There are initiatives in the Czech Republic that seek to promote participation in cultural life and different branches of Czech public administration (ministries, municipal authorities) and support them in two ways: by establishing their own cultural organisations or through grant programmes.
The Czech Republic is an advanced country in terms of its cultural infrastructure. It has a dense network of public libraries, and it is among the countries with the largest number of museums and galleries per 1 000 inhabitants and those numbers continue to grow. The number of monuments that can be accessed by the public are on the rise and, compared to 1990, the number of professional theatres has tripled. Non-profit organisations and the business sphere have become involved in building cultural infrastructure as well. An interesting fact is that 30% of theatres are self-sufficient, which is above the European average. The types of places that are part of the cultural infrastructure have also changed. Since 2000, former industrial spaces have begun to be used for cultural purposes and modern centres combining entertainment with culture, education and production activities have emerged. These are multifunctional centres, where learning and educational activities form part of a multigenerational programme based on providing people with an experience. Cultural activities are also offered by community organisations established by churches or religious entities. Their programmes tend to be dominated by activities for citizens with social and health disabilities. Linking cultural services to tourism has become a strong trend. There is a long tradition of ensuring that disabled persons are able to access cultural sites and to this end support is given to the construction of barrier-free structures and sites and to creating accessibility maps of sites and making them available to the public. For example, the League for the Rights of People in Wheelchairs has been mapping the accessibility of sites for more than a decade, and it uses modern information and communication technologies to this end – for example, alongside websites and online catalogues public libraries are/should be also typically equipped with accessibility maps for disabled people.
A priority is to focus on children and young people and foster in them a lasting relationship with the arts and culture. This has given rise to such projects as the library-based “A Night with Andersen” and an initiative prepared by artists called “The Whole Czech Land Reads to Children” and “Let’s Have Fun with Monuments”. Since the early 1990s there has been a programme (earlier known as Museum Gates Open) that seeks to change the traditional way of seeing museums as scientific institutions focused on their collections. This has led to the development of modern interactive exhibits, the Museum Night project (museum tours offered during the late evening hours), theatrical tours of sites (where guides in costumes try to share not just information with visitors but give them an unexpected encounter with the past). Every museum has a museum pedagogue (a specific university-level field of study) who works mainly with children using creative games and activities.
Cultural institutions also try to attract visitors by offering family tickets and discount admissions for certain age groups (children) and social categories (seniors, unemployed) and by offering special activities (e.g. Opera Night at Pilsen Theatre). Visitor rates also receive a boost from activities organised in connection with international initiatives. An example is Theatre Night (organised in the CR since 2013), Dance Day or Music Day, when dance and music performances take place all over the country. Heritage Days and Monument Doors Open Days are also traditionally organised where the public is granted access to places usually closed to them with an accompanying cultural programme for children and adults, and admission is usually free.
The Ministry of Culture (MC) has also become involved and in 2009 it launched a new sub-programme Mobility for All, which conforms with the goals of the government plan for financing the National Development Programme of Mobility for All. The sub-programme provides funding for making cultural facilities and buildings accessible to people with disabilities.
In 2013 the RE:PUBLIKUM was held (organised by the Arts and Theatre Institute, the Czech Office of the Culture Programme, MEDIA Desk CR, and Archa Theatre) on the subject of examples of audience development projects. The conference presented examples of interesting and well-functioning audience development projects in the CR and abroad. To accompany the conference, print and electronic versions of the publication “RE: Publikum: Audience Development Opportunities in the 21st Century” were published.
In connection with a conference in 2014 and 2015, other events were organised that focused on presenting successful projects relating to working with the public.
There are several examples of strategies combine participation in cultural life with the wider issue of civic participation and the development of civil society.
The State Cultural Policy for 2015-2020 applies a civic approach to culture (the aim is to highlight the role of culture for the professional and personal growth of individual citizens). The civic dimension of culture is behind the idea of enabling citizens to have a hand in shaping the programmes and activities of cultural institutions and cooperation between the public and private sectors.
In the Strategic Framework of Sustainable Development in the CR (2010-2015) culture is viewed as essential to the socio-economic development of the Czech Republic as it has a decisive influence on the human and social capital of society and its value orientations. Its aim is investment in life-long education and in the quality and accessibility of public cultural services, especially those focused on the development of leisure-time activities for children and young people in particular. More public budget expenditure on culture was adopted as one of the indicators of this concept.
The Concept of More Effective Care of Traditional Folk Culture 2011-2015 (a draft version of a new Concept to 2020) includes the use of traditional folk culture in the education process of schools and also as a possible tool for education around tolerance and against racism and xenophobia (e.g. as part of multicultural education). Identifying phenomena of traditional folk culture, the Concept stresses the involvement of civil society (a network of voluntary non-professional consultants).