The cultural participation landscape in the Netherlands is highly diverse and, to a certain degree, also fragmented. Cities and larger villages in the Netherlands have cultural centres, centres for the arts, libraries and/or civic recreation centres where cultural activities take place. Municipalities are the main source of funding. Some of the cultural and recreation centres are dedicated to specific groups in society, for example students, children or people from a particular cultural background. In rural areas some smaller villages have a multifunctional building (or ‘Kulturhus’ (culture house)) which facilitates cultural, educational, sports and other leisure activities. On a regular basis, a library bus offers the inhabitants of these villages the opportunity to borrow books. The amount of members of public libraries has decreased from 4.039.000 in 2005 to 3.707.000 in 2017.
Some cities have a ‘centre for the arts’ as well, which provides, for example, music lessons and painting workshops (mainly non-formal arts learning). But the amount of centres for the arts has decreased drastically from 237 in 2005 to 130 in 2015 because of cuts in culture budgets. The impact of these developments has been subject to debate (see also chapter 5.4). The centres for the arts were important employers for arts teachers. As half of these organisations disappeared, many arts teachers had to find new ways to employ themselves and find pupils. Most of them started to work as a one-person business, without funding. Some of them decided to cooperate in a collective business. It is not clear yet how these developments have influenced cultural participation rates, the accessibility, quality and diversity of out-of-school arts education, or the amount of teachers working in the field.
Governments do seem to have a growing interest in arts and cultural projects that aim to improve social wellbeing, societal participation and/or health of citizens. These projects are often funded by a combination of governmental bodies, public or private funds, third sector associations and/or banking foundations. In most cases these projects arise ‘bottom-up’, as government policy stimulates citizens and organisations to come up with ideas and initiatives.
An example is the programme Age Friendly Cultural Cities, which promotes active cultural participation among the elderly. There are also national and local programmes and measures for community arts projects that aim to improve the viability of neighbourhoods and artistic projects targeted at the inclusion of refugees, people with disabilities or migrant communities. In the past ten years, the amount of cultural interventions in health care and long-term care has increased as well. Over the past years, there has also been a growing interest in urban arts, often regarded as a subculture that specifically appeals to young adults. In 2015, the Cultural Participation Fund launched the programme Urban Arts Talent to stimulate the professional development of talented urban artists. Urban arts have also become part of the curriculum of some institutions for vocational or higher education.