7. Financing and support
Last update: November, 2020
The following data refer to public culture expenditure in the whole of Belgium in 2018. Each figure is the sum of expenditure on cultural services and on broadcasting and publishing services. Public culture expenditure (for all levels of government together) represents:
- EUR 283.4 per capita
- 0.7% of the GDP
- 1.4% of total public expenditure
These data were taken from Eurostat, the National Bank of Belgium, and Statbel. Compared over the period 2009-2018, the percentage of public expenditure on cultural services in the GDP has remained stable (0.5%), while that of expenditure on broadcasting and publishing services dropped from 0.3% in 2009-2010 to 0.2% in 2011-2018. The share of expenditure on cultural services in the total of public expenditure amounted to 0.9% in 2009-2015, after which it rose to 1% in 2016-2018. The share of expenditure on broadcasting and publishing services has remained stable (0.4%) from 2011 onwards (compared to 0.5% in 2009-2010). For details on culture expenditure by the Flemish government and other levels of government, see 7.1.2.
 I.e. COFOG-categories 08.2 (‘cultural services’) and 08.3 (‘broadcasting and publishing services’). Category 08.2 includes, for example, the administration of cultural affairs, the operation or support of libraries, museums, theatres, exhibition halls, monuments, etc., the production or support of cultural events such as concerts, stage and film productions or exhibitions, and subsidies to support artists and cultural organisations. Category 08.3 includes, for example, the regulation and operation of broadcasting and publishing services, support for the gathering of news or the distribution of published works, and support for the construction of broadcasting facilities or equipment for newspaper, magazine or book publishing. See the Eurostat manual on COFOG.
Last update: November, 2020
Table 6 presents figures on culture expenditure by the different levels of government in Belgium. Each figure is the sum of expenditure on cultural services and on broadcasting and publishing services (see 7.1.1 for detailed explanation).
With regard to Flanders, especially the data on the Flemish government (which combine data on Community and Region), the Flemish Community Commission in Brussels, and the Federal Government are important. The row of ‘Lower government levels’ includes the expenditure on culture by local and provincial governments in Belgium. As of 2018, provincial governments in Flanders are largely divested of competences on culture. These competences (and part of the related expenditure) were transferred to both the local governments and the Flemish government (see 1.2.4).
According to data provided by Statistics Flanders, lower government levels in the Flemish Region spent EUR 2 108 272 754 on ‘culture and recreation’ in 2018 — or 10.6% of their total expenditure that year. These budget figures follow a different (broader) categorisation than those presented in Table 6 and have not yet been consolidated. Therefore, they were left out. Before 2016, a part of the funding that local governments received from the Flemish government was designated for spending on culture. Today, these means are transferred in a different way and are no longer earmarked for culture (see 1.2.4).
Given the complex governmental structure of Belgium and transfers of budgets between and within levels of government, detecting trends in data on culture expenditure can be difficult. We should also bear in mind that the Flemish minister of Culture is not responsible for immovable heritage. The data on culture expenditure mentioned in Table 6 therefore stretch different policy fields within the Flemish government. This further complicates the act of linking decisions by policy makers to expenditure figures.
The drop in the share of culture in the total expenditure of the Flemish government from 3.3% in 2013 to 2.1% in 2018 can be partly explained by political reform. Due to the sixth State Reform, the Communities and Regions took over competences from the Federal level (none of them directly related to culture). Total expenditure by Communities and Regions rose in 2015, causing a relatively smaller share of expenditure on culture. The budget cuts in, for example, subsidies for cultural organisations or the public broadcasting services are very likely another cause of fluctuations in the expenditure figures.
Table 6. Public cultural expenditure by level of government, 2013 and 2018
|Level of government||Total expenditure in EUR* in 2013||% share of total in 2013||Total expenditure in EUR* in 2018||% share of total in 2018|
|Federal Government||94 300 000||0.1||195 800 000||0.2|
|Flemish government||1 237 500 000||3.3||1 124 900 000||2.1|
|French Community||560 100 000||3.8||664 200 000||3.3|
|German Speaking Community||7 900 000||2.4||14 400 000||3.6|
|Walloon Region||48 300 000||0.5||42 700 000||0.3|
|Brussels-Capital Region||15 400 000||0.4||34 700 000||0.6|
|French Community Commission in Brussels||7 000 000||1.7||13 100 000||2.6|
|Flemish Community Commission in Brussels||3 7400 000||24.6||39 500 000||19.1|
|All lower government levels||1 103 400 000||3.8||1 248 100 000||3.9|
|Total of all government levels in Belgium||2 902 100 000||1.3||3 239 300 000||1.4|
National Bank of Belgium (2020)
* At the date of expenditure
 The Common Community Commission in Brussels is not represented in table 6, because there is no expenditure on culture on this level of government. However, the total expenditure of the Common Community Commission was taken into account when calculating the share of culture in the total expenditure of all governments in Belgium.
