Traditional and amateur art is linked to municipal community centres (cultural centres) located throughout Latvia. The cultural policy guidelines Creative Latvia 2014-2020 recognise the important role of participation in the arts and the role of community centres, which is the basic level of cultural provision in each (even a very small) municipality.
Cultural centres are the main support base for cultural processes outside of Riga. The major tasks for cultural centres are as follows: to maintain infrastructure in order to accommodate amateur art activities; to secure availability of professional art in the regions; and to sustain intangible cultural heritage.
The number of cultural centres, similar to the number of other cultural institutions, has been sharply reduced during the transition period in the 1990s. The number of cultural centres has decreased from 891 in 1990 to 556 in 2018 (Central Statistical Bureau), still making a dense network of cultural venues throughout the country. The great majority of the centres is situated outside Riga, providing the basis for cultural activities and cultural participation. A similar network is also created by the municipal public libraries (789 in 2018 according to the data of the Central Statistical Bureau) – institutions that also provide a space for public interaction and communication.
During the last years, numerous cultural centres all over Latvia have been reconstructed and their infrastructure improved, taking advantage of different support schemes, often EU Structural Funds. According to the information of the Ministry of Culture up to 2009, 74% of the cultural centres in Latvia have been reconstructed.
In 2018, cultural centres hosted 66 200 participants in 3 448 amateur art groups, while in other premises only 431 amateur art groups (with 10 700 participants) carried out their activities.
Folk art, or its contemporary interpretation, is the basic activity for a great majority of amateur art groups (especially dance and folk ensembles). Choir singing is another significant aspect of the amateur art sector. Once every 5 years, the best amateur choirs and dance groups are selected to take part in the Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Celebration, which is among the most important cultural events in the country. Along with similar celebrations in Estonia and Lithuania, it is included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. The last festival took place in the summer of 2018, gathering about 43 000 participants. Municipalities own and manage cultural centres. The Latvian National Centre for Culture (under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture) has a coordinating role in regard to the policy development in the fields of intangible cultural heritage, folk art and amateur arts, as well as it is supervising and organising the Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Celebration. It is also organising different events, festivities, and training seminars involving amateur art groups all over the country. To keep the tradition of the Song and Dance Celebration alive and maintain its quality, culture centres and amateur arts groups were partly supported by the state. In 2007 and in 2008, the Ministry of Culture assigned direct support to the salaries of 264 leaders of amateur art groups. In 2009, these subsidies were cancelled due to the economic crisis. Recently, these subsidies are being renewed. Municipalities are responsible for the infrastructure and activities taking place in cultural houses.
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