Memo October 2000


A memo sent to local correspondents, friends and acquaintances of The Budapest Observatory in October 2000

Dear Colleagues,

I believe that in the past month we have managed to improve quite a lot on our web-site so that it can really be a reference point for financing, culture and east-central Europe. The growth of the 'Country by country' page is particularly noteworthy and the EU-Observer* section has started rolling (and collecting digital moss), too.

Public Grants
In a month's time, on Friday, the 1st of December, from half past 4 pm, I am going to co-moderate a session based on our project on public grants at the Ottawa World Summit of arm's length agencies, for more information, see summary. (My partner will be David Poole, Head of Media Arts at the Canada Council.) The remaining time will be used for updating and expanding our collection - the practice of Austria, for example, would be a useful contribution. Also about Latvia and the Czech Republic, who are attending the summit, anyway.

The most outstanding profile has just been added to our Public Grants chapter: its size was one of the reasons why the presentation of the selection and financing procedure at the National Endowment for the Arts took us several weeks to process after it reached us by mail. How many people in the world might be interested in the workshop secrets of dishing out cultural grants: 30 000? 3000? Or altogether 300? Who knows. For them this will be an exciting piece, a sort of Whitham Report. For us, east-central Europeans the authentic English (American) terms used in the profile are of particular value.

Best Practices
This report tells you how in Croatia an alternative film festival was put together and has been made financially sustainable.

The rise in number and quality of the cases brings us closer to the point, when comparisons, analyses and conclusions can be drawn from them. Your observations are welcome, as usual. To generalise from a few examples is always a great temptation, but the risk decreases with the growth of authentic cases.

Question of the month
In the heart of the Buda Castle district, a splendid neo-gothic building is owned by the Hungarian Cultural Foundation. The name suggests a governmental formation but it is one in its genesis only. The state donated the building to the foundation 8 years ago and it has led an autonomous life ever since, with no subsequent state grants for its operations; the bulk of the income is the revenues generated from the building - renting rooms, running a small hotel etc. Gabor Koncz, executive director of the foundation (also on the board of our foundation) believes this is a unique construct.

However, this reminds me of the Pyramid in Tirana. Do you know of similar cases, when the main or exclusive state contribution to a cultural undertaking was by donating real estate with the potential of generating income?

Sponsoring and Taxes
In order to clarify some points in the Hungarian legislation I had to apply to the highest source. A substantial four-page response arrived from the State Secretary at the Ministry of Finance which enables us to complete and correct the presentation of this country.

The Hungarian 'one percent law' has created interest internationally: now you can study it starting out from this page .

And what about the other countries in the region? No news in october. The work on this chapter must progress in november to collect ground for our ambition (see next paragraph).

After Hanover
The draft report of the Hanover meeting (observatories of the world unite!) has been sent out. Hopefully the final version is available soon here or nearby. If the idea raised in Hanover gains flesh, The Budapest Observatory is inclined to act as world coordinator of sister-observatories with regard to the theme of sponsoring and legislation.

Open Society Institute
In spite of the proximity and the working cooperation with other parts of the Soros network, my first contact with the (new) person in charge of culture at OSI Budapest took place in mid-october. She is Lidia Varbanova, an economist by education and familiar to most of the addressees of this message.

Houses of culture
These houses (centres, palaces) in a way were a typical feature of communist cultural policy. In a way, because they partly had their own national historic antecedents as well as near-equivalents in the west, too. But the way they were administered and financed was characteristic of state socialism before the Wall went down.

What happened to them since? Have there been comparative analyses of their fate after 1990? Can you guide us to sources on the way they are financed in your or any other country in east-central Europe?

An opportunity for junior colleagues
The remaining two months from 2000 may be enough for an ambitious junior colleague of yours to compose a draft lecture in 2000 words in response to the announcement received from Glasgow and Aachen: see tender .


 *Just received, un-official information from Brussels: the the call for proposals 2001 would be published around the 1st December. Likely deadline for applicants: beginning of March and the results to come beginning of June.