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Success stories and challenges presented at the Regional Councils for Culture Forum

25 October 2022
Success stories and challenges presented at the Regional Councils for Culture ForumRCC Forum. Photo by Vytenis Budrys

The Lithuanian Council for Culture (LCC) invited the cultural community to the first live Regional Councils for Culture (RCC) Forum, which was held on 14 October at the Tesla conference hall of Kauno Dokas. The theme of the Forum “Culture Everywhere. Culture for All” echoed the objectives of the Sustainable Cultural Development (SCD) Programme to promote closer regional cooperation by sharing experiences and challenges.

The RCCs have been functioning in 10 Lithuanian counties since 2018. Until now, each RCC has had its own conference, but this year, members of the Regional Councils for Culture from different counties, representatives of municipalities, culture and art organisations, as well as culture and art creators have come together to discuss a range of issues related to the regional cultural policy.

Culture and art project trends in the regions: funding and lack of diversity

Albinas Vilčinskas, the Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Culture, who participated in the Forum, said he was pleased that the joint meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the successful things, as well as breakthroughs and challenges, and to find synergies between the budgetary and non-governmental sectors, institutions operating in the regions, and other bodies.

Asta Pakarklytė, the Chairwoman of the LCC, discussed the trends in regional funding for 2014–2022: “In 2021, the amount of funding allocated by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, together with the municipalities, to regional projects totalled as much as EUR 6.55 million. With the launch of the Sustainable Cultural Development Programme, funding for regions has almost doubled”. Ms Pakarklytė pointed out that 70% of SCD applications are submitted by municipal budgetary institutions, with 77% of them being funded. Compared to national calls, where only 21% of applications are submitted by budgetary institutions and only 16% are funded, there is a significant difference. In this case, the non-governmental sector should be strengthened in the regions. The Chairperson of the LCC mentioned that music, ethnic culture, interdisciplinary education and mixed events, libraries, cultural heritage applications are the most frequently submitted and funded, whereas music, theatre, literature, museums and fine art are in the top five of national calls, which highlights the disparities in the diversity between major cities and regions.  

Martynas Tininis, the Senior Analyst at the LCC Monitoring and Analysis Division, presented the results of the survey of regional cultural organisations. He was pleased to note that 306 organisations from 57 municipalities participated in the survey. The survey highlighted the predominance of ethnic culture, folk art, music and museums in the regions. However, there is a lack of projects in the disciplines of architecture, circus, design, photography, cultural heritage and dance. Mr Tininis mentioned that one in three organisations in the regions is planning to start new activities in disciplines such as dance, circus, and theatre. He also raised the issue of remuneration for artists, mentioning that artists involved in projects in Kaunas, Klaipėda, Panevėžys, Šiauliai, and Vilnius counties are paid less than the minimum wage, and they are working for free in Alytus, Marijampolė, Telšiai, and Utena counties.

Successful projects require mutual cooperation and engagement

Indrė Klimkaitė and Gintautas Kažemėkas, the representatives of Dusetos Cultural Fund, shared their best practices of successful implementation of the culture and art project in the Eastern Highlands Region. Ms Klimkaitė mentioned that the desire to explore the heritage of the Selonians, the cultural history of Dusetos, and the relationship with the locality was born out of personal motives: after moving from the city to this region, she felt a need to understand why this region has remained a source of creative ideas and educational activities, as well as the place of origin for a large number of well-known artists in Lithuania. She pointed out that the success of the project was due to the passion for the idea, the knowledge that it was not a one-off project, but the onset of something huge, the support of the community, a flexible team, and the feeling of “home” when organising the events in their region. Ms Klimkaitė said that the conference could be described as “(f)luxus – comfortable for everyone, yet flowing and flexible”. Mr Kažemėkas acknowledged that the project was about personal immersion in a place, a sense of place, and creating a sustainable rather than a “weekend” culture.

When presenting the challenges of Regional Councils for Culture and inter-institutional cooperation as well as the changes in the cultural field in the regions in greater detail, Dr. Margarita Janušonienė, the Chairperson of Alytus County RCC, stressed that Alytus RCC had been striving for cooperation between different institutions, less competition and more interdisciplinary projects, yet it had not achieved a major breakthrough. However, she was pleased to note that the members of the RCC were able to participate in the activities of the funded projects and witness different initiatives.

Daiva Riklienė, the Deputy Director of Vilkaviškis District Administration, gave a detailed presentation of the examples of accessibility of high quality cultural services and products provided by Vilkaviškis District Municipality, and their attractiveness to the public. She mentioned that “this year was the first year when seeing the professionalism of the people working in the field of culture the municipality raised its funding by 0.5% of the total budget”. Funding for culture in this county has increased from EUR 40 000 to EUR 210 000. Ms Riklienė stated that working groups were formed to organise various events, which made it easier to handle a wide range of events, from musical crafter to various open-air workshops, handicraft festivals, educational programmes, orchestra festivals, romance nights, etc.


Expecting a breakthrough in the regions

Lina Lukošienė, the Chairperson of Tauragė County RCC, Zigmas Kalesinskas, the Deputy Chairperson of Kaunas County RCC and the Head of Kaunas District Museum, Remigijus Vilys, the Chairperson of Panevėžys RCC, Vilma Griškevičienė, the Chairperson of Klaipėda County RCC, Oksana Judakova, the Member of Vilnius County RCC, spoke about the prospects for the implementation of the regional cultural policy and its funding in the discussion entitled “Is it time to stop being afraid?”. Dr. Rimvydas Laužikas, the moderator of the discussion, raised questions about the lack of regional identity, the quality of culture and art projects, and the engagement of different people in the projects, not only as spectators, but also as active participants.

Ms Griškevičienė mentioned that when it comes to regional identity, we have an inevitable combination of an ethnographic region and a territorial unit, which “has charm, and projects can be varied in terms of distinctiveness”. Mr Vilys noted that the idea of Sustainable Cultural Development has given confidence to municipalities with fewer projects to start looking for identity, famous people from their region and more unique events. Mr Kalesinskas stressed that cooperation and dialogue between professionals and communities is important for the development of regional culture and art.

The participants in the discussion raised questions about cultural activities, the continuation of traditions and the search for new activities. Ms Lukošienė pointed out two trends that have come to light when assessing regional culture and art applications, i.e. traditional events and new ideas: “The word ‘traditional’, although written in plain typeface, already screams that it must be funded, and it can be given a score of 100 points without even reading the application. Yet there is another type of applications, where the very first sentences tell you that the applicant is passionate about his/her idea, has given freedom to his/her imagination, and you read the application and find yourself already immersed in that event”. Ms Judakova noted that the ethnic cultural activities indicated in the applications are often clichéd and superficial, while there is a huge demand for some deeper and more involving activities. Mr Vilys emphasised the quality aspect of the project, “how the performers themselves feel, what conditions are provided”. He said that it was time for the Regional Councils for Culture themselves to stop being afraid of being uncomfortable when assessing the applications, “to stop being afraid of stating that not everything that is traditional is good”.

The participants in the discussion also wished that the new RCCs talk to local communities about their needs, desired changes and priorities. This would lead to the development of their own identity and distinctiveness of the regions.


Photos of the event:

Video recording of the event:

Photos by Vytenis Budrys.


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