Local authority cultural activity
Local authorities (municipalities) are responsible for organising cultural activities that support local cultural life and those involved in it. It is the local authority that decides on the content of public cultural events and how they are accomplished.
They may produce public cultural services themselves, or in collaboration with the third or the private sector. The various sectors of the local authority often work together to produce these services, or municipalities may produce cultural services jointly with other municipalities.
The local authorities provide support for those involved in the arts and culture in the form of various grants, and they may even co-finance development projects in the sector.
The Municipal Cultural Activities Act
Local authorities do their part in organising cultural activities, and their efforts are governed by law (166/2019). The Act has many objectives. It seeks to support the opportunities for creative expression and activity and for making and experiencing art and culture. It strives to foster the equal opportunities of all population groups to engage in art, culture and education. It should improve the local residents’ wellbeing and health along with their inclusion and community engagement. Finally, the Act seeks to create the right conditions for enhancing the vitality of the local area.
It is part of a local authority’s responsibility to organise cultural activities. To achieve this objective, local authorities promote equal and diverse access to arts and culture. They lay the foundation for professional artistic endeavour, promote art- and culture-related leisure activities, offer opportunities for goal-oriented education in arts and culture, and advance the preservation of cultural heritage. For local authorities, promotion of arts and culture is also part of their contribution to the residents’ health and wellbeing, inclusion and community engagement, local and regional vitality, cultural interaction and international activities.
In organising cultural activities, local authorities should consider the characteristics and resources of their area and the needs of the population groups. They may organise activities independently or in cooperation with other local authorities or in some other manner. Each local authority should have adequate and diverse expertise for organising cultural activities.
The Municipal Cultural Activities Act includes provisions on the central government authorities’ duties, participation of local residents, development duties, cooperation, providing and evaluating data, and central government transfers to local government.
Provisions regarding the local authorities’ cultural activities have existed since 1981, when the Municipal Cultural Activities Act first entered into force.
How cultural activities are funded: central government transfers and discretionary grants to local government
The central government’s contribution is based on central government transfers to local government, paid through the Ministry of Finance, which cover part of the funding for cultural activities. The purpose of the system of central government transfers to local government is to guarantee the availability of public services and to balance out differences between municipalities when it comes to the costs for arranging the services. Local authorities may use their discretion in allocating the central government transfers they receive.
Local authorities can apply for discretionary grants from the Ministry of Education and Culture, which gives them not only to municipalities, but also to other providers of cultural services. The grants help promote equal access to arts and cultural services across the country, making use of regional and national approaches. The grants can be used to remove regional, social and economic obstacles to service access and engagement.
In 2019, a new statutory development responsibility will be introduced. Its purpose is to build local authorities’ capacity for effective implementation of cultural activities while ensuring equality. This may include, for example, improving the quality of activities and the expertise of the people involved. As the development responsibility is a new provision, steps will be taken to support it and to lay the foundation for its implementation. These steps include research and a customer survey (online brainstorming).
Providing and evaluating data
The Act includes provisions on providing and evaluating data on the local authorities’ cultural activities. The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for overseeing the development of national data provision and evaluation of activities. Local authorities will contribute to the evaluation of their basic public services and, where necessary, to the provision of other data. They are responsible for providing and evaluating data on the cultural activities they have organised.
The evaluation of basic public services covers access to cultural services and their accessibility, financial resources used for organising cultural services, and the people employed in general cultural activities. Other areas may be evaluated according to need. Evaluation takes place every two years, both nationally and regionally.
The groundwork for evaluating the provision of basic cultural services was laid in 2012 when the Culture on the Map study was published. The first evaluation of the local authorities’ basic public services was also published that year. The Culture on the Map was linked to the University of Jyväskylä’s KUULTO project, aimed at improving the access to cultural services and their accessibility, and boosting equality between local residents. The National Institute for Health and Welfare has produced a new tool, Cultural TEAviisari, which will be deployed in 2019. It will provide data on cultural activities organised by local authorities, focusing on the action to promote health and wellbeing.