COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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Cultural workers held a strike in May, seeking a specific pension scheme for the sector and overturning of cuts.

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Poland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and debates  

4.2.1 Conceptual issues of policies for the arts

"Theatre is not a product / viewer is not a client"

In March 2012 the Warsaw Theatre Meetings was held. This time, however, after each play a protest letter addressed to the authorities was read. The "Theatre is not a product / viewer is not a client" open letter states that actors, directors, theatre art directors, for the first time since Martial Law was introduced in Poland in 1981, are trying to speak with one voice relating to the theatre sector. The letter is a response to the decision of officials to replace theatre directors with managers and points out the inadequacy of organisational authority and a significant reduction in funding of theatres. It is also an expression of fear about commercialisation of the theatre and how changes made in the management may lead to a decline in the quality of performances. The case of Warsaw has been used as an example of accidental and irresponsible decision-making as well as a lack of strategic planning for the theatre scene. In 2012 subsidies for Warsaw public theatres were reduced again by another 12% and as a result dropped from 91 million PLN to 80 million PLN. Moreover, one of the most important and most distinguished Polish scenes, Drama Theatre has an uncertain future due to some doubtful administrative decisions. It seems however that the letter and action itself did not influence any changes within the local cultural policy.

Artists' protest

On 24 May 2012 many cultural institutions were closed because of an artists' protest. "Day without art" was an action directed at pointing out the difficult social situation of Polish artists and creators. It's been the first time in modern Polish history when artists were fighting for their rights. The protest initiators stated: "We demand that work starts on creating a system that is not casting out artists from society!" There is no comprehensive system of supporting artists and creators, even though their work requires specific solutions in the social and pension insurance system, which have not been applied. The creative process involves investing huge amounts of work, time and money, most often with great dedication and personal risk. Artists and creators are the manufacturers of socially engaged culture, increasing the quality of urban spaces and living standards of its inhabitants. Artistic work is reflected in the attractiveness of cities and builds social capital. Artists create common goods used by the promotion agencies, developers, tourism industry, but also citizens. The protesting artists pointed out that no one feels responsible for their social situation - most creators of culture don't have a permanent job, they are struggling to make a living. They work irregularly and earn poorly. They are also the first victims of budget cuts in cultural institutions and adverse changes in the labour market. A significant illustration of the situation is a photo of Zbigniew Libera holding a sign "I am an artist but that doesn't mean I work for free" taken during the protest. The main demands of the art world are to create a specific pension system for cultural sector workers and to leave the 50% costs deduction intact (for more information on changes in tax law see chapter 5.1.5). The artists' action was supported by public and private culture institutions all around Poland such as: National Museum (Warsaw), Contemporary Art Museum (Warsaw), Contemporary Art Gallery Zachęta (Warsaw), Contemporary Art Center Łaźnia (Gdańsk) and many more. However, the initiators of the strike strongly emphasised that they do not demand special treatment exclusively for their group. Taking artists as an example, they raised a wider problem of the labour market in Poland and of all the people, whose special work circumstances do not allow them to be employed on labour contracts and thus are not covered by the public insurance system.

Right to Culture - International Conference

In November 2013 an international conference on the right to culture took place. It was organised by the National Centre for Culture and the Wroclaw- European Capital of Culture 2016. Its main purpose was to start a discussion about the need to enter the "right to culture" to the Additional Protocol of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950. Council of Europe experts, foreign guests, representatives of Polish culture and science discussed the limitations on access to culture. The Possibilities of expanding culture despite the barriers and to amenities created by the Internet was also discussed. It was discussed whether the restrictions on access to culture is not the result of legislative issues.

Survey: Labour market of artists and creators in Poland

The survey: Labour market of artists and creators in Poland carried out at the University of Economy, in partnership with the Pro Cultura Foundation, aimed to identify trends and problems in the labour market of artists and creators, in terms of different professional sectors. Conclusion of the report is that the labour market of artists in Poland is a highly deregulated market, driven by demand. It is a buyer's market, in which, in the absence of objective criteria for the work of art, it is often not possible to tell whether the product is solely the result of effective marketing, or a work of a talented artist. A characteristic feature of the supply side of the market is the low degree of substitution of the talents and skills of artists by technology, but also for the same reasons, the artists have limited possibility (and willingness) to take jobs in other sectors. Artists often provide work regardless of the level of wages, yet in the situation of exceptionally talented (or effectively promoted) artists extremely high salaries can be encountered. The picture of the market selected groups emerging from our field research, confirmed the general trends identified, although it should be borne in mind that only a part of the observation can be applied to the entire group, the majority of these relate to the various fields of art, and even subgroups of artists. As shown, this is a market in which revenue is uncertain and irregular, but may reach very high levels. Professional success is not always a guarantee for achieving a high level of financial stability. Employment contracts are usually supplemented by other employment forms. Social security in the form of medical insurance and pension schemes, in the absence of a friendly system, begins to be viewed as a luxury, reserved for the rich. The level of unemployment is relatively low in this market. Our results on the employment of artists suggest that the labour market already develops signs of the so-called "intermodal mobility of labour" , which may mean a gradual increase in the number of jobs for artists outside the cultural sector, such as the creative industries (for more information look at: http://rynekartystow.pl/userfiles/files/raport_rynek_pracy.pdf).


Chapter published: 20-08-2015

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