Toneelhuis artistic director Guy Cassiers – along with the entire arts sector and oKo, the arts federation and advocate – is extremely concerned about the cuts in cultural subsidies that that have been imposed by the Flemish government unilaterally and on very short notice. A government that saves money in this way intervenes in the excellence of our arts and the future of the entire sector.


The Flemish government wants to make substantial savings on subsidies for the arts. Organizations that receive a structural subsidy from the Flemish government in 2020 must trim their expenditures by 6%. That also goes for Toneelhuis and for all of the artists who form its core. Art organizations are facing a 3% reduction in their subsidy from Flanders. Hardest hit within the sector is the amount allocated for project subsidies, which has been slashed by 60%. In 2020, project subsidies and grants will drop to 3,392,000 euros. In 2019, a total of 8,466,000 was still available, while in 2018 it was 12,145,000 euros.

Overleg Kunstenorganisaties (oKo), the advocate and employers’ federation for more than 220 art organizations in Flanders and Brussels, considers this a highly regrettable decision. According to Leen Laconte, director of oKo, “In its coalition agreement, the Flemish government says that it wants to focus on culture, excellence and international allure. At the same time, the entire arts sector – art institutions and organizations as well as individual artists – must face drastic cuts. How the government will manage to make these plans consistent with one another remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the arts sector has not yet been consulted about this.”


Guy Cassiers endorses Leen Laconte’s analysis: “The consequences of this decision affect everybody. If arts organizations need to economize, they have a few options: look for other sources of income, for example, or eliminate part of their programming. Given the government’s very late decision to make cutbacks in 2020, the first is no longer feasible. The commitments for 2020 have long been made. Economizing leads to a weakened sector. This has disruptive consequences for inflow, collaborations, efficiency, employment, and ultimately for our audience. For ten years now, since 2010, we have been confronted with cutbacks amounting to more than 25 million euros. Because of that, many steady contracts have had to be replaced by freelance agreements and short-term contracts. In the meantime, arts organizations have continued to set high standards of quality for themselves.”


The government proposes to make much greater savings by cutting back substantially on project subsidies and grants. Project grants give artists the chance to make a mark and to innovate. Cassiers and the entire field find this part of the government’s decision particularly regrettable. Such a large reduction is an obstacle for the future of the arts. And there is no real alternative at hand. Together with the entire sector, Toneelhuis is therefore asking Minister-President Jan Jambon to quickly restore the project subsidies to their rightful level.

Because the effects of this cutback will very soon be evident and the sector wants to use its expertise and professionalism to work together with the government on solutions, the entire sector – and thus also Toneelhuis – is asking to quickly be able to enter into consultation with the Minister-President.