8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture
Amateur artistic activities have increased considerably as a result of the rising status and system of support for these activities from the state, regions and smaller regional organisations and associations. Individual disciplines co-ordinate themselves according to their specialisation (children or adults) and numerical representation. Many disciplines of non-professional artistic activities have their hub outside of Prague. They more or less successfully react to the "demand" of a local or regional, state or civic organisation.
This regional and local activity is mostly a result of the demographic development after the Second World War and following the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989. All-embracing artistic groups exist in the Hradec Králové region thanks to the cooperation of the regional funding organisation IMPULS with civic associations (e.g. the East-Bohemian Free Association of Amateur Drama); there are many disciplines which can be documented by the number of companies and individuals in regional showcases and by the list of award winners at the state level. The Pardubice Region is very active in the tradition of puppet and dramatic theatre, recitation, film and photography; there is also a regional research facility (as a department of the Regional Library). Another region that has a very active amateur arts culture is Moravia, with dance and music folklore, non-professional music activities like choir singing, brass music (especially the South Moravian and Moravian-Silesian Regions), theatre, dance for children and adults, and visual arts activities. The South Moravian and Olomouc Regions are traditional centres of chamber and symphonic music. Western Bohemia supports folklore, theatre and dance disciplines as well as being a centre for brass music. The South Bohemia Region is very active in chamber and symphonic music, as well as music and dance folklore. The Central Bohemia Region favours theatre, as well as chamber and symphonic music. The former border regions are in an inconvenient position from a demographic point of view because the Second World War and post-war expulsion of the German inhabitants resulted in a break in the continuity of traditional cultural events. Currently, some disciplines have managed to link up with this tradition again, e.g. in the Liberec Region, dance, choir singing, amateur theatre and photography are very active thanks to the efforts of leading personalities and active groups. Amateur theatre, choir singing and amateur film flourishes in the Ústí nad Labem Region. There is a more complicated situation in the capital city of Prague, where these activities do not play such an important role in local culture and they are not supported by the general public in the same way as in other regions.
The Czech Republic (CR) is very specific in the field of supporting amateur artistic activities – the state annually supports a system of so-called regional advancement and nationwide showcases. The non-professional artistic activities of children, young people and adults have access to the nationwide showcases through "advancement shows". These are shows where amateur participants may advance to nationwide showcases (direct advancement) or alternatively, they may be recommended by a programme council of the nationwide show.
This system dates back to the First Republic in some disciplines (such as amateur theatre), but it stopped in the 1970s, when the network of cultural educational facilities (i.e. district and regional cultural centres) took over the role of organising regional and district showcases. This network was dissolved after the "Velvet Revolution" of November 1989. The current system began functioning in the early 1990s, and it did not originate from a decree issued from the centre, but instead emerged out of the free decisions of citizens, which can undoubtedly be interpreted as the articulation of a cultural need.
The organisers of regional showcases are cultural facilities, leisure facilities for children and young children, civic associations, individuals, business entities (stock companies and limited liability companies) and public benefit organisations. Their financing is based on a multi-source principle. The Ministry of Education annually contributes to children's advancement shows through NIPOS-ARTAMA (60-70 showcases in the disciplines of theatre, recitation, dance, folklore and choir singing). The Ministry of Culture contributes to each regional showcase. Other sources are contributions from towns that organise the event, grants from the regions and participants' fees. All regions financially support artistic activities (amateur art and cultural activities) in their strategies for development and programming, e.g. in the form of civic cultural activity.
In advanced democratic states, the main subjects of non-professional art are non-governmental organisations with nationwide scope and with significant financial support from public resources. The major nationwide non-governmental organisations in the Czech Republic work only in two disciplines – folklore (Folklore Association of the Czech Republic) and dance for children and youth (Czech Dance Organisation).
The Czech Choir Union and the Czech Association of Photographers endeavour to be the main representative bodies in their fields. In other disciplines, there can be more than one association (e.g. in amateur theatre there are 10) or just one with limited scope (e.g. the Wind Band Association of the CR) or none at all. This diverse situation is the result of the break in tradition caused by the totalitarian period and a persistent negative attitude towards collective groups. The operations of such associations are financially limited nowadays, and in many cases it is impossible for the state to support their operation. Two state-funded organisations operate as professional and co-ordination centres for amateur artistic activities: NIPOS (for the majority of disciplines) and the National Institute of Folk Culture in Strážnice (traditional folk culture). They co-operate with all the main subjects active in individual disciplines and recognised professionals sit on their advisory bodies.
When we look back in history, the most active fields are amateur theatre, with about 3 000 ensembles, and choirs, of which there are about 1 700. The Folklore Association of the CR has more than 10 000 registered children and young people as members.
In connection with the on-going economic crisis and continuous cuts to the budget of the MC amateur arts and in particular the unique showcase system are at risk (see above). Total financial resources from the budget of the MC currently cover less than 15% of the total expenditures of amateur cultural events.
In May 2012 the Discussion Forum of Amateur Arts in the CR took place and focused on amateur arts, support for their activities, funding, and an assessment of their situation in the context of national, local, and regional culture and amidst the threat of reduced support from the state budget. The Memorandum on the Support for the Professional Arts was formulated as a joint statement of their position (see http://www.nipos-mk.cz).
In May 2013, the Week of Arts Education and Voluntary Arts took place for the first time in the CR in response to a call from UNESCO and MNO AMATEO. More than 300 organisers, arts schools, civic associations, etc., signed up with activities. This initiative addressed all the regions of the CR and involved every branch of the arts. Among these projects are festivals, showcases, concerts, performances, exhibitions, open-house days of arts and cultural institutions, and folk culture activities, both traditional and contemporary.