Two tools for the next Minister of Culture

Door ENGAGEMENT ARTS, op Tue May 14 2019 22:00:00 GMT+0000

Elections are coming: the perfect moment for some fresh ideas. In a collective open letter, more than fifty cultural workers present two proposals 'to undo systems of exclusion and oppression in the cultural and artstic landscape in Flanders and Belgium'.

Lees hier de Nederlandse versie

Dear Future Minister of Culture,

The majority of the population is underrepresented and undervalued in the dominant cultural landscape: an inequality that can be seen in the way subsidised organisations are structured and run, in the way funding is distributed, and in the way the understanding of "good art" creates a standard of value. This is a democratic deficit. Today, we can no longer ignore this injustice and how it affects a large part of society.

For too long, both culture and the arts in Flanders and Belgium have been defined from the position of a cis-gendered, heteronormative, able-bodied, white, higher-educated, patriarchal subjectivity. Defined as such, culture and the arts serve a specific gaze and are borne out of systems of exclusion and oppression: These are systems we would like to see undone.

We need specific and concrete tools for the redistribution of power on all levels of institutions

In recent years, a growing group of cultural policymakers have recognized and stressed this problem. Hence, we see slogans about decolonialism and feminism appearing, as well as strategies to diversify audiences or attempts to create inclusive festivals or programs. We even see the emergence of a code for cultural governance that stresses the importance of diverse leadership. And yet, taking all of these efforts into consideration, the structures of our state-funded art institutions remain largely untouched.

The current attempts to diversify are simply too slow and one-dimensional. We need a fundamental paradigm shift. We need specific and concrete tools for the redistribution of power on all levels of institutions, including those at the top.

Out of 198 boards of art organisations in Flanders, 157 has a male president. That’s almost eighty percent. Of these presidents first names, 23 appear at least twice, and not for the same individual. Some names (Marc, Mark, Herman, Jan, Tom) appear more than five times. For more information go to ‘The Skewed Gender Balance in the Boards of Flemish Artistic Organizations’.

Here are two proposals:

1) The Shadow Cabinet

The first tool is The Shadow Cabinet: A collective of twenty people who will help you to counteract the many blind spots present in the field of culture and the arts. The Shadow Cabinet will be made up of people who identify as women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, people with non-binary gender identities, fat people (*), differently educated people, single parents and caregivers, people of different ages, and people in precarious living conditions.

The Shadow Cabinet will take well-informed and concrete steps to change the embedded biases and hierarchies in the field of culture and the arts.

They will represent the groups of people who are typically labelled "minorities" by the current leading elite. The Cabinet will be present until the end of your legislative term, and they will be paid for their work.

We are confident that The Shadow Cabinet will, together with you, take well-informed and concrete steps to change the embedded (i.e. historical) biases and hierarchies in the field of culture and the arts. This work doesn’t end but it begins with their presence.

2) Quota

The second tool is quota. While our overall argument is that quota should be implemented on all levels of institutions (management, staff and programming), our focus today is to see change at the top – more specifically, on the boards of institutions.

Board members serve a public function and are accountable for the decisions made in the name of the institution. Boards define the mission of an institution by appointing the directorship position, and they function as crucial actors in moments of crisis and transition.

For majority-minority cities, we suggest that at least fifty percent of elected board members are female and that at least fifty percent are people of color.

We propose a binding, politically mandated quota for all the boards of publicly funded art institutions. For majority-minority cities, we suggest that at least fifty percent of elected board members are female and that at least fifty percent of elected board members are people of color.

For other cities, as well as for rural areas, we suggest that the quota concerning gender and colour reflects the regional demographics. As with The Shadow Cabinet, we would like to call for a proactive inclusion of people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, people with non-binary gender identities, people with fat bodies, differently educated people, single parents and caregivers, people of different ages, and people in precarious living conditions.

Board members will receive the required support, so that they will be able to fully engage themselves.

It is time to walk the talk

We are convinced that these tools, when implemented, will help to drastically change the cultural field. We look forward to working together with you towards a fundamental paradigm shift in our institutions and organizations, so that our artistic and cultural activities more accurately reflect the society in which we live today.

(*) See Fat Acceptance Movement

The collective writing of this letter was coordinated by ENGAGEMENT. If you want to sign this letter, send an email with your name and your preferred professional description to, with subject ‘Sign two-tools-for-the-next-minister’.

