7 July 2016

Changing times for Brazilian artists

Brazil’s economic recession and political turmoil are having their impact on the cultural sector.

Bando de Palhaços performing during the occupation of the Ministry of Culture in Rio de Janeiro

Ministry of Culture re-established
Last May the decision of Brazil’s interim government to subsume the Ministry of Culture into the Ministry of Education to save money was reversed after artists protested, including top musicians like Caetano Veloso and Erasmo Carlos. Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Secretary of Culture, Marcelo Calero (34), was appointed as the new Minister of Culture. After joining the disputed interim government he said that ‘the only party of culture is culture’ and that he will be a minister of dialogue.

As is often the case when a new minister takes office in Brazil, several of the institutions run by the Ministry of Culture have had their leaders replaced. The National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) is now headed up by Kátia Bogéa, a historian and former superintendent of IPHAN in the state of Maranhão. Marcelo Araújo, a museologist and former State Secretary of Culture of São Paulo, is the new president of IBRAM, Brazil’s national museum institute.

Occupation of government buildings
Despite the re-establishment of the Ministry of Culture, protests by artists have continued. In many states, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, artists have occupied cultural ministry buildings since the end of May The artists hold daily cultural events with concerts, theatre performances, lectures and more, to unify Brazilians against the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, which they consider an act against democracy. They also want to raise awareness for social and political issues like inequality, discrimination and corruption.

Reform of Rouanet Law and internationalisation
Two main topics on the current Minister of Culture’s agenda are the reform of the Rouanet Law and internationalisation. The Rouanet law, or Federal Law for Cultural Incentive, is the most important of the many incentives for investing in national cultural projects in Brazil. It has been criticised for quite some time for enabling funds to be diverted inappropriately, financially supporting wealthy artists and offering companies a way to advertise for free. Minister Marcelo Calero wants the law to be reformed in such a way that it facilitates the internationalisation of Brazilian culture, since this is one of the priorities of his policy. There is international interest in Brazilian art and culture, as seen for example by the growing presence of Brazilian art in museums and private collections in other countries.

Cutbacks in culture and new models
For more than a year now, the economic recession has meant less revenue for Brazilian companies and consequently there has been less private donating and sponsoring of culture through the Rouanet Law. Government bodies at the municipal, regional and national levels have increasingly seen their budgets being cut, which has led to late payments to public institutes such as museums and theatres and growing debts. In response, museums have tended to prolong, postpone or cancel exhibitions, including international ones, and focus more on their own collections. In the state of Minais Gerais, for example, the Instituto Inhotim dismissed 30% of its staff. In Rio de Janeiro, the Theatro Municipal cancelled several opera, concert and ballet performances.

On the other hand, the Orquestra Filarmônica in Minais Gerais has managed to survive until now with a different management model based on a mixture of public and private funding and ticket sales. Performing arts festivals seem to be maintaining their vital force in their continuous search for different models of financing and management, as has been pointed out in the article Festivals fight on in a chaotic climate by Ruy Filho.

The Olympic Games and culture
Despite the budget cuts in culture, the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will focus strongly on promoting cultural activities. Brazilian cultural diversity will be celebrated  with more than 2,000 events and activities in the fields of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and other artistic forms that will take place in museums, cultural centres, theatres and public spaces throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro. The entire cultural programme is also available in the free app Culturi. Furthermore, Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Secretariat of Culture has created the Rio Cultural Passport, a document that gives free admission or discounts to more than 200 cultural institutions and establishments in Rio from May until September 2016.

Text by: Josine Backus

Sources:
MinC reforçará política cultural no exterior - Ministério da Cultura 5 July 2016 
Cresce a presença da arte brasileira em museus e coleções privadas do exterior - Estadão 1 July 2016
Crise força museus a cortar mostras e aumentar duração de exposições - Folha de S. Paulo 22 March 2016
Orquestras e teatros de ópera sofrem cortes de verbas em todo o país - Estadão 4 July 2016
Festivals fight on in a chaotic climate - The Stage 16 June 2016