History of the Fonds

1985 – Foundation

The Fonds Darstellende Künste was founded in 1985 as an association under civil law on the initiative of the member organizations represented in the German Cultural Council / Performing Arts Section and has been funding projects in all performing arts disciplines since 1988.

2004 - Increase in funding & expansion of the areas of activity

Through a resolution of the German Bundestag, the Fonds’ previous funding was doubled to 1 million euros in 2004. This budget increase enabled the Fonds to expand its areas of activity as of 2005 from exclusively national funding to support for international cooperation projects within the context of EU enlargement. Since then, the Fonds has also placed cultural and theater policy issues on its agenda, stimulated necessary debates on the further development of the performing arts and taken the lead in realizing complex studies and symposia on funding structures and on the economic and social situation of theater and dance professionals in Germany.

A milestone in the Fonds' work was the introduction of studies on the complex economic and social conditions of professional independent theater and dance in Germany, which were conducted for the first time in 2005, and the subsequent national symposium in 2006. The studies focused on the funding structures in municipalities and states, foundations and companies. The national symposium, with the participation of artists, politicians, representatives of funding institutions, foundations and companies, provided significant impetus and raised public awareness about independent theater and dance. The first hearing before the Cultural Committee of the German Association of Cities on issues relating to independent theater and dance and the publication of the definitive book "Independent Theater in Germany – Funding Structures and Perspectives" in 2007, which is still current today, completed the cultural policy offensive of the Fonds Darstellende Künste.

In 2007, another international symposium followed: "European Cooperation and Production", which the Fonds organized together with the International Theater Institute (ITI Germany) and the Academy of the Arts. 200 participants from 22 European countries discussed international developments and the social impact of independent theater and dance in Berlin. Drawing on the results of this symposium, in 2008 the Fonds initiated and carried out another complex study on the economic, social, and labor situation of theater and dance professionals in Germany – within the context of international developments. This involved 4,400 theater and dance professionals nationwide, the Bundesverband and all the state associations of independent theater as well as professional associations specific to each discipline.

In cooperation with the ITI and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Fonds held its third symposium with international participation at the Academy of Arts in 2009. The results of the symposium and of national and international studies formed the basis of the "Performing Arts Report" published in 2010, which is recognized as the most comprehensive representative study of the performing arts sector in Germany and comparable European countries to date.

2008 - New, more sustainable funding model

In 2008, the Fonds introduced a three-year concept funding scheme for the sustainable strengthening of qualitatively outstanding professional groups in all branches of the independent performing arts and their innovative and ongoing ensemble work. For a period of up to three years, the concept funding provides these groups with better framework conditions for the further development of their artistic profiles, ensemble structures and public perception beyond the municipalities. With a pro-rata funding amount totaling 75,000 euros, it represented a special seal of quality from the Fonds Darstellende Künste. Since 2018, the sum has been steadily increased and, with up to 200,000 euros in total funding, now forms an important part of the planning security for the creative work of nationally active artists. With this funding model, the Fonds similarly encourages municipalities, states, foundations, and sponsors to support projects of professional independent groups and ensembles of all performing arts disciplines for several years – because greater planning security can be of great value for independent theater and dance artists.

2016 - Repositioning of the Fonds & expansion of funding programs

Starting in 2016, the Fonds Darstellende Künste, previously assigned to the Federal Cultural Foundation, received its grants directly from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. In addition, the managing director Günter Jeschonnek, who had steered the fortunes of the fund from the beginning, retired. Holger Bergmann, a long-standing and successful figure in the German independent performing arts, took over as managing director.

During the 2017 funding year, the Fonds took important steps to dynamize its own funding program. With the initial funding, it placed an emphasis for the first time on artistic research and inquiry as an elementary component of artistic practice, independent of the obligation to perform in public. At the same time, it increased the time interval for submitting applications from two to four application deadlines per year, in order to be able to offer those working in the independent performing arts a broader range of funding and to increase accessibility to the initial and project funding programs.

In 2017, in cooperation with the Bundesverband Freie Darstellende Künste, the Fonds organized the "Bundesforum. Bündnis für Freie Darstellende Künste" for the first time and invited representatives from cultural policy, funding, and art practice to a joint dialogue on the German funding landscape and related current issues. The fruitful conversations and discussions led to the formation of working groups in which the dialogue was continued in depth beyond the event and laid the foundations for the subsequent Bundesforum in 2019.

2018 - Budget increase & expansion of the funding offer through thematic special programs

HOMEBASE, a one-time thematic funding program had already been launched in 2016, focused on the artistic examination of origin, homeland and migration. Starting in 2018, the Fonds consolidated the thematic special programs on socially relevant issues and desiderata in the funding landscape as a further pillar and in addition to the existing offers of initial, project and concept funding. With the CONFIGURATION program in 2019, the Fonds placed an emphasis on the genre of figure and object theater. Under the title GLOBAL VILLAGE LABS, the Fonds initiated a funding program in 2019 to strengthen the independent performing arts away from urban centers, which was continued in 2020 with GLOBAL VILLAGE VENTURES and in 2021 with GLOBAL VILLAGE PROJECTS. In 2020/21, the Fonds supported projects at the interface between the independent arts and artificial intelligence with the AUTONOM program.

In addition to expanding its range of funding programs, the Tabori Prize (previously the George Tabori Prize) was also reconfigured for its 10th anniversary: Starting in 2019, two Tabori Awards were offered in addition to the Tabori Prize, honoring outstanding work by artists and groups in the independent performing arts.

As of 2018, the fund has 2 million euros available for basic funding – with the addition of the special programs, the annual funding budget amounts to between 3 and 4 million euros.

2020 - A new start for culture – during and after the pandemic

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fonds was commissioned by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as part of NEUSTART KULTUR to develop and implement comprehensive emergency measures to stabilize the independent performing arts – in coordination with the Fonds’ member associations.

The #TakeCare initiative in spring 2020 was immediately followed by the comprehensive #TakeThat funding program, endowed with 76 million euros, which supported the independent performing arts scene in 11 subprograms in an unprecedented range of needs-oriented ways.

In addition to artistic projects and increased research in the various genres, projects for infrastructural development, cultural mediation and audience generation, knowledge transfer, and cooperation between theatrical companies and freelance artists and groups could be specifically funded.

The funding programs were accompanied by advisory and evaluative projects, such as the academic research program on the funding situation in the performing arts, which took account of new and known needs and potential for action and compiled recommendations for action at a symposium in November 2021 and with a concluding publication. A comprehensive stocktaking of the situation of the independent performing arts before, during and after the pandemic was undertaken by the Bundesforum in 2021 – with the purpose of also stimulating a dialogue on the future of the funding situation in Germany.

In 2021, the #TakeThat funding program will be directly followed by the #TakeHeart initiative with six funding lines, which will continue to be funded by NEUSTART KUTLUR.