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Advocacy agencies and professional information providers

In Flanders there are no organisations or networks dedicated specifically to the documentation or advocacy of street arts. It is mainly the bigger festivals and companies that play a role here. Street arts is not considered an independent art form.

Flanders Arts Institute

Flanders Arts Institute is a new organisation that opened on 1 January 2015. The Institute serves the arts sector in Flanders and is a merger of VTi (Institute for the Performing Arts in Flanders), BAM (Flemish Institute for Visual, Audiovisual and Media Art), and Flanders Music Centre. It is the new reference point for all questions about art in Flanders. The Institute’s core functions include a focus on research, international activities, supporting the practice of art, and policy support. The Institute collects and distributes knowledge and expertise daily about and for the arts in Flanders, in an international context. It is the ideal contact point for foreign arts professionals in search of information on the arts in Flanders.

Circuscentrum

When the Circus Decree came into being in 2008, Circuscentrum was created as the official link between the government and the sector. Its mission: to turn Flanders into a flourishing circus region, with wide cultural support and the best possible development opportunities. The activities of Circuscentrum are built around five pillars:
> Artistic support: Providing career support to Flemish circus artists – for new emerging talent and established performers alike. The keywords are creation, artistic advice, distribution and promotion.
> Pedagogic support: Providing the necessary refresher training for teachers, artists and young artists. Monitor the artistic and educational value of the network of youth circuses.
> Documentation centre: To protect, promote and honour Flemish circus heritage. Preserve and provide access to relevant literature and images.
> Promotion & communication: Promoting the Flemish circus sector, Flemish circus policy and Circuscentrum itself through various channels. Put the circus arts higher on the agenda of policy-makers and the media, and raise awareness in other art sectors.
> International branding: Position the Flemish circus arts as a high-quality brand abroad, and engage in relevant European networks and projects.

Le Service général de la Création artistique

There are no organisations in the French-speaking part of Belgium that can be described as the Walloon counterparts of Circuscentrum or the Flanders Arts Institute. There is ‘Le Service général de la Création artistique’, run by the government, which aims to support and encourage the artistic creation and production, promotion and diffusion of the performing arts. These are divided into six domains, of which ‘carnival arts, circus and street arts’ are one.

The first objective of this service is the professionalisation of the artistic sector through multi-annual support contracts with diverse stakeholders in the sector. Second, there is a specific focus on young contemporary creation, with specific budgets dedicated to this. Finally, the service works to improve the diffusion of the performing arts.

Except for the resource and documentation centre of Espace Catastrophe there are no information centres dedicated specifically to circus or street arts in the French-speaking part of Belgium. There are however several more broadly oriented organisations that also gather and diffuse information and documentation on these art forms, like Centre de la Marionette de la Communauté Française de la Belgique, Centre de documentation et d’information sur la danse, Lézarts Urbains, and Centre de Ressources Théâtre – La Bellone, to name a few.

Koen Allary

— Director, Circuscentrum —

What are the most important challenges for circus / street arts in your country and specifically when it comes to audience and marketing development?
"There are quite a few interesting challenges for circus and street arts in Flanders:
• The recognition of circus and street arts within the cultural field. Circus is a contemporary art form which fits perfectly in arts and cultural centres.
• The recognition of circus and street arts by the public. In the minds of audiences circus is an elephant, a tent, or a clown, and it’s for children. Well, NO, circus is a very rich contemporary art form with a deceptive simplicity. Circus is a form for adults where children are sometimes welcome. Street arts is an art form where the location determines the creation and the performance.
• A clear definition and clear grant opportunities for street arts is needed. Honestly, both art disciplines are still artistically fragile in Flanders. Flemish artists are creating good or even very good work, but it will take another ten years for Flanders to conquer the world. And YES, circus can save the world."

Photo: Phile Deprez