  • Aay Liparoto, artist
  • Ad van Rosmalen, directeur Sint Lucas Antwerpen
  • Adva Zakai, artist
  • Agata Jastrząbek, artist
  • Agnes Quackels, artistic director, BUDA Arts Centre Kortrijk
  • Aike Roodenburg, student theatre science UG
  • Alan Van Rompuy, artist
  • Alex Reynolds, artist
  • Alice De Mont, artist
  • An Van den Bergh, stafmedewerker kunst- en cultuurparticipatie Demos en zakelijk coördinator Het Scheldeoffensief vzw
  • An Vandermeulen, cultural & social worker, Beursschouwburg
  • Anastasia Tchernokondratenko, art worker, Kosmonaut vzw
  • Andrew Hardwidge, artist
  • Anke Coumans, Lector kenniscentrum kunst en samenleving Groningen
  • Anna Muchin, music artist, performer, writer
  • Anna Rispoli, artist
  • Anne-Laure Dogot, artist
  • Annelies Van Assche, researcher
  • Antje Van Wichelen, kunstenaar
  • Anouk De Clercq, artist
  • Anne Pontégnie, curator
  • Bára Sigfúsdóttir, dancer and choreographer
  • Bieke Purnelle, directeur RoSa en journaliste
  • Bram Coeman, productieleiding Kunstencentrum Buda
  • Britt Hatzius, artist
  • Charlotte Beaudry - Artiste plasticienne
  • Charlotte De Somviele, art critic
  • Charlotte Van Buylaere, coördinator AIR Antwerpen
  • Chloe Chignell, choreographer
  • Christophe Meierhans, artist
  • Courtney May Robertson, artist
  • Constanze Wouters, artist
  • Dagmar Dirkx, researcher voor ARGOS
  • Dan Mussett, freelance artist
  • Daniel Blanga Gubbay, co-direction, Kunstenfestivaldesarts
  • David Bernstein, artist
  • Delphine Deguislage, artist
  • Delphine Hesters, researcher, facilitator, cultural manager
  • Devrim Bayar, Curator WIELS
  • Diederik Peeters, artist, SPIN vzw
  • Dounia Mahammed, artist
  • Dries Douibi, co-direction, Kunstenfestivaldesarts
  • Eitan Efrat, artist
  • Eléonore Valère-Lachky, dancer, choreographer, producer
  • Elies Van Renterghem, artist
  • Ellen Decoodt, art worker
  • Elli Vassalou, artist
  • Els Silvrants-Barclay, curator and social worker
  • Erien Withouck, artist, researcher for ARGOS
  • Esther Severi, dramaturge Kaaitheater
  • Eva Decaesstecker, medewerker communicatie Kaaitheater
  • Eva Giolo, artist
  • Eva Wilsens, coordinator Manyone
  • Fabienne Seveillac, performer
  • Florence Cheval, curator
  • Florence Raats, artist
  • Francesca Pinder, producer
  • Gabriel Schenker, dancer and co-Director of the dance BA at the Manufacture, Lausanne
  • Gala Moody, artist
  • Gilles Michiels, art critic
  • Hadewig Kras, voice-activist
  • Hans Bryssinck, artist, SPIN vzw
  • Hans Maes, Senior Lecturer, History and Philosophy of Art, University of Kent
  • Hannah De Meyer, performer, artist, writer
  • Heike Langsdorf, artist
  • Helena Kritis, Programmer (audio)visual arts, Beursschouwburg
  • Hendrik Storme, Artistiek directeur Klarafestival, Festival van Vlaanderen Brussel en B'Rock Orchestra
  • Herman Venderickx, technieker Kaaitheater
  • Ilke Cop, communicatiemedewerker Ancienne Belgique
  • Ilse Ghekiere, performer, writer and activist
  • Inneke Van Waeyenberghe, editor & producer
  • Iris Bouche, choreographer & researcher inclusive dance practices
  • Jacopo Buccino, dancer and Freelance artist.
  • Jan Martens, choreographer
  • Jemima Kulumba, Director Biennale of women in art
  • Jeroen Laureyns, docent hedendaagse kunst LUCA School of Arts, Campus Sint-Lucas Gent
  • Jill Bertels (Billie Q), visual artist
  • Job Rietvelt, Theaterfestival Boulevard 's-Hertogenbosch in Nederland
  • Joke Hoeven, cultural worker, de Brakke Grond
  • Jonas Rutgeerts, Dramaturge and performance theorist
  • Joséphine Bonnaire, artist
  • Judith Wielander, independent curator of contemporary art
  • Julia Eckhardt, artistiek leider Q-O2 werkplaats voor muziek en geluidskunst
  • Julie Pfleiderer, artist
  • Julie Vandenbroucke, directeur Arteconomy
  • Justine Dandoy, Directrice Centre culturel de l'Arrondissement de Huy
  • Justine Maxelon, artist
  • Kate McIntosh, artist, SPIN vzw
  • Katelijne Meeusen, coördinator communicatie Kaaitheater
  • Katja Mater, artist
  • Katleen Van Langendonck, Artistic Direction Kaaitheater
  • Kato Six, artist
  • Katrien Reist, arp: Brussels
