Switzerland has a very rich and diversified cultural life. In the rural regions, local cultural associations play an important role, and participation in cultural life is linked to living traditions (see chapter 6.4). In the cities, an important number of cultural events in a broader sense (street parades, ethnic festivals, etc.) have taken over this function. Nevertheless, there are also many initiatives to promote participation in cultural life in a narrower sense, for example, the “Museum Night”, which offers free admission to all museums for the duration of one night. It is organised at different times of the year in various cities in Switzerland. A Swiss-wide programme is the “museum passport”, which offers admission to 250 museums all over Switzerland. Switzerland enthusiastically takes part in international programmes such as the “European Heritage Days “.
Most of these activities – whether private or public – are planned and realised at city or cantonal levels. But there are also federal government programmes to support participation in cultural life. Two examples include:
- the projects funded by the Culture and Society Section. It supports cultural projects dedicated to topical social issues and that contribute to furthering mutual understanding between regional, language, ethnic, or other communities (see chapter 2.6). The Section supports projects that reflect and transmit cultural practices and social development; and
- Bibliomedia Schweiz. This is the “Library of Libraries”, which, as a public foundation, is committed to library development and reading promotion. As key information hubs, the three Bibliocentres of Bibliomedia provide a broad range of up-to-date books for children, young people and adults in all national languages as well as in several foreign languages. The three centres are located in each of the major language areas, namely, in the cities of Solothurn, Lausanne, and Biasca. 50% of the funds for Bibliomedia come from the federal government, via the Federal Office of Culture, while the other 50% are provided by the cantons.
Pro Helvetia regularly launches theme-based programmes and programmes highlighting other countries for four-year runs. The theme-based programmes focus on important questions pertaining to Switzerland’s cultural identity and reflect Pro Helvetia’s awareness of its policy task to nurture mutual appreciation domestically. The programmes highlighting other countries contribute to facilitating the artistic-cultural exchange between Switzerland and other countries or regions of the world. They are chiefly initiated at the request of governmental partners or partner institutions abroad. The country programmes serve Pro Helvetia as a vehicle for implementing projects that cultivate and maintain cultural interaction with countries abroad.
Another significant source of activity in Pro Helvetia comes from the SDC-designated countries, where educational and training facilities for such cultural activities as theatre, dance, music, or photography are initiated and financed, or indeed permanent exhibitions, concerts or exchange events. 60% of Pro Helvetia’s financial resources flow out of the country; see chapter 1.2.2).