Culture is back on the agenda. But in contrast to Trump’s proposals to scrap funding to America’s most significant cultural agencies (the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting), in France the arts seem (fingers crossed) to be taking a more prominent, prioritised role.
Culture has featured in the policy proposals and values of both Macron and Le Pen, who will contest the French presidential election on 7 May. During François Hollande’s five-year mandate, the culture budget has taken a bit of a bashing, despite all promises for it to be maintained. Instead, it shrank by around €430m, compared with his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s last budget.
Macron, running for the centrist party En Marche! (founded just last year!), wants all schoolchildren to have access to cultural and artistic education, proposing an annual €500 “culture pass” for young people. Strongly pro-European, he wants to also launch an “Erasmus” for cultural professionals, including artists and curators. Finally, he is also looking to create an endowment for the renovation and upkeep of heritage properties, as well as a €200m fund to support cultural and creative industries in France.
Le Pen, who has temporarily stepped down as leader of the far-right Front National, has made no overall budget commitment, but, as part of her focus on French patrimony, wants to increase funds for heritage and conservation by 25%. Le Pen’s funding plans for culture also include the creation of a digital platform for popular philanthropy and sponsorship. A major plank of her cultural programme is the development of centres for artistic production that will host residency programmes for artists of all ages and disciplines—offering lodging and studio space—to focus on supporting local contemporary art scenes.
Let us hope – whatever the outcome come 7th May – that culture in France may see some benefits.