  • Kerstin Schroth, General Manager Great Investment vzw
  • Karolien Chromiak, artist
  • Kevin Fay, performer
  • Kim Hiorthøy, artist
  • Klaartje Oerlemans, business director GRIP
  • Lana Willems, programmator en projectcoördinator, Kaaitheater
  • Laurence Rassel, director, erg
  • Laura Deschepper, art worker, SPIN vzw
  • Laura Mwanambuka, Projectmedewerker Ancienne Belgique
  • Liesbeth Stas, freelance productiemanager
  • Lieve Van Stappen, visual artist
  • Liz Kinoshita, artist
  • Loraine Furter, graphic designer
  • Louise Tanoto, artist
  • Lucile Choquet, performer, feminist decolonial
  • Lucy McKenzie, visual artist
  • Manon Kanjinga Janssen, verantwoordelijke cultuurparticipatie 30CC
  • Marnie Slater, artist
  • Marcia Poelman, Antwerpse LGBT-koepel Het Roze Huis en organisator van het Antwerp Queer Arts Festival
  • Maryam K. Hedayat, artist
  • Marie Logie, director Auguste Orts
  • Marie Wauters, communicatieverantwoordelijke Klarafestival
  • Marion Marguerite Denné, gallery assistant
  • Mathieu Charles, performer/artiest
  • Mathilde villeneuve, art critic and curator
  • Matthieu Goeury, artistic coordinator, Vooruit
  • Matteo Lucchetti, chief curator, Visible (Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto/Fondazione Zegna)
  • Maya Oliva, dancer and choreographer
  • Meggy Rustamova, artist
  • Melissa Mabesoone, artist, performer
  • Merel Severs, performer, theatre maker
  • Meri Pajunpää, dancer, choreographer
  • Mette Edvardsen, artist
  • Mette Ingvartsen - Choreographer
  • Michiel Reynaert, bediende, kunstenaar
  • Michiel Vandevelde, freelance artist
  • Mylène Lauzon, Directrice La Bellone
  • Nadia Mharzi decolonial feminist citizen
  • Naomi Ntakiyica, researcher, BOZAR
  • Natasja Mabesoone, artist
  • Nathalie De Boelpaep, zakelijk directeur NTGent
  • Natalie Gielen, Etcetera & freelance art worker
  • Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi, Dramaturge & Performing Arts Curator /Adhoc Platform, Coordinator of Mahmoud Darwich Chair/Bozar
  • Nicolas Delamotte-Legrand, Artist, Art Teacher, Artistic Coordinator & Curator
  • Niels Van Tomme, director ARGOS
  • Nora Mahammed, programmator bij deBuren
  • Noureddine ARBANE, activiste dans le social
  • Olivia Hernaïz, artist
  • Ondine Cloez, dancer, choreographer
  • Pascal Gielen, Professor Sociology of Culture & Politics
  • Pauline David, Curator at Le p'tit ciné
  • pavleheidler, poet
  • Peter Aers, kunstenaar
  • Petra Van Brabandt, Head of Research, Sint Lucas School Of Arts Antwerpen
  • Pieter Ampe
  • Pieter De Buysser, artist
  • Pieter Geenen, artist
  • Pieter Van Bogaert
  • Philippine Hoegen, artist
  • Rachel Gruijters, artist
  • Rachida Aziz, auteur en oprichtster van Le Space
  • Rebecca Jane Arthur, artist
  • Renée Goethijn, theatre maker
  • Rob Ritzen, cultural worker
  • Robin vzw
  • Robrecht Vanderbeeken, ACOD vakbondsverantwoordelijke cultuurwerkers
  • Rósa Ómarsdóttir, artist
  • Ruth Loos, Sint Lucas School of Arts Antwerpen, Beleidsmedewerker Onderzoek
  • Sabrina De Croock, Funding, Klarafestival
  • Sarah Hendrickx, artist and researcher at Sint Lucas School of Arts Antwerpen, medewerker 51%
  • Sarah Vandenbussche, Planning en productie bij Compagnie Cecilia
  • Sarah Vanhee, artist
  • Shari Aku Legbedje, Sociaal Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten
  • Simon Asencio, teaching assistant, Académie Royale des Beaux Arts de Bruxelles
  • Sirah Foighel Brutmann, artist
  • Siska Baeck, freelance artist
  • Sofie De Caigny, directeur Vlaams Architectuurinstituut
  • Sonja Simonyi, independent scholar
  • Stephanie Auberville, choreographer
  • Stijn Schiffeleers, production for ARGOS
  • Tessa Martin, performer
  • Tim De Paepe, theatre maker, playField
  • Tine Van Goethem, BOZAR, Manager Audience Engagement
  • Tom Bonte, Director BEURSSCHOUWBURG
  • Tunde Adefioye, KVS City-Dramaturg
  • Tuur Marinus, artist
  • Valerie Vernimme, general management Kaai Theater
  • Vera Tussing, artist
  • Wouter Hillaert, kernredacteur rekto:verso
  • Xiri Tara Noir, artist
  • Zeynep Kubat, teacher Sint Lucas School of Arts Antwerp, researcher, writer and editor