Public cultural infrastructure in Flanders (the so-called ‘nebular city’, see 1.3.1) is in large part a result of the interplay between the Flemish Community, the provinces, and local authorities. This balance has changed in recent years, however, as a result of the ‘Internal State Reform’ (see 1.2.4). This divested the provincial governments of most of their cultural competences and intensified a decentralisation of local cultural policy in Flanders. The lower levels of government nonetheless remain an important provider of funding for cultural and culture-related initiatives (see also 7.1.2).
A substantial part of the funding of cultural organisations by the Flemish government is respectively arranged through the Arts Decree, the Cultural Heritage Decree and the Decree Socio-Cultural Work for Adults. Opportunities are also provided by the Participation Decree (see 6.1) and, since 2019, the Decree on Supralocal Cultural Activities (“Decreet Bovenlokale Cultuurwerking”, see 1.2.4). Through this new legislative framework, the Flemish government aims to stimulate collaboration between players of different cultural disciplines (or collaboration between players in culture and other spheres), beyond the borders of municipalities. The Decree on Supralocal Cultural Activities offers project funding for cultural organisations, multi-year funding for intermunicipal partnerships involving culture, and a centre of expertise (OP/TIL) aimed at supporting projects and partnerships. Funding through these various decrees has been subject to budget cuts during the current and previous legislative sessions (see also 7.1.3).
Until recently, a group of major cultural institutions with a close relationship to the Flemish government (‘Instellingen van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap’) was excluded from existing decrees. The legal framework on the funding and governing of most of these organisations has been integrated into the Arts Decree and the Cultural Heritage Decree, giving rise to new official categories: ‘art institutions’ or ‘kunstinstellingen’ (such deSingel, Ancienne Belgique, or Opera Ballet Vlaanderen) and ‘cultural heritage institutions’ (currently only one, the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp). Each of these sign an official management agreement with the Flemish government and is subject to specific procedures of quality assessment.
Though also affected by budget cuts, these major institutions have been spared more than other organisations and even saw a steady increase in overall funding throughout the years. Both the former and the current minister of Culture championed them as “ambassadors” and as serving as models for others. Under Sven Gatz (2014-2019) the group of art institutions was expanded with two more organisations (Vooruit and Concertgebouw Brugge). Current minister Jan Jambon (2019-2024) announced he would introduce a new category of funding for major institutions (‘kerninstellingen’), similar to the art institutions (see 2.3 and 2.9).
 There has been debate on the position and role of major art institutions in the (subsidised) arts field, see Overbergh, Ann, Katrien Kiekens, and Dirk De Wit. 2019. ‘First among equals? The art institution today’.