Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Follow the money

How many New Zealanders live in Berlin? It feels like 93,537 but that might be somewhat exaggerated (in fact 370 New Zealanders are registered residents in Berlin. We’re picking most of them are either artists or in the creative business). Why do they come? 

Apart from the fact that Berlin is a casually cosmopolitan city that deeply appeals to New Zealanders, it is also swimming in cultural funding. This is kind of curious as the city itself is consumed by debt and jobs are hard to get. But just when you think the arts must struggle, the wealth of Germany slopes into town each year with a massive $NZ563 million for the arts. Just for Berlin. 

 And if that amount sounds like a recipe for champagne openings and stretch limos it is on top of funding by the city of Berlin itself of $NZ610 million and a further top-up of another $NZ200 million from outlying districts. That’s how the major theatre in the city can subsidise each and every bum comfortably eased into of its seats at around $NZ383. The visual arts only get a nibble at all this cash, just over 8 percent, but it still means $NZ86 million (close to three times CNZ’s annual funding budget) to play with each year. 

So what do Berlin artists and administrators do when they get together for a few drinks? What we all do. Complain about the shortage of funding.