Kunstpodium START – 2022:
Positive advice but not awarded, for the third year in a row.
The Hague, 15.07.22
Dear reader, supports of The Balcony,
Dear Mondriaan Fonds,
On Monday 11th of July, The Balcony received the outcome of their Kunstpodium Start application. The outcome was positive. Yet, The Balcony will not receive funding.
For three years in a row, 2020, 2021 and 2022 – The Balcony’s application has been positively assessed by the commission, in other words granted, but the funding will not be awarded. Yes. Three years.
First of all we would like to thank the advisory committee for their renewed appreciation of our program. We appreciate the visibility this gives to the initiative by acknowledging the quality of our program. Unfortunately, and again, we realize this appreciation does not translate into the support it promises. According to the Mondriaan Fonds this is due to their limited financial capacity. We do not agree with the following.
As you may know The Balcony, like many other initiatives in The Hague relies on the dedication and commitment of cultural workers, volunteers and artists. Initiators of The Balcony support their living costs, the programming of the initiative, the related production costs as well as their own artistic practices. The time required to write applications like the Kunstpodium Start is significant. This situation is not sustainable in the long run.
This requires a consistent degree of focus spanning over the course of several weeks – often demanding a full-time conceptual and editorial labor. This is done to be able to support the artists, by paying them according to the Kunstenaar Honorarium guidelines, and to cover production costs. In addition of which the initiators of The Balcony, Arthur and Valentino, would be able to paid themselves for their work, at symbolic rate of six euros per hour.
As you can read in details below, we believe that the Mondriaan Fonds, if willing to do so, is able to cover the grants for the positively assessed initiatives. We believe it is a lack of support and understanding, rather than a limitation of budget per se which is at stake.
The reports of the prior years are online here (2020), here (2021) and here (2022)
We are gutted to hear this news for three years in a row. This also confirms our intentions to find alternatives complementary to funding, and to involve our audience in supporting our programming.
In the meantine we would like to thank the Gemeente and Stroom Den Haag for supporting the program this autumn.
And we look forward to seeing you again in September,
Have a good summer!
Arthur & Valentino
We are glad that our efforts are acknowledged. For instance we read that ‘Het programma heeft een onderscheidende aanpak en de kunstenaarskeuze is passen’ (2021). It is important for a small-scale initiative like The Balcony to distinguish itself and be recognisable, and we appreciate that the commission understands it: ‘Een aandachtspunt is volgens de commissie de onderscheidenheid van The Balcony binnen het lokale aanbod, om van meerwaarde te zijn en blijven’ (2021).
The Mondriaan Fonds ‘waardeert de artistieke visie op actuele maatschappelijke onderwerpen zoals de spanning tussen commercie, arbeid, vrij tijd en de stedelijke (leef)omgeving [...] Er is waardering voor de intergenerationele samenstelling van de kunstenaars selectie’ (2022).
Yet, vocal appreciation over the past three years hasn't translated into concrete support despite our repeated objections.
We would therefore like to suggest the following,
Foremost, the Kunstpodium Start is aimed for small-scale artist-initiatives. Yet, it is also the most competitive. Among the 50 Kunstpodium Start applications this year, only 12 were awarded. This equals 24% success rate. In the two above categories, Kunstpodium Basis and Pro the positive outcome rises to 44% and 66%, as the number of applications simultaneously decreases.
We wonder why the smallest of the initiatives in the country, that rely entirely on the commitment of unpaid labor, should support the toughest and most competitive of the all four categories? In addition, we observe a severe professionalization of the Start category, with a requirement of public reach and audiences comparable to art centers, similar to categories Basis and Pro. In facts, the Staatscourant van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden 2020, nummer 24800, under Artikel 3.1, states that the Kunstpodium Start scheme is intended to “een klein kunstinitiatief”. Small art-initiatives are… small. Initiating a space, a program or a series of exhibitions and events is the absolute core activity of small art-initiatives. They are not institutions. They do not think in terms of ‘target audiences’ and operate with close to no communication budget. We think this distinction is important.
According to the Mondriaan Fonds, there is no sufficient funding available to support the entirety of the positively assessed applications. We object to the following.
In 2021 and in 2022, no allocation was made within the Kunstpodium Breed category, the highest of all four categories. Both years, the Mondriaan Fonds website stated that ‘the budget for this category will be retained for the next application round and can be awarded in 2023’. The same was stated in 2021.
We believe that Kunstpodium Breed is proving to be ‘too hard to reach’ for any of the institutions in the country. It should therefore be redirected to the categories Start and Basis.
Why should the granting of a Kunstpodium Breed be continuously postponed to a hypothetical future while there is such an urge for small-scale, grassroot initiatives?
The Balcony has benefited only from ‘symbolic visibility’ from being positively assessed, even for three years in a row. Therefore we suggest the implementation of a ‘priority lane’.
As the argument given by the Mondriaan Fonds is that of the lack of financial capacity, we suggest prioritizing the positively assessed applications in the next calendar year, or when funding is made available. Again, this is proving possible by the redirecting of the Kunstpodium Breed into the smaller categories. In the meantime, the available budget for the Kunstpodia has risen from €3 to €4 million between 2021 and 2022. We believe this is possible.
Additionally, we suggest the rotation of funding, for the Start grant scheme in particular.
Small-scale initiatives are characterized by low running-costs, moderate production budgets and often volunteer work. Why would the Mondriaan Fund require the entire Kunstpodium Start funding to be spent in a single calendar year, when €25,000 would typically cover one or more years of regular functioning? We realize this obligation increases dependence on funding, instead of being able to spread the grant on the longer term and use it to develop sustainable alternatives.
We believe it is not a lack of funding that is at stake, but a better understanding of how small-scale initiatives function that is needed. We believe it is time for a better spreading in favor of the Kunstpodium Start, and redirecting the Kunstpodium Breed in particular.
Last but not least, this year’s assessment includes a particular attention to how each initiative contributes to the existing artistic climate within their area, in our case The Hague. The commission writes that this criterion weighed the most.
The Mondriaan Fonds feedback includes the following appreciation:
‘Er is waardering voor de mate waarin The Balcony samenwerkingsverbanden aangaat met lokale meer gevestigde kunstpodia. De commissie herkent de toegevoegde waarde van The Balcony binnen deze context door de artistiek-inhoudelijke uitgangspunten en/of presentatiewijze gericht op artistic research die soms overlappend is, maar veelal complementair aan organisaties die vergelijkbare programma’s uitvoeren.’ (2022)
Yet, for the second year in a row, no initiative in The Hague has been actually granted a Kunstpodium Start.
Why is the third largest city in The Netherlands not granted Start support while the guidelines of the Kunstpodia are specifically intended to be spread across the country? We believe The Hague’s small-scale initiatives have been under-represented within this category in the past two years in spite of a vibrant landscape of initiatives, and positively reviewed initiatives such as The Balcony. We understand there are large organisations represented in The Hague, among the Basis and Pro categories, but this shouldn’t be to the detriment of smaller initiatives. If this is the case, then the Kunstpodium Start intiatives are not only competing against themsleves, but also with the categories above. Obviously, that would be unfair.
To conclude we advocate for concrete support to the small-scale initiatives, for the positively reviewed initiatives, and beyond the simple scope of written appreciation.
We would be glad to further elaborate on our intentions,
Thanking you warmly for your time,
Arthur Cordier, Valentino Russo
On behalf of The Balcony