Only a cultural sector capable of continuous development and innovation can have lasting value for society

The cultural sector is increasingly facing questions about its value for society and the economy. In the first place, however, attention needs to be focused on strengthening the cultural sector itself. Only then can the sector take on new challenges. Cultural policy can make a key contribution here. At present, artists, cultural entrepreneurs and cultural institutions are missing too many opportunities, partly because of a lack of knowledge about their potential public, deficiencies in the match between arts education and the labour market and the limited role played by private investment in funding the cultural sector. These are some of the points raised in the WRR report ‘Revaluing culture’ (Cultuur herwaarderen) that was presented earlier this year to the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ms. Jet Bussemaker and is presented today to the Flemish minister of Culture, Youth and Media in Brussels.

Knowledge of the public

The public is no longer as loyal to genres, institutions and events as its used to be. This means cultural institutions often miss out on potential income and have less support among the public than they need. If the sector accepts public funding, this also carries a responsibility to seek a connection with the wider public. A better and clearer insight into the cultural tastes of the public is a condition for appealing to new, and especially younger, target groups. The government can help cultural institutions by developing new ways of broadening and renewing their public and fostering deeper contacts with that public.

Career opportunities for arts graduates

Talent development requires a realistic picture of the potential labour market for creative professions. Only a limited proportion of arts graduates find work that matches their creative studies. Moreover, they earn less on average than other graduates, a discrepancy which continues throughout the rest of their careers. It is therefore to be welcomed that some courses are aiming for fewer students. In addition, higher education courses will need to prepare students for the labour market even better than they do at present.

Funding

More creative funding methods could be applied in the cultural sector. In addition to government grants, self-generated income and donations, there is also scope for attracting private investment. It is also important to monitor differences in the earning capacity of cultural institutions. The government can facilitate the flow of private funds, but cannot control it, as with grants. There is a possibility that some institutions will reproduce their successes and expand, while others will see their position deteriorate further. This could have consequences for the nature and distribution of cultural output. Cultural policy therefore continues to have an important task in safeguarding cultural quality and diversity.

Note to editor

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy is an advisory body to the Dutch government and for Dutch government policy.

Revaluing culture’ is an essay based of the first chapter of the publication (in Dutch) Cultuur herwaarderen edited by Erik Schrijvers, Anne-Greet Keizer and Godfried Engbersen. Beside this chapter, this publication contains contributions from Hasan Bakhshi, Dave O’Brien, Roberta Comunian, Koen van Eijck, and Robert C. Kloosterman. Cultuur herwaarderen is presented to the Flemish minister of Culture, Youth and Media at the Flemish-Dutch House deBuren on 27 October at 20.00 hrs. by WRR council member Godfried Engbersen. More information about this presentation and the debate via www.deburen.eu.