Finnish ‚foundation boom’ affects cultural sector, including national cultural institutions.
Author: Ritva Mitchell, Anna Kanerva
The formation of Finnish national cultural policies from the mid-19th century to the late 20th century can be roughly divided into three stages:
Historically, four forces have shaped these developments:
The foundations for Finnish national culture were laid and affirmed under the Russian Czarist regime (1809-1917) which, alongside the Senate of the autonomous Finnish Grand Duchy, was the patron of the evolving bilingual (Swedish and Finnish) artistic and cultural life. After independence, the new nation state took over the role of patron and continued to build a national identity and national unity. This identity was based on the cultural heritage stemming partly from the period of Russian rule, and partly from the period of earlier Swedish rule, which had lasted seven centuries. During the first four decades of independence, which saw a civil war and two wars with the Soviet Union, national unity and national identity became even more prioritised objectives of the state and, subsequently, also central principles in national cultural and arts policies. Other objectives, such as the promotion of creativity and enhancing participation and cultural democracy, started to gain ground in the 1960s and became integrated with other economic and social goals when the ideology of the social welfare state was more comprehensively adopted and implemented in the 1970s.
Public support for the arts and culture had expanded even before the advent of the social welfare state. The municipalities had gradually taken over the task of maintaining institutions of adult education and public libraries from the civic associations and the central government started to subsidise them on a regular basis. The role of the state in supporting these institutions was cemented by legislation in the 1920s. The joint financial responsibility of the state and the municipalities became one of the pillars of modern Finnish cultural policy.
The broader financial basis for public support of the arts, cultural institutions and cultural services was confirmed by legislation in the 1960s and 1970s. The system of artists' grants traces its legislative basis to the late 1960s and state support for municipal non-institutional cultural activities was set in legislation at the beginning of the 1980s.
Although some national institutions (especially the National Opera and the National Theatre) maintained their private legal status, the process of "étatisation" of Finnish cultural and art institutions accelerated in the 1970s and continued well into the 1990s. The institutions of higher education in the arts and the National Art Gallery became part of the state budgetary system and the former were granted the status of state universities. In parallel, local museums, theatres and orchestras also came under the budgetary control of the municipalities and, at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, their grants were organised as a subsystem within the new statutory state transfer (subsidy) system to municipalities. In addition to the new Financing Law, this also led to Laws on Museums, Theatres and Orchestras (1992). Only a few professional institutional theatres and orchestras (including the National Theatre and the National Opera) were left to be financed on a contractual discretionary basis.
The above overview suggests that historically the main instruments of Finnish cultural policy have been:
The first decade of the 21st century has seen a gradual transformation of Finnish society and Finnish commitment to the basic principles of the welfare state. The changes from the mid-1990s onwards have created, within the legal and administrative frameworks of the European Union, a new system of governance with distinct touches of neo liberal market orientation in the public sector. Although public cultural administration has been rather slow in reacting e.g. to the requirements of new public management, many other factors have shaped the conditions of artistic activities, cultural service systems and creative industries. Such factors are e.g. the enlarging of the European Union, new ways of coupling the arts and artists to the networked information society and creative economy, and the need to enhance the export of arts and cultural goods and services. The effects of these undercurrents have been partly interrupted, partly precipitated by financial crises and economic recessions in 1991-1993 and, most recently, in 2009-2010.
More recently, neo-liberalism, in the guise of desetatisation, seems to have entered cultural policy through the backdoor of university reform enacted by all-comprehensive national university legislation. The new 2009 University Act extends the autonomy of universities by giving them an independent legal personality either as public corporations or as foundations operated partially under the old 1930 Foundation Act. The government has also taken definite steps to enforce closer ties than mere networking between universities in order to enhance their research productivity and contribution to the national economy and exports. This policy is reflected in the decision which administratively merged the biggest art university, the Helsinki University of Art and Design with the Helsinki University of Technology and the Helsinki School of Economics. The new super-university, named "the Aalto University", is financed thorough a foundation and the board of the foundation, consisting of national and international recognised researchers and artists and representatives of Finnish industry, has the final say as to the long term policy orientation of the university. The joint operations at the Aalto University were started on the 1 January 2010. Since the beginning of the 1990s there has been a long on-going process aimed at merging administratively the three other art universities, the Sibelius Academy of Music, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Theatre Academy. The merging of these three art academies into a University of Arts, including students, personnel and funds, will take place in 2013.
Also, the changing civil and economic climate has given rise to a Finnish "foundation-boom", evident even in the cultural policy domain, especially since the new government of 2011. It affects the above mentioned national cultural institutions also, as the present government has launched action into turning the Finnish National Gallery into a foundation (see also chapter 4.3). The FNG will start operating as a foundation in 2014. Also, the Ministry of Education and Culture's subordinate Institute for Russia and Eastern Europe, which promotes the cultural and social integration of Russian speakers and multilateral cultural co-operation between EU countries and Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, will be turned into a foundation in 2013 (see also chapter 4.2.4).
The changes that took place in the late 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium have somewhat decreased the role of the state and municipalities in the governance of culture and as direct financiers of artists, cultural services, voluntary organisations and cultural production. At the same time, the role of the public authorities in providing capital investment for cultural buildings and facilities and for professional education in the arts and culture has become increasingly prominent. In other words, public authorities invest in infrastructure and highly trained and qualified manpower but expect that cultural and art organisations and institutions finance an increasing share of their current costs with their own income or revenues from other sources. EU policies, especially the programmes financed within the context of the Structural Funds, have linked public cultural policies more closely to urban and regional development and social cohesion policies. It should be added that Finland has observed strictly the criteria of the budgetary discipline of the EU Stability and Growth Pact, which, together with the aftermath of the economic recession of 1991-1993, curtailed public spending, including spending on the arts and culture (for the effects of this, see chapter 4.1, chapter 4.2 and chapter 6).