and more about developing self-expression and -understanding. It is in the amateur arts that talent is first disciplined in an artistic craft and an informed and appreciative audience is initially cultivated. Amateur art is part of the public sector in the schools; part of the nonprofit sector in amateur or community institutions; and, part of the profit sector through private teachers and instructors.
  • Applied and decorative art includes advertising, architecture and urban design, the crafts, jewelry and fashion as well as industrial, product and interior design. Production is motivated by the challenge of marrying aesthetic to utilitarian value. Applied and decorative art probably, but not proven, has the most pervasive and significant economic impact of any segment of the arts industry.
  • Entertainment art generates enjoyment, amusement and recreation. Entertainment art is dominated by for-profit global media conglomerates with linked interests in television, film, music, video and print media.
  • Fine art is motivated by ‘art-for-art’s-sake’ and not financially self-supporting. It is the primary research and development segment of the arts industry. It generates ‘enlightenment’, i.e. it sheds light on the nature of the human individual and society. It is primarily in the fine arts that new talent and technique are developed; new scripts and scores created; and, new images and styles set. The right to fail here is an essential freedom that requires patience and risk-taking on the part of patrons, investors and audiences.
  • Heritage art subsumes the amateur, applied and decorative, entertainment and fine arts as residuals of contemporary and past creation preserved for and/or by subsequent generations. It generates ‘enrichment’ through the marriage of scarcity and aesthetic value including a sense of social cohesion and continuity. Heritage art thus links us back to our past.
Over the thirty plus years from the 1985 policy research study until today 2019 the Fine Arts find themselves increasingly stuck between a rock and hard place. I offer six observations:
1. Convergence
There has been a convergence of modes of funding between Nation-States. The USA, the prime example of the Facilitator State, became a Patron State when it created (and then bridled) the arm’s length National Endowment for the Arts as did many US states. Australia became an Architect State when it made the Sydney Opera a federal budgetary ‘line item’. The Government of Canada attempted, but failed, to enfold the Canada Council for the Arts with the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council and the International Cultural Relations Bureau of External Affairs & International Trade Canada thereby becoming an Architect State. And all Nation-States have become Engineering States setting the electro-magnetic rules & regulations governing content.
2. Elite to Egalitarian Politics
The political calculus supporting the Fine Arts shifted from elite accommodation to politics by poll. Elite accommodation refers to the State accommodating special interests to maintain political stability. The politics of polls refers to accommodating popular needs measured by polls to assure election or reelection. This has seen increasing support for egalitarian community or local-based Amateur and Heritage Arts. Support flows through lottery funding in the Anglosphere and the subsidiarity principle in the European Union. Particularly in the Anglosphere the elite or High Culture and contrarian (avant-garde) nature of the Fine Arts has led to a decline in political influence and fiscal resources. Margaret Thatcher’s disbandment of the Arts Council of Great Britain is the prime example. The Recession of 2008, prolonged for a decade by government austerity, tightened the squeeze further threatening conversion of the living Fine Arts into the Legacy Arts of the West, i.e., dead art forms, leaving its avant-garde to rely entirely on its wits and the kindness of strangers.
3. Market Realism
By 1985 bilateral Film/TV/Cable co-production agreements had begun to flourish. Nation-States recognized the need to commercially compete with American cultural products. Commercial or Market Realism began to drive State funding – It’s the box office, stupid! This drive for cultural and economic sovereignty resulted in increasing State support to the Applied and Entertainment Arts especially after the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expression exempted Arts Industry subsidies from WTO countervail. The result has been stagnating or declining State support for the Fine Arts as well as commercialization of its internal culture and corporatization of author’s rights, a foundation stone of Les Beaux Arts. Co-production agreements have shown that Civil Code countries that recognize imprescriptible moral rights prefer to produce under Anglosphere copyright that does not recognize or allows such rights to be waived. It’s simply more profitable under Common Law to ignore the moral rights of artist/author/creator.
4. GDP & the Fine Arts
The Fine Arts are part of the larger national Arts Industry. Its distinct market segments – Amateur, Applied, Entertainment, Fine and Heritage – should work together, each playing their part in the health and growth of the industry including audience development. The Fine Arts, for its part, is the research & development sector, training ground and standard setter. An estimate of the size and contribution to employment and GDP of the Arts Industry and its market segments is required including the balance of trade in artistic goods & services, broadly defined.
5. Knowledge-Based/Digital Economy
The Fine Arts are the burning heart of a distinct knowledge domain, a distinct way of knowing – the Arts. The Arts generate technologies of the human heart, emotionally and aesthetically. Together with the Natural & Engineering Sciences and the Humanities & Social Sciences, the Arts fuel competitiveness in the emerging global knowledge-based/digital economy.
State support for the Fine Arts and associated training institutions is critical because of the ‘churn factor’, i.e. the turnover of personnel. It is sometime said in the Fine Arts that nothing fails like success. Usually it implies artistic excellence is not matched by financial gain. In this case success in cultivating world-class talent often leads them away from home towards the glitz, glamour, fame and financing of Hollywood and its ilk. Cream rises to the top. Churning involves continuously training replacements for the last generation that left the nest. It is for this reason, among others, I advocate national and regional ‘creativity havens’ in contrast to tax havens for rich individuals and corporations. In brief, all copyright related income of a Natural Person (not legal ones) becomes tax exempt as in Ireland today.
6. Vocabulary
The initial 1985 policy research study was drafted in the context of the Arts Industry. At that time the generally accepted term was the ‘Cultural Industries’ that then transformed in the 1990s into the ‘Creative Industries. What’s in a name?
Cultural Industries entered the lexicon in the 1980s through UNESCO. The term, to my mind, is too broad and amorphous. Culture involves much more than the Arts. Creative Industries entered in 1994 with the Australian Government’s report: The Creative Nation. To my mind the term is both too narrow and too broad. Restricting Creative Industries to the Arts implies other industries are not creative including the Natural & Engineering Sciences as well as the Humanities & Social Sciences. For me, the appropriate term remains the Arts Industry.
In my view two things need be done. First, the Fine Arts must be seen by the public as part of a larger whole – a national Arts Industry. They are to be cast as the research & development sector, training ground and standard setter for the industry, and a large contributor to the balance of trade in artistic goods and services. Second, the Fine Arts must be seen as the burning heart of a distinct knowledge domain, a distinct way of knowing – the Arts – that together with the Natural & Engineering Sciences and the Humanities & Social Sciences fuel competitiveness in the emerging global knowledge-based economy.
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