There are 513 public cultural institutions in Serbia: 40 are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry, 17 under the provincial Government and 456 under local municipalities. There is some sort of distinction amongst them, as the Law on Culture recognises the National Cultural Institutions of Excellence title. These institutions have access to additional funding and the list grew from 22 to 60 ‘excellent’ institutions in only a few years. Such a great number of institutions with the highest significance is, according to many voices in the field, not balanced with their real capacity and the capacity of Ministry of Culture and Information to support and evaluate their work. The National Museum, National Archive, National Library and Republican Institute for Heritage Protection perform a key role in the overall system of cultural institutions. They also organise professional education and training and they provide monitoring and evaluation services. All these institutions are over-staffed and still lack new professional competences/skills in PR, marketing, fund-raising, human resource management, strategic planning, etc.
Public cultural institutions are facing many problems in their functioning. Their special infrastructure is old and often improperly maintained. Their capacities for contemporary interpretation and presentation are in most cases low. Financially, they are over dependent on public budgetary allocations (in some cases as high as 90%). Another big issue is the ban on employment which prohibits institutions to hire new staff, even when existing positions are lost due to retirement. Such policy – part of the wider austerity measures for the public sector negotiated with IMF – means the discontinuation of some institutions in which the key expert staff is too small for any institutional development.
To engage temporarily additional staff and knowledge, as well as to develop international partnerships, more and more cultural institutions are developing projects for international funders. Recently, an organisation from Serbia became a lead project organisation in the Creative Europe programme for the first time. In 2018, a record number of Serbian organisations received grants from the Creative Europe programme as well. (13 organisations participating in 14 supported projects).
Due to the long but interrupted tradition of corporate sponsorship and the current economic necessity of cultural institutions to fundraise for their projects, partnerships with the private sector could enable a faster development of cultural institutions.
Keeping in mind the current state of the Serbian economy, it is not paradoxical that the majority of sponsorship is currently in the form of sponsorship “in-kind” (in goods and services) which is not expressed in official budgets.
It is also noteworthy to underline that companies used to set up and finance their own art workshops, studios and groups, e.g. Steel Smederevo, Terra Kikinda, Copper mine in Bor, Mine in Majdanpek, etc. Only few of them are still active and receive financial support from the Ministry of Culture for their activities. Some cultural institutions have launched different initiatives to attract money from the private sector. The National Theatre created an “Association of Business Supporters” and the National Philharmonic established a special “V.I.P. Subscription Scheme”. The gallery of Matica srpska worked together with private sponsors to refurbish and equip a special room for children workshops. These initiatives represent a new approach to establish links between the arts and business.