Last update: November, 2020
Table 7 displays expenditure by the Flemish government on culture in 2019 (EUR 510 238 000, or 1.1% of total expenditure by the Flemish government in 2019). Here, ‘culture’ designates a specific range of activities and sectors, including arts (such as the disciplines falling under the Arts Decree and the funds for literature and film, see 7.2.1), cultural heritage (such as museums, archives, and intangible heritage), and socio-cultural work for adults (including circus and amateur arts). This, however, excludes expenses on media (such as broadcasting services) and immovable heritage (such as monuments and protected sites), which each reside with separate areas of competences — and, in some cases, with different ministers.
In 2009, expenditure figures for culture amounted to EUR 472 million. Over a ten-year period, these figures were at its lowest in 2016 (EUR 447 million) and peaked in 2018 (EUR 524 million). Under former ministers of Culture Joke Schauvliege (2009-2014) and Sven Gatz (2014-2019), a series of budget cuts took place. Each of these affected parts of the culture budget in a different way. More detailed figures on the evolution of parts of the culture expenditure are available for project funding for the arts and multi-year funding for arts organisations. Within the arts we see a steady increase over the years in the budget for large art institutions (‘kunstinstellingen’), while multi-year funding for other arts organisations has remained relatively stable.
Beside budget cuts, transfers between the Flemish and other levels of government (e.g. the local and provincial levels) also affect the figures of total expenditure on culture (see also 7.1.2).
New budget cuts were announced for 2020 by current minister of Culture Jan Jambon (2019-2024), among them a 6% cut in funding for socio-cultural organisations and many arts organisations. Initially, this also meant a severe decrease in project funding for the arts. At the time of writing, this has been partially undone (see also 2.3). The budget for funding cultural heritage organisations, on the other hand, was raised.
Table 7: Expenditure by the Flemish government on culture: by sector, 2019, in 1000 euro
|Field/Domain/Sub-domain||TOTAL in 1000||TOTAL in %|
|Cultural Heritage||64 369||12.6|
|Flanders Literature||6 663|
|Flemish Audiovisual Fund (Film Fund)||17 845|
|Other (funding for arts organisations, project funding, other)||165 654|
|Socio-cultural work for adults||69 251||13.6|
|Total for area of competence of culture||510 238||100|
 This calculation takes into account direct government expenditure on its own administration (EUR 27 852 000). It should be noted that this government administration deals with the areas of competence ‘culture’, ‘media’ and ‘youth’.
 Note that these figures differ from those presented in 7.1.2 and in table 6, which display expenditure in 2018, within COFOG-categories 08.2 and 08.3. The Flemish policy field of Culture, to which table 7 refers, uses different categories.
 Hesters, Delphine, Joris Janssens, and Simon Leenknegt. 2018. ‘De projectenparadox. De evolutie van projectsubsidies en beurzen via het Kunstendecreet (2006-2017)’. In Cijferboek Kunsten 2018, Brussel: Kunstenpunt, 367–87.
Last update: November, 2020
Different government levels in Flanders and Brussels have support programmes aimed at (individual) artists and cultural workers. On the Federal level, there are specific regulations concerning social security for artists, discussed in 4.1.3. The main funding schemes are located at the level of the Flemish Community, where most forms for supporting professional artists are integrated into the Arts Decree.
Artists can apply for (short term and longer term) grants, which allow for the research and development of new ideas, residencies abroad or reflection on one’s oeuvre. Project funding is available for individual artists (max. three years), which can serve for developing or producing work, presenting it, artistic reflection, participatory work or a combination of these goals. ‘Breakthrough projects’, on the other hand, are aimed at supporting tailor-made trajectories of artists on the verge of an international breakthrough. The Flemish government also meets travel and subsistence costs for artists presenting their work abroad and offers support for a number of international residencies. Artists who unite and organise (e.g. in theatre companies or music ensembles) can equally apply for project funding (the modalities for organisations are similar to those for individual artists) or structural funding (max. five years).
