8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture
Amateur arts associations have traditionally played an important role in the cultural life of Lithuania. Amateur arts account for a significant share of the activity of the cultural centres. Data shows that voluntary participation in amateur activities (numbers of groups, participants, events, etc.) has fluctuated, mainly due to economic and social reasons, and administrative reforms in the regions and municipalities. Access to culture for the rural population remains restricted due to low household incomes.
Expanded international links in the field of amateur artistic activity have become more prominent. Lithuania hosts a variety of international amateur art events: theatres (e.g., festival of the Northern Europe Amateur Theatre Alliance, NEATA, 2000; Baltic and North States Song festivals, festivals "Baltica"), orchestras, choirs, dance, folklore, etc. World Lithuanian Song Festivals, organised every four years, play an important role in the development of amateur art in the country (the last one was held in 2003).
The Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre started in 1941 and is the main state institution under the Ministry of Culture providing comprehensive methodical, administrative, management, and training support for local and regional cultural institutions, amateur art groups, festivals and international projects. The Centre is the headquarters of traditional Lithuanian Song festivals, a research centre for ethnic culture, and the initiator of annual art awards for amateur groups and performers.