Amateur arts and folk culture
There is a well-recognized tradition of amateur arts and folk culture in Serbia. Since the time of the Socialist Yugoslavia, as the emancipatory instrument, state has been prone to supporting amateur associations. Many of these have become notorious for travelling the globe with their performances, presenting the rich and diverse tradition of folklore. At this moment, official cultural policy is also supporting amateur arts and this support is legitimized in the Law on Culture, and Act 72, devoted to amateur arts. According to the Law, responsibility of funding, supporting and providing space for amateur associations is transferred to local public authorities. Ministry is also supporting these actors through calls for grants. Since amateur and professional organisations are applying for the same calls, there is no data on the quantity of such support.
Amateur associations receive support from other sources – Provincial Government and local municipalities. Just in Belgrade, several large amateur festivals receive support from the city like the Festival of Belgrade Amateur Choirs or the Amateurs for Their City Festival. DADOV, amateur theatre from Belgrade received a status of city cultural institution of special significance and Coalition of Amateur Arts Association receives regular support from the Belgrade city officials.
Partly as a result of official support, number of amateur associations is large and rising. Although there is lack of official and trustworthy statistics, many approximations show that amateur associations are an important form of cultural organisations in Serbia (Vukanović, 2012). Number of active members in these associations range from 300.000 to 500.000 in various mapping documents, with up to 3.500 recognized organisations.
However, it is also important to note that despite official and financial support from the Ministry and other governing bodies, many organisations still face numerous difficulties (Vukanović, 2012). Although state allocate funds for numerous activities, buying expensive music instruments, costumes and other equipment is still problematic because cultural budgets in general are very limited; space for rehearsals is another issue for many, especially those that deal with music; amateur organisations are under represented in many areas of the county; and finally further research, mapping and collaboration amongst amateur organisations and with other sectors is much needed.
There is a systemic problem regarding public support to folklore arts. There are no public educational programmes for folklore choreographers nor public support for these jobs. In several municipalities, there is a coordinator for amateur and folkloric ensembles within the municipal’s cultural centre, but the fate of amateur folklore ensembles usually depends on the enthusiasm and managerial capacity of its leaders. In October 2014, the Association of Folkloric Ensembles of Serbia held a one hour concert in 150 cities and villages to raise awareness about their unsettled status, the lack of support and their contribution to the preservation of intangible cultural heritage of Serbia.
Cultural houses and community cultural clubs
Cultural centres as “houses of culture” were created throughout Serbia immediately after World War II, even in the smallest rural communities. These centres make up more than one fourth of all cultural institutions in Serbia. Their principal role was to host cultural associations and amateur arts activities, as well as to present art works from the major cultural institutions (exhibitions, films, theatre plays, etc.).
During the 1990s, most of these centres survived by renting their spaces to local businesses such as small shops, billiard clubs and jackpot machines. They also gave their premises to local amateur groups and associations for their programmes. Today, there are more than a hundred active “houses of culture”. 80 of these entered the “Capacity Building Programme” supported by the French government and organised by the Centre for Professional Continuous Development of the University of Arts, Belgrade. Within the research project “Models of city cultural policies in Serbia” (2018), the fifteen biggest cities were explored. The research confirmed the importance of polyvalent municipal cultural centres that are usually in charge for numerous extra activities such as festivals, art colonies, etc. Centres usually dispose of a big iconic building in the centre of the city that is a heritage building or a project specifically developed for cultural centres 1960s. At this moment, most of these centres’ equipment needs to be renovated. This specific problem is linked to the restitution of old heritage buildings that were nationalised after WWII (e.g. the cultural centre in Pančevo). There is a search for alternative models. In the city of Užice, an old unused casern is given to NGOs, art collectives and private businesses (the last ones are covering the electricity and heating expenses of the whole building through rent). In some cities, the authorities are considering purchasing the building from the owners, but in general the situation demands involvement of central authorities.
The role of cultural associations in the past 10 years was extremely diversified: ranging from those created to promote state nationalistic cultural policy, to associations created to fight against such policies. There were also amateur artists’ associations, artists’ unions, etc. The most important cultural associations created during the 1990s regrouped artists around a certain vision, to break internal and external co-operation barriers. Groups such as “Dah Theatre”, “Led art”, “Škart”, “Fia” and “Remont” have widely contributed to the revitalisation of the cultural field and have introduced new ways of management and networking in Serbia. Amateur art associations, which were created during the period of socialism, have decreased both in number and in activities, not being able to find a new mission and a new purpose in the changing circumstances / conditions.
Throughout the 1990s, newly created associations and NGOs were very active. As an alternative to the established cultural system, they succeeded in getting international support and recognition. Due to this fact, many of the leaders of these NGOs were given the opportunity to participate in different management programmes and leadership training courses, which gave them new and better capacities to function in comparison to those running associations or cultural institutions in a traditional manner.
Although competent in fundraising, NGOs do not have a large income from public funds in Serbia due to the fact that local authorities only give 0.2%-10.7% for project calls from the cultural budget (the highest amount for project calls usually goes to festivals). Thus, NGOs rely on foreign funds (from Creative Europe to foundations such as ECF and Charles Le Mott) or use crowd funding. “Do you need Remont” (2018) by Remont is the most comprehensive fundraising action and besides basic crowdfunding included art sales and art auction, in kind donations in services (translations, marketing, print, cleaning, etc.) and goods (computers, technical equipment for exhibitions, etc.). Numerous organisations and persons gave support (41) and the same number participated in the Indigogo crowd funding campaign. The financial aim was achieved, but 80% of the participants comes from the art and culture community and not from businesses or wider philanthropic circles.