The mentioned types of funding apply for artists active in different disciplines. The exception are professionals working in the fields of literature and audiovisual content, who can apply for grants through respectively Flanders Literature and Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), funds that function independently from the Arts Decree. Another exception are circus artists, for whom the Circus Decree provides individual grants for developing their oeuvre (max. one year) and project funding for creating and presenting work (max. three years).
Furthermore, we should mention the grants for passing on craftsmanship through a teacher-pupil trajectory. These support craftspeople and (applied) artists (for max. two years) when passing over their expertise — considered as a form of intangible cultural heritage — to a pupil. Amateur artists can apply through the Decree on Amateur Arts for refunding travel costs when participating in an international project.
Beside funding programmes, the Flemish government has also taken measures to stimulate entrepreneurship among artists and facilitate them in gaining a private income (see 7.3). Another form of support for artists and cultural and creative workers comes from funded organisations, such as the centres of expertise (‘steunpunten’) for the professional arts (Flanders Arts Institute), for cultural heritage (FARO), for socio-cultural work for adults (Socius), for circus arts (Circuscentrum) and supralocal cultural activities (OP/TIL), who offer information and networking opportunities to individuals and organisations active in the cultural sector. Flanders Architecture Institute fulfils a similar role for architects and VI.BE for musicians (except classical musicians). Cultuurloket offers artists and culture workers advice on business related and juridical questions. Flanders DC offers guidance to entrepreneurs in the creative industries.
Some local governments offer (project) funding for local artists and cultural workers (such as the Cities of Antwerp, Ghent or Mechelen). The Flemish Community Commission (VGC), the representative of the Flemish government in the Brussels-Capital Region, offers funding possibilities for projects and artist career trajectories.
 This section only discusses recurring support programmes for artists and cultural. For a discussion of the temporary measures for mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on individuals in the cultural sector, see the separate COVID-19 overview on Flanders.
 For an overview of funding schemes, see the website of the Department of Culture, Youth & Media of the Flemish government. For a discussion of evolution of project funding through the Arts Decree, see Hesters, Delphine, Joris Janssens, and Simon Leenknegt. 2018. ‘De projectenparadox. De evolutie van projectsubsidies en beurzen via het Kunstendecreet (2006-2017)’. In Cijferboek Kunsten 2018, Brussel: Kunstenpunt, 367–87; Leenknegt, Simon. 2019. ‘Waarom zijn projectsubsidies belangrijk in de kunsten?’ Kunsten.be.
Last update: November, 2020
Section 7.2.1 provides an overview of the current public funding for artists, including Flanders Literature (which supports writers, translators and illustrators) and the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF, which offers funding opportunities for individuals working in the audiovisual sector). Aside from these, Flanders does not have government funds specifically oriented towards artists.
Belgium has a system of funds for subsistence security (‘fondsen voor bestaanszekerheid’), which, for example, set up additional training, provide guidelines for secure working conditions or manage additional social benefits for employees of companies and organisations. These are organised according to collective labour agreements in officially delineated sectors (see 4.1.5), such as the ‘performing arts’ (which in this case include theatre, dance and music), the ‘socio-cultural sector’ (which in this case includes museums and visual arts organisations), and the audiovisual sector. Funds active in these sectors are, respectively the Performing Arts Social Fund, Sociaal Fonds voor het Sociaal-Cultureel Werk (SFSCW), and Mediarte. Note that their benefits are directed at employees (e.g. musicians receiving wages from ensembles or actors employed by theatre companies), not at independent freelancers.
For a discussion of private foundations, whose contributions directly or indirectly support artists’ activities, see 7.3.
For a discussion of the (temporary) public and private funds aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on individuals in the cultural sector, see the separate COVID-19 overview on Flanders.
Last update: November, 2020
Grants and bursaries supplied by public funding bodies are discussed in 7.2.1. Some of these public funding bodies have support programmes aimed at young or recently graduated talents, such as the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), which, for example, offers wildcards for upcoming directors and screenwriters.
The Flemish government yearly awards the Ultimas (the former ‘Vlaamse Cultuurprijzen’), prizes for individuals and organisations with merits in different cultural disciplines (including an Award for General Cultural Merit and the BILL Award for promising young artists). The Flemish Government Architect awards and stimulates (together with Flanders Architecture Institute) innovating research and ideas by architects and other designers with a BWMSTR LABEL. Recently graduated architects and artists can tender for their ‘Meesterproef’-contest, which provides the laureates a chance to realise a public project. Because provincial governments in Flanders no longer hold competences with regard to culture (since 2018; see 1.2.4), provincial awards for upcoming and established artists and architects have ceased to exist.
