The Funding of the Independent Performing Arts Beyond the Big Cities - Between Stubbornness and Peripheralization

Lecture at the "Transformations of the Theater Landscape" symposium

Micha Kranixfeld & Marten Flegel, University Koblenz-Landau


In recent years, the independent performing arts beyond the big cities, with their diverse structures and aesthetic forms, have increasingly been the focus of cultural policy debates. The qualitative-explorative study is based on interviews with artists, supplemented by further discussions with experts from the field. It systematically presents essential contexts and framework conditions and derives recommendations for action from them. At the end of the study there are seven essential conclusions:

Peripheralization accumulates. It is a process that builds up – and can therefore also be dismantled. The effects are clear: more difficult production conditions, lower visibility, lack of exchange with other artists, discouragement. The development of differentiated funding models at the federal level therefore requires a good knowledge of regional conditions and, in the interest of fairness, treating them differently.

The federal level needs the municipal level as a counterpart on an equal footing. The federal principle of gradual advancement in funding structures according to regional relevance does not currently apply to the independent performing arts, because many municipal administrations see culture as a voluntary task or do not have adequate financing. Municipalities, states, and the federal government must make a pact for the future of the structures of the independent performing arts.

Beyond the big cities, the population is at the center of artistic considerations. This kind of relational art needs takes a long time to develop. Beyond the big cities, the independent performing arts benefit disproportionately from the build-up of process-oriented funding, basic funding and project funding over many years. The time structures of funding programs must match those of the necessary relationship work, not vice versa.

Beyond the big cities, a new picture of cultural infrastructures is emerging. Cultural infrastructures include converted barns and kindergartens as well as vans and fiber optic connections. In the knowledge society, networks, education and training opportunities should also be counted among the relevant infrastructures. Shaping the conditions for a successful cultural life is a cross-sectional task that cuts across all departments.

It cannot work without hosts. For many artists, it is schools, libraries, socio-cultural centers, village hall, and other social venues that provide important anchor points for guest performances and residencies. The people who work there invest in local cultural life in a variety of ways, sometimes on a voluntary basis, sometimes far beyond the scope of their staff positions. Their cultural work is largely characterized by long-term agreements and recurring elements. Short-term project funding makes sustainable cooperation difficult.

(Supra)regional structures spur on local work. Cooperation and exchange are described by the interviewees as particularly beneficial when they are organized along common artistic interests. It is necessary to determine where a focus on artists beyond the big cities or certain disciplines can address specific questions and achieve self-assurance, and where a deliberate mix of social spaces or practices can generate fresh impetuses.

The independent performing arts beyond the big cities operate within structural change and seek perspectives with their audiences. Beyond the big cities, the independent performing arts create structures and encounters in which local knowledge gathers (bonding capital) and is reassembled through cross-connections to other regions (bridging capital) and global issues (linking capital). In doing so, they form cross-sector alliances with a wide variety of actors from the local population, constellations that are important drivers of change. The work of the independent performing arts beyond the big cities is thus neither tutoring service nor public utility, but a self-confident acting in and with the means of the so-called provinces.