Arts Are the Basis of Modern Democracy: Open Letter to the Czech Government About Arts Funding Gains Broad Support

Banner for the #zakreativnievropu initiative. Caption: "Don't Allow Czechia To Be Put Under Concrete: We Want the Proposed 8 Billion For Its Development"

The #zakreativnicesko (“for creative Czechia”) initiative is fighting for a higher stimulus package for the Czech cultural sector. The initiative has gained support from members of the Czech parliament’s cultural committee and members of the committee for the Association of Regions for Culture and Monuments (Asociace krajů České republiky pro kulturu a památkovou péči.) The open letter, which currently boasts over 500 signatures representing a diverse set of entities, from cultural organizations, to politicians, to universities, to independent startups, demands that the Czech government allocate 8,233 billion Czech crowns (over 300 million Euro) to the cultural sector. This was the Ministry of Culture’s original plan before the EU allotted less money to the Czech Republic. The current version of the Czech National Renewal Plan (Národní plán obnovy) allocates 2.5 billion CZK (some 95 million Euros) to the cultural sector.

Banner for the #zakreativnievropu initiative. Caption: “We Don’t Want Czech Culture To Be Put Under Concrete: Czech Cultura Won’t Be Renewed Without Money from the Renewal Fund”

In their open letter, the signatories ask the government for its help in renewing the Czech cultural sector, which they argue would mean supporting an area of the economy with high added value, one of the main priorities of the European Renewal Fund. They site three main arguments in support of generous funding for the renewal of the cultural sector: First, they argue it is a good economic investment. Second, that it is an investment into the Czech Republic’s international image. Third, and most importantly, that it is an investment into the quality of life of all residents of Czechia. “Culture and creativity,” they add, “are basic values without which no modern, democratic society can function.”

“The damages to the cultural sector have been immense,” says Martin Baxa, head of the committee of the Parliament for culture and the mayor of Pilsen, a city which has also come out in support of the initiative, “it’s not just about institutions being closed. All areas of culture have been suffering fatally for a year, now, and the government has not yet found a way to help. The National Renewal Plan presents an opportunity to renew the cultural and creative sector, the social and economic value of which is undeniable.”

Regional politicians also spoke out „Our support is meant to express our belief that the arts are an important, but often neglected, discipline across the country,” says Petr Kulhánek, Hetman of the Karlovy Vary region. “Not only does it form the basis of our fundamental values, but also helps develop education, local communities, and supports our economy.”  Other cities which came out in support of the initiative include Zlín and Ústí nad Labem.  

Banner for the #zakreativnievropu initiative. Caption: “We Don’t Want to Put Films and Shows Under Concrete: We Shoot For Ourselves and for the World. We Don’t Want To Stop.”

Although the National Renewal Plan is one of the most important documents to outline further steps for economic renewal, critics argue the process of writing it has not been transparent.

“The current version of the plan is based on sums far beyond the 182 billion crowns allotted to the Czech Republic. We can only guess as to which sectors the Ministry of Industry and Trade will decide to fund and whose funding will, on the contrary, be cut,” says Lucie Ševčíková of the #zakreativnicesko initiative.

“We consider the National Renewal Plan to be an unprecedented chance to invest into the entire cultural and creative sector, the social and economic value of which is immeasurable. We and all the signatories ask that they not lower the amount of funding allotted to the cultural sector which, along with the tourism sector, has been hit the hardest by this pandemic. With every month of strict safety measures, the cultural sector loses a billion Czech crowns,” adds Ševčíková.

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