Next to public governments, publicly funded organisations and private foundations also organise awards and scholarships for artists (see also 7.3). Among those with a long-standing tradition, we could mention the Godecharle Prize (for young visual artists), the Queen Elisabeth Competition (for classical musicians), and the BelgianArtPrize (for visual artists; formerly known as ‘Prijs Jonge Belgische Schilderkunst’). As in other countries, some awards have been criticized for a lack of decent remuneration, opaque procedures, or the activities sponsors are involved in. A recent example is the contestation over the BelgianArtPrize, which had its editions in 2018 and 2020 cancelled.
Numerous other awards for established and upcoming artists are held in various disciplines, such as the Supernova Awards (classical music), the Music Industry Awards (pop and rock), Prijs van de Vrienden v/h S.M.A.K. (visual arts), the awards of Film Fest Gent, the Henry van de Velde Awards (design), the prizes of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Arts and Sciences (KVAB, for artists and researchers), etc. Some of these are organised in collaboration with Schools of Arts (see 5.3) or with the intermediary support organisations mentioned in 7.2.1. In theatre and literature, it is not uncommon that awards span different Dutch-speaking territories. Examples of this are the Libris Literature Award or the Taalunie Toneelschrijfprijs (for playwrights).
Beside grants, bursaries, scholarships and awards, we should also mention the many residency programmes offered by organisations in Flanders and Brussels to young, mid- or later-career artists. Some of the organisations mentioned in 7.2.1 also offer (international) networking opportunities for artists through holding events and meetings or participating in fairs.
Last update: November, 2020
There are different federations and associations in Flanders and Brussels that represent the voice and interests of artists or (arts) organisations, such as NICC, State of the Arts (SOTA), De Acteursgilde, ArtistsUnited, VAV, De Scenaristengilde, oKo, MuziekOverleg, Sociare, RAB/BKO, or cult!. Some federations and associations active in the field were or still are directly funded by governments (on various levels). In its previous term, the Flemish government has spoken out against this form of support. Former Minister of Culture Sven Gatz stated in his Policy Memorandum (2014-2019) that the government should not intervene in affairs of advocacy.
The Belgian labour unions ACV, ABVV and ACLVB have divisions focussing on the cultural sector. Labour unions receive public support through regulations of labour and employment (on the Federal level).
Last update: November, 2020
Artists and cultural organisations draw from a diverse range of sources of income, both public (funding from the Flemish, Federal, local, and/or international level) and private (such as ticketing, membership fees, patronage, sponsorship, etc.). Series of figures on income structures exist for organisations receiving multi-year funding through the Arts Decree (for the period 2007-2016) and organisations funded through the Decree Socio-Cultural Work for Adults (for the period 2007-2014). In both cases, the mean ratio between public and private income remains relatively stable throughout the years.
Former Flemish minister of Culture Sven Gatz (2014-2019) ordered two studies (in 2015 and 2017) to get an overview of private financing of culture in Flanders. These concluded that, although different opportunities for this do exist, there is no widespread ‘culture’ of private financing of the sector — especially so when compared to other regions and countries. The studies identified as causes a lack of expertise in the cultural sector about the opportunities for private financing, a limited interest in financing culture among private donors and sponsors, and a restricted scope of government policy on these matters.
Other research finds that cultural goals represent about 10 to 12% of individual donations to charity in Belgium. The most recent data on crowdfunding campaigns for culture in Belgium suggest that 17% (or EUR 4.2 million) was spent on creative projects. Recent figures indicate that around 19% of corporate givings (by both small- and large-scale companies in Belgium) are aimed at culture and cultural patrimony, most of which go to causes in music, architecture, and visual arts. Next to these companies, there are hundreds of philanthropic foundations active in Belgium, many among them in the domain of art and culture. Prominent philanthropic foundations and corporate giving programs that provide support for culture are the King Baudouin Foundation (under which ca. 500 different foundations reside), SPES (which offers grants to artists in different disciplines), CERA (which focuses on social-artistic and participatory projects), the National Lottery (which also acts as sponsor), and Sabam for Culture (which offers grants for producing and presenting repertoire of Sabam-members, see 4.1.6). With regard to sponsorship of culture in Flanders and Belgium, there are few figures available.
