The state is the founding body of national cultural institutions and the local government administration (voivodeship, districts and municipalities) of local cultural institutions.
There are 64 national cultural institutions that are led or co-organised by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. The full register of the National Institutions of Culture led by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage is available on its website.
It is clearly visible that local government entities are the dominant founder of cultural institutions in Poland. The state runs a relatively small number of units, focusing primarily on the activities of museums. When it comes to theatres, the overwhelming majority is owned by local governments, mainly cities with poviat rights and voivodships. Libraries are almost exclusively run by local governments, mainly municipal governments. The ownership of galleries and exhibition institutions is distributed among local governments, in particular cities with poviat status, and private ownership. Galleries, next to cinemas, are the most privatized cultural institutions. Local government cinemas are mostly run by municipalities; the same is the case for community centers and related institutions.
The situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic creates additional threats to the functioning of cultural institutions. At the time of writing, a second lockdown of the cultural sector exacerbates the existing shortages of funds for culture. The process of unfreezing and recovering the full capacity to operate depends not only on the epidemiological situation or the demand for the services offered, but above all on the amount of subsidy funds that may be included in the budget plans of the founders of cultural institutions for 2021.
Apart from the current problems, there are systemic issues as well. The financing system of cultural institutions focuses on public expenditure on culture and treats financing from private sources as complementary. The implemented forms of support for culture under this model led to an increase in its structural disease, i.e. the dependence of the functioning of the cultural sector on short-term subsidies and grants, which results in the lack of stability and the possibility of long-term planning in culture.
Many postulates regarding the financing of cultural institutions were verbalized during a series of debates of the National Conference for Culture (OKK) in 2017, attended by representatives of the artistic and scientific communities and representatives of the government. The mainstream of the debate was related to the joint efforts of the artistic community to ensure financial stability of public cultural institutions in the perspective longer than the financial year, the permanence of the autonomy of the institutions and the need for cooperation of all entities of the organisers. There was a demand to create a new law, and the newly drafted act should take into account the specificity of various types of cultural institutions.