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Is Amsterdam dissolving its only independent advisory body?

It sounds great, that Amsterdam Arts Plan 2017-2020. The city is increasing the culture budget to almost 90 million a year. And there suddenly seems to be a vision: away with all those different advisory bodies, one capital 'basic infrastructure' and for the rest there is the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK). The municipality should stick to the main lines, not with individual subsidies.

To start with that budget increase right away: yes, more than 7 million will be added, but at most, this will allow Amsterdam to undo previous cuts. Much bigger is the other news: by housing all top institutions in a basic infrastructure, and leaving the rest to the board of the Art Fund, the role of the Amsterdam Arts Council (Akr) has been virtually eliminated.

But that is how it is regulated nationwide, right? True. The Amsterdam Arts Plan reduces the power of the advisory body, increases the power of the executive body. Both organisations therefore reacted completely differently.

Angry and alarmed, the Arts Council is:

"If the city council adopts the alderman's proposal, it will mean a big loss for the AKr in our role as adviser on art subsidies. In the future, our advice will only be sought on major institutions in Amsterdam's inner city."

And that advice is actually redundant, because the Arts Council may, for example, think that the National Opera should change something, but that company is bigger than the city and is funded by the state. What remains? Not much, according to the Arts Council:

"Our task of advising on grant applications for Free Space will also lapse. And with it our overview of possible crossovers and dynamics. In short, our core task in the current system will disappear."

Disband, then, this virtually exhausted Arts Council? But who will then provide independent advice? Who will monitor the multiannual plans and pay attention to the role of education?

Much more optimistic is the AFK, as it rightly sees that all institutions not in basic infrastructure should knock on its door:

"Unlike in the current situation, the AFK makes tailor-made performance agreements with these institutions, taking the nature, size and own strength of institutions as the starting point."

So a hefty increase in tasks for the AFK, which grabs power in the capital in one fell swoop. Is that a bad thing?

No, it need not be. Provided the municipality can ensure that the AFK is truly independent, acquires and retains sufficient substantive knowledge and, above all, is verifiable. Anyway, that is what the culture officers are for, although it is to be feared that in no time those will turn to an advisory body again.

For example, to the Arts Council.

Henri Drost

Henri Drost (1970) studied Dutch and American Studies in Utrecht. Sold CDs and books for years, then became a communications consultant. Writes for among others GPD magazines, Metro, LOS!, De Roskam, 8weekly, Mania, hetiskoers and Cultureel Persbureau/De Dodo about everything, but if possible about music (theatre) and sports. Other specialisms: figures, the United States and healthcare. Listens to Waits and Webern, Wagner and Dylan and pretty much everything in between.View Author posts

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