For discussion
on 26 November 1998

LegCo Panel on Home Affairs
Sub-committee on Long Term Cultural Policy
Structure of Arts and Culture in Overseas Countries


At the meeting of the Sub-committee on Long Term Cultural Policy on 31 October 1998, members requested the Administration to provide information on the structure of arts and culture in overseas countries. Relevant information in respect of the situation in a number of major overseas cities and countries such as the United States (New York City), Canada (Vancouver and Toronto), the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Australia (New South Wales), Japan and Singapore is provided as follows -

United States - New York City

2. In New York City, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is responsible for sustaining and promoting the cultural life of the City. Many of the cultural institutions in New York reside on state-owned properties. The DCA provides operational support to major cultural institutions and groups residing on state-owned buildings or land; capital design, construction and equipment funds for these institutions and cultural groups; and programming opportunities for arts organisations etc. It also provides funding support for the operational capital and programme expenses of non-profit cultural institutions. Funding comes from city budget appropriation, federal and other sources.

3. The Commissioner for Cultural Affairs is appointed by the Mayor of New York City. He is an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors of the cultural institutions .

4. At the state level, an independent agency of the federal government, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was set up to foster the growth of the arts in the US. NEA is the central source of federal funding for the arts in America. It seeks to foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts in the US and broaden public access to the arts mainly through the award of grants to arts organisations and individual artists.

5. The Chairman of the NEA is advised by the National Council on the Arts (NCA) whose members are appointed by the President. The function of the NCA is to advise the NEA on applications for federal grants; set guidelines for grants making policy, application review criteria and procedures; and advise on NEA budget and policy involving congressional legislation.

Canada - British Columbia (BC) Province, Vancouver City and Toronto City

6. The British Columbia Arts Council, an independent agency set up by the provincial government, is responsible for distributing public funds to strengthen the role of the arts and public recognition of that role throughout the province. Members of the BC Arts Council are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council who also designates the chairman and vice-chairman of the BC Arts Council.

7. In Vancouver City, the Office of Cultural Affairs of the Social Planning Department advises the City Council on art and cultural issues, and develops and administers cultural policy and programmes. The Office also administers various types of grants provided by the City to Vancouver-based non-profit arts organisations to support a broad range of artistic activities.

8. In the City of Toronto, the Toronto Arts Council (TAC) gives grants to professional and community based non-profit arts organisations as well as individual artists. TAC is not part of the city government but a non-profit organisation under contract to the City. The TAC is run by a volunteer board and volunteer committees. Under the terms of contract, the TAC is accountable and reports to the City Council. It also serves as an advocate for public and political support for the arts and an adviser to City Council on cultural policy and research.

9. While TAC does not present programmes, there are other local arts councils which concentrate on cultural programming and organising events and exhibitions.

United Kingdom

10. In the United Kingdom (UK), much of the activity in the country which might fit within a broad definition of the arts operates without public subsidy. In the promotion and funding of arts and culture activities, the UK Government adopts the 'armslength' principle. While the Arts Council is responsible to Parliament for its expenditure of public money and for adhering to the terms of its Royal Charter, it is free to develop its own policies and to allocate its grants without political interference. The Arts Council, established as an agency independent of Government and fully self-governing, receives its regular grant in aid from the Treasury. It collaborates with local authorities and encourages local institutions and societies in taking the lead in development of the arts. Its members are appointed by Government but its employees are not civil servants.

11. But the situation has been changing slowly in recent years as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport seeks to assume a greater role in administration of grants to arts organisations.


12. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the promotion of arts and culture is a function carried out by the public sector. The individual Landers of the Federal Republic are responsible for cultural policy. Every Lander has a ministry in charge of cultural affairs as part of the government. The Ministries of Culture are directly responsible to the respective parliaments at the level of the Lander. The central government hardly plays any role in this area with the exception of those aspects that may relate to foreign or external relations. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs cooperates with a large number of intermediary organisations in Germany to carry out cultural activities at an international level.

13. The Ministries of Culture carry out their responsibilities through institutions which are either subordinate to the state i.e. institutions under public law, or private institutions which are subsidised with public funds. The public institutions also include offices or departments for arts and culture in municipalities and local authorities.

14. Cultural spending in Germany is mainly funded by the public sector. The major proportion of cultural spending is provided by the Lander and municipalities. Only a small part of the funds for arts and culture comes from the Federal State and private sources or sponsors.


15. In France, the Ministry of Culture is responsible for the promotion of arts and culture as a whole. In 1995, it had a staff of nearly 12,000 dealing with eight principal areas: national heritage; museums; archives; theatre and performance; art; cinema; music and dance; books and reading. It also trains cultural affairs specialists and administrators.

16. The Ministry promotes creative activity, both by encouraging art teaching and by awarding especially talented students grants and scholarships. It also allocates various kinds of state support for the arts which has led to the renewal of a form of artistic subsidy that had fallen out of favour, commissions artists for works to be displayed in public, and implements an active policy of constructing major public buildings.

17. In recent years, there is a trend of growing contribution from private associations and businesses of culture. Cultural associations now employ nearly 20,000 individuals; they are usually assisted by the state and by local authorities. They help attract audiences to a wide variety of events and provide amateurs training opportunities which may help them to become professionals.

Belgium - Flemish community

18. The Ministry of Culture, Family and Welfare of the Flemish community is responsible for promoting arts in Belgium. One special initiative of the Ministry is the annual appointment of cultural ambassadors. Any person or organisation active in the arts business can submit an application for appointment as a cultural ambassador. Most of the cultural ambassadors appointed will receive subsidies from the Ministry of Culture, Family and Welfare for their projects.

Australia - New South Wales

19. There are seven state governments in Australia, all federated but all able to act independently in setting policy for the arts. New South Wales is one of these seven governments.

20. The Minister for the Arts advises the state government on all aspects of the arts and cultural activities in New South Wales. It also manages Government arts projects and capital expenditures, monitors and provides policy advice on the State's cultural institutions, and administers Cultural Grants Programme to support a range of arts organisations in all art forms across the State. The Ministry also manages government-owned venues and buildings.

21. Within the Minister's portfolio, there are statutory institutions including museum art galleries and the Opera House. Each of the bodies has a council or board of trustees composed of members appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Minister for the Arts.


22. The promotion of arts and culture is part of the portfolio of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture of the Japanese government. The Ministry undertakes various measures to upgrade the level of creative artistic activities in Japan which include providing facilities and financial assistance for artistic activities; providing pre-service training and awards to artists and artworks; arranging performances and exhibitions; and holding National Festivals.

23. Under the Ministry is an Agency for Cultural Affairs which is responsible for the promotion and dissemination of cultural and artistic activities, the development of cultural facilities (including cultural centres and national museums of art) and the promotion of local arts and culture. The Japan Arts Fund provides financial assistance to various programmes for the development of a wide range of artistic and cultural activities. The Fund is supported by earnings from a Government endowment and private donations.


24. A national statutory agency, the National Arts Council (NAC), was set up under the Ministry of Information & the Arts to lead the development of the arts in the country. Members of NAC are appointed by the Minister who may give directions to the NAC. The NAC provides performing opportunities for local art groups in festivals and administers financial assistance and housing schemes for arts groups. It is also responsible for managing facilities and venues and organising programmes and festivals. The National Heritage Board (NHB) is another statutory board under the Ministry of Information & the Arts. It acts as custodian of the nation's history and heritage. Members of the NHB are appointed by the Minister.

25. The income of NAC comes mainly from Government grants, theatre income, Arts Housing Scheme, programmes income and sponsorship.

Home Affairs Bureau
November 1998