The Fascia System of German Cultural Policy – For a Holistic and Sustainable Cultural Policy Funding Architecture.

Lecture at the symposium "Transformations of the Theater Landscape"

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schmidt, University of Music and the Performing Arts, Frankfurt am Main

In this lecture, Prof. Dr. Thomas Schmidt presents not only the results of his study on "Funding for Theater Development Planning," but also those of the sub-study on "Funding in a Multi-level Political System," for which he is also responsible.


The study looks at the cultural policy funding architecture for the performing arts in the Federal Republic of Germany and presents a critical analysis. The main focus is on the independent performing arts, which are seen as part of an overarching theatrical landscape that also includes public and private theaters, festivals and playhouses. Within this context, 30 guided interviews, each lasting approximately one to two hours, were conducted in order to obtain an up-to-date picture of the perception of existing funding policy for the performing arts among the various stakeholders.

The study therefore primarily focused on artists and organizations, but also representatives of German cultural policy at all levels and in as many associations, networks and trade unions as possible, in order to obtain a complete picture of the actors and their interaction. In addition, the intention was to provide the opportunity for those responsible for cultural policy to reflect on the existing funding system and develop their own independent assessment. The comments and criticism of the existing cultural policy funding system were evaluated, as were the articulated suggestions and interests of the interview partners. The study and its results formed the basis for the development of a separate, holistic proposal for a new funding architecture for the performing arts.

The insights gained can be briefly outlined as follows:

  1. The organizational and artistic-aesthetic further development of the performing arts, as well as the necessity of a productive engagement with critical contemporary discourses, leads in the short, medium and long term to a greater need for financial resources in light of the – currently foreseeable – unchanged or even decreasing funding that can be provided by the state. It is unlikely that private funding will be able to cover funding gaps of any magnitude.
  2. The current funding instruments continue to focus on project funding and are not geared toward the necessary structural funding. In some federal states, there are initial signs of a stronger focus on institutional funding, which should be further expanded and diversified.
  3. The funds are used unevenly and asymmetrically. The large and growing needs of the public theaters for decades has led to a situation whereby only a very small share of funds (approx. 5-7%) is available for the independent performing arts – contrary to the trend of an annually growing number of independently producing artists and groups and a growing average funding requirement of independent performing artists.
  4. This leads to precarious living conditions for independent artists in times of crisis, but also after their active period as an artist. In addition, phases of often lengthy project preparation, periods of pregnancy and maternity, as well as illness are not paid. There is a lack of creative solutions to address this.
  5. German cultural policy consists of an impenetrable tangle of powers, functional levels, instruments, and funding mechanisms that is difficult for its users and stakeholders to understand – comparable to an interconnected fascia system.
  6. This system is created not least by the coupling and duplication of functions of lobbying associations, trade unions and networks that actively intervene in the shaping of cultural policy and an extra-parliamentary zone of influence. This zone of influence is created by close cooperation and coordination between the associations and the executive at the federal and state levels. It simplifies the paths and coordination processes, accelerates the communication between the representatives of the associations and the cultural policy and the solution of crises based on it as well as the joint implementation of special programs. However, this also has its downsides: The representatives of the legislature are only involved selectively or individually. In addition, the possibilities of very targeted and close consultation can also lead to a lack of distance and objectivity and to the disadvantage of individual groups of actors.
  7. As a result of various cultural policy drivers, the asymmetrical distribution of funds between public and independent performing arts, and their artificial separation, has meant that it has not been possible for either a unified cultural policy or a sustainable funding architecture to emerge so far.

Accordingly, a new funding focus should be based on three premises, if possible:

  • A new model should not only focus on the funding of individual artistic work, but should at the same time guarantee, in a life-work model, lifelong support based on social standards for all artists, regardless of artistic reputation.
  • The removal of barriers and the transfer of knowledge between the independent performing arts and the public theaters should be promoted and strengthened.
  • The differences in funding between public and independent performing arts and the associated injustice and asymmetry must be swiftly dismantled.

Based on these findings, I propose a holistic and sustainable funding architecture consisting of various instruments:

  • Common and overarching production platforms for all scenes.
  • A think tank (TTDAKÜ) for the further development of the performing arts, but also of cultural policy and the cooperation between the two, with the aim of collecting and archiving knowledge, but above all to generate and develop it on a consistent basis.
  • A development and funding bank for culture (EFÖK) based on the model of the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (Reconstruction Loan Corporation), which takes over the entire application, evaluation, and awarding process for cultural policy.
  • A joint quality agency for the performing arts (QUADAK). With a focus on regular reviews of the quality of funding, its monitoring and implementation, linked to regular evaluations of projects, institutional development processes, and organizations.
  • A stakeholder monitor, with which all the stakeholder groups of the performing arts can be connected and coordinated, as a basis for embedding in the polis; the objectives here are the development of and cooperation with informed audiences and with informed stakeholders.
  • An institute for lifelong learning (ILELE), as a central training institute of the performing arts, where the standards, but also the ongoing progress in the different disciplines are taught and passed on.

At the heart of this toolkit is a new and holistic nationwide funding system that I have proposed, which dispenses with regional differences and gives all independent performing artists and groups access to a five-tiered system. The system is the same in all federal states and municipalities, it runs under the same application deadlines and conditions and thus fulfills the requirements for a uniform funding architecture. The five stages start with

  • the core basic income, to which can be added funding for
  • projects and production,
  • education,
  • institutions,
  • mentoring and supervision

divided into tranches, according to seniority, in groups A-C + P for pension.

Cultural policy must not be a rigid and immovable field of politics. It must be measured by the speed of development of the cultural fields, arts and issues of cultural organizations. After all, the advantage of the arts is precisely that they often deal with subject areas that, from society's point of view, are often still in the future, or in a hidden "fold" (Deleuze 1996). The arts can help open up new spaces for thinking at the hidden intersections between the present and the future. In this sense, the overarching goal of all proposed measures and instruments would be to establish a new partnership between cultural policy institutions and the performing arts in the sense of a New Deal, established on an equal footing, which in the future would allow groups and artists to no longer feel like supplicants, but rather like collaborative partners who collect their fixed monthly support, which serves as a subsistence basic income to cover the artists' living expenses, on which, in turn, various tranches of new funding can be added to, in a multi-pronged manner.