6. Cultural participation and consumption
Last update: September, 2018
Over the past ten years, the strategy of cultural policy-makers has been to deal with more general issues, to fight to establish a new legal framework, to reform cultural institutions and whole sectors – mostly focusing on the conventional area of cultural policy, such as production of arts events or heritage restoration and protection. This means that policy debates about civic participation and citizenship, as well as instruments and forms of policy measures to promote participation in cultural life have not been dealt with much.
However, there are new initiatives related to audience development within cultural institutions and there are more and more voices arguing for wider access to cultural programmes and institutions. Most cultural organisations have activated their websites and started using social networks for building audience communities and new online payment solutions. Many theatres have introduced third-party ticket sale platforms or developed their own. Museums are slowly widening their access to their audiences with increasing number of programmes for children, families and niche audiences. Museum night is a typical example of this trend. Inspired by the success of the Museum night which is run as a civil society initiative, public museums are running their own museum festival: ten days in ten museums, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (muzejisrbije.rs).
Workshops and conferences on audience development, collaboration between museums, theatres and schools have become more common (by KC Grad in 2015, Nova Iskra and Creative Europe Desk in 2017, Museum association of Serbia in 2017 and Baza art in 2018 and many more). Numerous publications followed: a research on festival goers by the Institute for Cultural Development (Jokić, Mrđa, 2014); a collection of good practices in audience development by the Creative Europe Desk (Mihaljinac & Tadić, 2015); a research on audience development efforts of the civil cultural scene by the Association of Independent Arts Scene (Tomka, Dodovski, Vezić, 2016); and special research on the participation of children by Foundation Point (Tomka, Matić, 2017). Finally, Foundation NS2021 European Capital of Culture organized the “Audience in Focus” programme involving training followed by special call for projects aimed at audience development for cultural institutions, which represents the largest policy effort in audience development so far. Although audience development is an undisputed policy direction, there is still a lack of real systemic devotion in analysing, evaluating, awarding and supporting structural changes in cultural participation. Thus, there is much more to be done, especially in the fields of programming for specific groups of audiences, development of educational programmes for children and youth, geographic barriers and participation of rural population as well as opening up to tourism sector.
On the other hand, the attention of public authorities is focused on populist cultural manifestations that are in line with more general populist political communication that prevails in public realm. Those are manifestations that are usually free of charge (Beer fest, Days of beer, Guča trumpet festival) or do not have any artistic relevance (Days of bacon; Days of local hamburgers; Days of fish soup; etc.). Seeing their popularity, the authorities foster new types of outdoor festivals such as the Viminacium fest (an antique theatre festival at the heritage site near Požarevac), a concert of the Belgrade Philharmonic at the Danube and Belgrade opera events at the Belgrade Waterfront (a controversial and huge urban development project). For the Days of local hamburgers in Leskovac, the city authorities spent half million dinars on a public television broadcast while the yearly budget for all cultural projects was nine million.
Last update: September, 2018
The cultural market in Serbia was ruined during the 1990s due to the dissolution of the country, huge inflation rates and decreasing standards of quality of life. The fall of Yugoslavia also meant that audience numbers for cultural industries decreased. For example, potential viewers for popular movies decreased from 24 million in 1989 (in Yugoslavia as a whole) to 4.6 million in 2000. As the purchasing power of the population decreased, so did the number of buyers of cultural or artistic goods and services.
The Poverty Index in 1995 was 28.9%, in 2000 it was 36.5%, while in 2002 it was 14.5%. Again, in 2012 index reached the 24,6%, and 25,5% in 2016 meaning that almost 2 million inhabitants live at the risk of poverty. With such an index, Serbia has a high rank on the list of poorest European countries.
At the end of the 1980s, individual expenditure on cultural goods and services represented 80% of the total expenditure for culture. This, in itself, shows how large the art audience was and how strong and diversified their needs, practices and habits were to participate in cultural life. In 1993-1994, due to huge inflation (100% daily), the price of an art work, a film or a theatre ticket, became insignificant – both for users and for institutions. The subscription system collapsed – both for tickets to events such as the opera or subscriptions to reviews and journals. Audience development and marketing became senseless. Step by step, the cultural market starts to recover: art collectors are reappearing; online book sales and chain bookshops help the publishing industry to survive; cinemas are opening in shopping malls and the number of private theatres and venues is also growing.
Table 14: Audience and user figures, 2013-2016
|Number of visitors
Source: Office for Statistics, Serbia and Office for Statistics, Belgrade.
The Institute for Statistics and the Institute for the Research of Cultural Development have initiated a new research stream in 2014 with changed methodology (the first analysis is of 2013). According to the new methodology (in table 14) visitors of the most common cultural venues and institutions are rising slow and steady (except galleries). Cultural participation research shows that Serbian citizens are still used to visiting cultural venues and reading at home. Compared to other countries, the citizens of Serbia are near the EU average in most types of public cultural participation. This shows that despite hard living conditions, many people in Serbia still enjoy the cultural offerings.
Table 15. Cultural practices of citizens of Serbia
|Going to ballet and opera
|Going to cinema
|Visiting museums and galleries
|Going to a concert
|Reading at home
Sources: Cvetičanin (2006), Cvetičanin, Milankov (2011), Opačić, Subašić (2016)
Other research also highlights some trends and differences within audiences (Cvetičanin, Milankov, 2011; Opačić, Subašić, 2016). It has become a norm that women are more prone to cultural activities than men. The urban population visits more cultural events and has more affinity towards culture than the rural population. Finally, education also plays an important role in determining someone’s cultural taste: those who have been in school longer, are more appreciative of what cultural institutions offer.
Last update: September, 2018
Table 16: Household expenditure for private cultural participation and consumption, in RSD, 2011-2017
|Items (Field / Domain)
|Monthly household expenditure for culture and recreation in RSD per household member (2011-2016)
|Culture and recreation
|% Share of household total expenditure
Source: Office for Statistics, Serbia and Office for Statistics, Belgrade 2012 - 2018.
Last update: September, 2018
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.