About the State, the State-owned and the Non-state Owned Cultural Sector in Bulgaria

Linked with David Cerny – Czech Republic, and with Entropa: art of politics, heart of a nation.

Published on Bulgaria online, by Dessy Gavrilova, 2002.

Drawing a line between “state” and “non-state” cultural organisations may be viewed by many as a rather artificial and formalistic exercise. As far as audiences are concerned, the only meaningful division is the one between good and bad theatres, popular and not so crowded galleries, virtuoso and not so virtuoso orchestras… Every time we talk about cultural policy in Bulgaria however, we are forced to think along the “state” – “non-state” axis. The reason is that when deciding upon financing cultural organisations, politicians in Bulgaria view them in exactly that way – the type of property of the organisation turns out to be the crucial factor.

They are not interested to know what would make more people go to the theatre; they do not want to know which company contributes most to the innovation of the theatrical language. They are not interested in what audiences admire, nor in what the critics value – they are interested whether the company is state owned or not. If it is state owned – the politicians judge – then it is a duty of the state to support it, if it is not – ‘let them survive as they can’. A decision making process underlined by such a philosophy can hardly be the most effective one, as it can only stimulate the dominance of one type of cultural organisation over the other, but not the development of art …

… But problems are not limited to the theatre sector only. In the agenda on culture of the current government words like “quality of the artistic work”, “access of marginalized groups to culture”, “artistic innovation” and so on are not to be found. The question of how the type of property of the cultural organisations affects the possibility to finance the cultural products is also not problematized. This is why we can hardly expect that the complexity of problems affecting the state and non-state cultural organisations will soon start to be solved. One positive step was the recently established Citizen’s Forum “Culture” – a non-state organisation uniting all cultural sectors, which aims at bringing on the agenda of the state the real and important issues in culture. The forum however still needs to prove its efficiency.

It is only in the dialogue between the state, the state-owned and non-state cultural organisations that the solution of the currently existing problems could be found. (full text).

(Dessy Gavrilova is one of the two founding directors of The Red House – Centre for Culture and Debate. She started in 1997 and managed until 2000 the Open Society Institute performing arts programme. Dessy has an MA in theatre studies from Sofia Theatre Academy and did a research into the cultural policy of Great Britain after WWII at the University of Oxford).

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