At the beginning of the last decade, several municipalities in the state of Rio Grande do Sul debated implementation of Cultural Incentive laws. Among these was Porto Alegre, which began innovations to fund arts development within the city. Concerned that business and private sector sponsors provided the lion’s share of money for artists struggling to establish themselves in Porto Alegre, the city’s leaders looked for ways to provide non-profit support for cultural activities.
To meet this need for alternative artistic funding, innovators established the Municipal Fund for Support of Artistic and Cultural Production (FUMPROARTE) in 1994. The fund finances up to 80% percent of the cost of artistic and cultural projects chosen using a selection process open to individuals, companies, or cultural NGOs, without regard for commercial interests. In order to involve the artistic community in the fund’s allocation, innovators also insisted that citizens have a large role in the selection process, and that competition decisions be open to public scrutiny.
FUMPROARTE’s selection process is intended to insure that municipally supported projects provide genuine cultural value to the city. Porto Alegre’s local government designates a Committee for Evaluation and Selection, made up of nine members from several artistic and cultural areas, as well as nine substitutes. Two thirds of the Committee’s members are representatives from art and cultural associations and unions, and are elected by those communities, while the remaining third are appointees from the Municipal Department of Culture. Each Committee member serves a one-year term. The policies regulating the Committee’s choices are open to review and revision by new members at the beginning of each year.
The law requires the Committee to meet twice yearly for the Final Selection process; however, in practice, members meet an average of three times each month to pursue their duties more diligently. FUMPROARTE’s meetings have also been open to the public from the initial implementation of the program, again going above and beyond the legal minimum of two open meetings per year.
The Committee accepts submissions twice a year. Entries from different artistic areas compete against each other. Submission deadlines are publicized in the local media and through flyers distributed at cultural centers within the municipality (e.g., offices of the Department of Culture, theatres, exhibition spaces, and concert halls).
Once the submissions are received, the Committee screens entries for compliance with the municipality’s requirement that the project be nonprofit and meritorious. This initial screening eliminates 40% of submitted projects. Next, all remaining projects are read by the Committee’s members and debated in an open session at the Final Selection meeting. Members vote publicly for each project according to a point system; the entries with the greatest number of points are selected for support.
In eleven and a half years, FUMPROARTE has funded 460 projects within a variety of artistic and cultural areas. The program has grown enormously: in the first year, 74 individuals and groups submitted proposals, while in 2004, the number rose to 366 submissions, an increase of 392%. This rapid growth prompted the municipality to increase the budget of the fund 410%, a total allocation of 7.5% of the Department of Culture’s budget. Thus, while the actual value of the fund varies according to the total amount of the city budget each year, it is guaranteed a regular portion of the city’s monies.
Since FUMPROARTE depends only on a variable percentage of the municipal budget, political goodwill, and a thriving and active artistic community, the program demonstrates that similar experiences can be implemented throughout Brazil, in municipalities of all sizes.
- FUMPROARTE helps the artistic and cultural community avoid the trap of creating art merely to please possible sponsors.
- By redirecting a small percentage of the municipal budget to underwrite nonprofit cultural activities, the municipality of Porto Alegre created a simple and effective system for funding culture and art.
- Involvement of the artistic and cultural community is vital to implement a fair and democratic selection process. Community partnership is also crucial in keeping the program’s running costs down by means of the volunteers who serve on the FUMPROARTE committees.