Policy makers have shown interest in stimulating private funding of arts and culture for quite some time. Measures taken in earlier legislations included a tax shelter system (see 4.1.4) for audiovisual productions (since 2003) and performing arts (since 2017), the establishment of Cultuurinvest (an independent investment fund that existed between 2006 and 2017) and microcredits for artists (such as the ‘minitoelagen’ in 2008). Partly as a reaction to the mentioned studies, former minister Gatz published a concept note devoted to private financing and entrepreneurship (2017). This note announced a number of initiatives, such as establishing a network of financial institutions that supply tailor-made credit and financing opportunities for the cultural sector, initiating Cultuurloket (see 7.2.1) — an organisation that acts as information portal for the culture sector for all matters of entrepreneurship, administration, complementary financing, etc. — and enhancing cross-sectoral collaboration through a system of open calls — the ‘innovative partner projects’, which aim to both diversify the revenue streams in the culture sector and boost innovation in other sectors.
Current minister of Culture Jan Jambon (2019-2024) declared he would continue (and possibly expand) some of the existing measures with regard to private funding and entrepreneurship. It should be noted that initiating or adjusting fiscal measures for stimulating philanthropy and sponsorship in culture would in many cases require negotiation between the Flemish and the Federal level, where a large deal of the legal framework for these matters resides (as is the case with, for example, tax shelters; see also 1.2.6).
 For an analysis of artists’ income and their socio-economic position, see Siongers, Jessy, Astrid Van Steen, and John Lievens. 2016. Loont passie? Een onderzoek naar de sociaaleconomische positie van professionele kunstenaars in Vlaanderen. Ghent University; Siongers, Jessy, Mart Willekens, Lucas Pissens, and John Lievens. 2018. Wie heeft het gemaakt? Een onderzoek naar de sociaaleconomische positie van architecten en designers in Vlaanderen. Ghent University. With regard to the diversity of income structures of arts organisations, see Van de Velde, Ward, Delphine Hesters, and Bart Van Looy. 2013. ‘Kunstenorganisaties op zoek naar inkomsten. Welke businessmodellen zijn haalbaar?’ In Kunstzaken. Financiële en zakelijke modellen voor de kunsten in Vlaanderen, Brussel: Kwarts, 4–25.
 Leenknegt, Simon. 2018. ‘De ins en outs revisited. Analyse van de opbrengsten en kosten van organisaties met meerjarige subsidies via het Kunstendecreet (2010-2016)’. In Cijferboek Kunsten 2018, Brussel: Kunstenpunt, 335–66; Janssens, Joris, and Dries Moreels. 2011. De ins & outs van het Kunstendecreet. Een blik op de opbrengsten en uitgaven van Kunstendecreetstructuren (2007-2008). BAM/MCV/VAi/VTi.
 Deckmyn, Sam (ed.). 2008. Boekstaven 2008; —. 2009. Boekstaven 2009; —. 2010. Boekstaven 2010; —. 2011. Boekstaven 2011; —. 2012. Boekstaven 2012. Brussel: Federatie van organisaties voor Volksontwikkelingswerk (FOV); Post, Mathijs, and Joris Smeets. 2015. Boekstaven 2015. Brussel: Federatie van organisaties voor Volksontwikkelingswerk (FOV).
 Sonecom, Prométhéa, and Observatoire de Politiques Culturelles de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. 2019. Étude sur le Mécénat/Sponsoring d’entreprise. Brussel. This report also considers tax shelter arrangements as corporate patronage.
 Mernier, Amélie, and Virginie Xhauflair. 2017. De stichtingen in België - Rapport 2017. Brussel: Philantropy & Social Investment Baillet Latour Chair, 14. This report examines two types of foundations with philanthropic goals (‘stichtingen van openbaar nut’ and ‘private stichtingen met een doelstelling van algemeen belang’) and concludes that 20% of these are active in arts and culture.
 Jambon, Jan. 2019. ‘Beleidsnota Cultuur 2019-2024’, 16-17; —. 2020. ‘Strategische Visienota Kunsten’, 16-17. For a more detailed discussion of private funding and entrepreneurship in Jambon’s policy statements and their relation to the history of cultural policy in Flanders, see: Wellens, Nikol. 2020. ‘Hybride economie’. Kunsten.be. 23 July 2020.