Alas, Germany Didn’t Allocate $54 Billion In Relief Funding To The Arts

You may remember reading that Germany had rolled out €50 billion ($54 billion) in funding for the arts a few weeks back. The news was touted as putting arts funding in the US to shame. While it may ultimately still be the case that aid to arts will put the US to shame, the claim that all that money is going to the arts is not accurate.

I had received an email about some arts research from long time friend of the blog, Rainer Glapp, who lives in Bremen, Germany. I asked him how things were going with all that funding. He responded that there was a big misunderstanding about all the money being focused on the arts and culture.

He explained the money is intended for small businesses and freelancers. While artists can apply, the money is intended for rent of venues and other expenses and not for personal expenses. He told me that primarily, direct funding for arts comes from the 16 states rather than the federal government.

As I went back to find articles about the €50 billion I had seen, I discovered that pretty much every website references the same ArtsNet article. There is a correction to that article dated March 27 which reads:

The government has clarified a point of confusion in its press release and previous reports in the media, stating that the aid package for small businesses and freelancers in culture, art, and media will come from a larger package for solo self-employed people and small businesses that totals €50 billion.

So artists and arts organizations won’t be benefiting as well as first impressions had indicated.

Rainer graciously dug up some articles on the situation which are written in English. One on the Deutsche Welle website illuminates the problems artists are facing:

But on April 7, the Alliance of Freelance Arts, representing 18 branches, replied that freelance and solo artists and their small business teams had “hardly any” access to such federal measures.

“This is due on the one hand to the lack of federal guidelines on the recognition of work-related living expenses as business or employment expenditures and on the other hand to the fact that the [16 German] states tend to interpret administrative leeway to the disadvantage of freelance artists,” said the alliance.


Already, the German Music Council (Deutscher Musikrat/DMR) had demanded a monthly basic income grant of €1,000 ($1,088) for “all freelance creative professionals” over the next six months.

Another website Rainer shared provides a chronology of how the coronavirus impacted cultural activities in Germany. It reinforces the fact there is no federal relief funding focused on helping cultural entities and illustrates just how varied the support for artists is in each of the states.

However, there is no specific federal support programme designed to meet the specific needs of the cultural sector. This is still being demanded by the German Cultural Council (April 22), the Cultural Council of North Rhine-Westphalia (April 16) and other associations, in the form of a cultural infrastructure fund.


The possibility of claiming support services — in addition to the instruments at the federal level — is also very much dependent on the state the applicant lives in…. Baden-Württemberg have an emergency aid programme for freelancers that allow them to apply for EUR 1180 grant money for up to three months, Bavaria offers EUR 1,000 a month in basic payments, but only for members of the artists’ social fund. In Hamburg, self-employed can apply for EUR 2,500 in addition to federal funds. In Bremen, artists can apply for up to EUR 2,000 in emergency aid (in addition to a purchase programme for visual artists); in Saxony-Anhalt EUR 400; and in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania there are bridging grants for artists available in the amount of EUR 2,000. The support fund for artists supported in NRW (EUR 2,000 per month) was only equipped with a total of EUR 5 million, so that only a small proportion of the applicants could take advantage of this fund. Other federal states (e.g. Berlin and Saarland) had to discontinue their support programmes due to over expenditure. In other federal states there are — in addition to the federal programme — no state programmes, for example Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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