«Culture, by virtue of its capacity to question the profoundest aspects of our realities, is essential to social cohesion.»Charles Beer, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
«The pandemic has ruthlessly exposed the vulnerabilities of the system and its actors, which we must now face together.»Philippe Bischof, Director
In 2021, Pro Helvetia supported over 2500 art and cultural projects throughout Switzerland. Supporting Swiss artistic creation in all its diversity and ensuring its dissemination across Switzerland’s different language regions, both on the basis of applications, are Pro Helvetia’s core activities. The Arts Council is also committed to providing cultural life with fresh impetus and to supporting projects of national significance.
This year, too, the pandemic drastically impacted the cultural sector. Although events were able to take place again, at least for a short time, the entire year was marked by great uncertainty. Cultural practitioners and institutions were forced to constantly develop new strategies and formats in order to be able to pursue their projects. To provide the best possible support during this challenging transformation phase, the Arts Council launched a set of measures called «Bridges to the Future». Funding in the various disciplines was adapted to the prevailing circumstances and, in addition, extraordinary calls for proposals were launched in all of the disciplines funded by the Arts Council, with a focus on new models of dissemination, visibility and networking.
In 2021, Pro Helvetia supported over 2400 art and cultural projects in 100 countries as part of its international activities. Pro Helvetia awards grants to cultural projects from Switzerland that are presented worldwide. In this way, the Arts Council promotes contemporary art and culture from Switzerland across the world. Through its global network, Pro Helvetia supports the development of professional, international networks in all artistic disciplines supported by the Arts Council and strengthens international cultural exchange and cooperation.
Severely restricted mobility continued to pose major challenges for international cooperation in 2021. In addition, the pandemic highlighted the extent to which structural inequalities are profoundly shaping the arts and culture worldwide. With «To-gather», Pro Helvetia therefore launched an international call for proposals for the first time, in order to test new forms and methods of promoting international cooperation between Swiss cultural institutions.
Pro Helvetia’s global network comprises six liaison offices and the Centre culturel suisse in Paris (CCS), as well as the partner institutions Istituto Svizzero in Rome and Milan (ISR) and the Swiss Institute in New York (SINY). Our global network enables artists and cultural practitioners from Switzerland to attend important events. It also promotes exchange and cooperation with local cultural institutions and artists.
2021 was characterised on the one hand by efforts aiming to strengthen existing cooperations and maintain exchange despite numerous restrictions. On the other hand, the need to find and test new formats and opportunities for sustainable international cooperation was recognised. The «To-gather» call for applications, launched by the Arts Council for the first time, aimed to support new or ongoing long-term international cooperation projects between cultural practitioners and cultural institutions in Switzerland and the global network, and thereby to strengthen existing ties and forge new partnerships.
«Two years of the pandemic have disrupted my activities more than I could have imagined at first. The widespread uncertainty, also with regard to artistic residencies, confronted me with the need to find new ways of creating, developing contacts and doing artistic research. I have never had to be as flexible, tenacious and optimistic as during this period, for example, by relying even more on Swiss institutions, and by acting locally while trying to think globally.»ALAN BOGANA
The pandemic forced Swiss artist Alan Bogana to move his residency in Hong Kong online.
«The continuing disconnection reminds us of the structural conditions that cultural connection and mobility are based on, and how fragile they are. It is time to reflect on the ways we are connected to others, to distant places, and the reasons for connecting in the first place. It is also time to overcome the fear of being slow. We are talking about slow travelling, slow touring, and all the nice things that can only be built over time.»ORPHELIA JIADAI HUANG
Artist, curator, Director of international projects, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, China
«The intentional lack of events and in-person communication, as well as the loneliness that comes from being abroad long-term, awakened deep layers of reflection. Both on the level of personal artistic practices and on the level of the country one is exploring. This makes a residency fruitful even under Covid regulations: fewer temptations to be distracted, more mental freedom and inner permission to spend a lot more time on the actual process.»ALENA PAPINA
The Russian artist spent a 2021 residency at Rote Fabrik.
«From an exceptional situation to crisis as a permanent condition: because of the cancelled tours, as a musician I often felt as if I were alone in an echo chamber that paralysed creativity. I can break through this paralysis if, in addition to my art, I also engage in activism addressing the issues raised by the pandemic: from collective responsibility to the value of culture to the individual’s mental well-being. Questions that we also need to negotiate in art and in the cultural sector.»RAMON OLIVERAS
Artistic director of Ikarus
Of the CHF 43.0 million available to Pro Helvetia in 2021, 86.3 per cent were invested directly in the arts and cultural activities. At 13.7 per cent, the share of administrative costs lay within the strategic target set by the Federal Council. In 2021, Pro Helvetia received a total of 5041 applications. The proportion of approved applications rose again to 48.8 per cent, the average figure in the pre-Covid period.
Of the CHF 43.0 million spent by Pro Helvetia in 2021, 86.3 per cent went directly to cultural activities. At 13.7 per cent, the share of administrative costs, calculated based on the ZEWO standard, remained within the strategic target set by the Federal Council.
Projects of offices abroad
Projects of offices abroad
Amounts spent in CHF
In the context of the Federal Cultural Policy Statement (Kulturbotschaft), Swiss Parliament grants Pro Helvetia a framework budget every four years. For the four-year period 2021-2024, the Arts Council received 180.4 million Swiss francs. The 2021 instalment amounted to CHF 43.0 million.
In 2021, Pro Helvetia received 5041 applications. Support was granted to projects in the fields of Design & Interactive Media, Literature, Music, Performing Arts, Transdisciplinarity and Visual Arts.
In 2021, one Pro Helvetia funding decision was appealed at the Federal Administrative Court. The ruling was still pending as of 31 December 2021.
Compared to 2020, the share of approved applications returned to the level of the pre-Covid years. The absolute number of approved applications also re-mained constant in 2021. The reason for the deviation compared to the previous year is that the departments launched targeted funding measures in the respective artistic disciplines instead of a cross-disciplinary call for applications.
Percentage of applications accepted
Support granted by Pro Helvetia takes into account Switzerland’s linguistic and cultural diversity.
Principal languages by region.
Source: Federal Statistical Office (as at 2019)
Project funds granted
Due to the pandemic-related restrictions, cultural activities shifted more towards Switzerland and the virtual space, as reflected by the larger number of cultural projects funded within Switzerland. In particular, Pro Helvetia also supported projects aimed at promoting new models of dissemination, visibility and networking.
Besides its domestic activities, in 2021 Pro Helvetia supported over 2400 Swiss art and cultural projects in 100 countries.
Pro Helvetia regularly evaluates its core commitments and measures. In 2021, due to the special situation caused by the pandemic and the corresponding adjustments to its funding instruments, the Arts Council did not evaluate its established measures, but instead evaluated two important special measures developed in response to the extraordinary circumstances: the «Bridges to the Future» set of measures and the «To-gather» call for applications. Evaluations provide important information on the effectiveness and appropriateness of the special measures and indicate any need to adjust future funding practice.
«Bridges to the Future» measures were developed jointly with cultural practitioners in order to provide relevant alternative support to the cultural sector, which has been severely affected by Covid-19. The measures ranged, for example, from contributions to artistic research in the fields of performing arts and music to the promotion of digital skills and the implementation of measures to support studios in the field of interactive media in developing marketing strategies, most of which were successful thanks to this integrative approach. This is evidenced by the 320 or so applications received for research funding in the fields of music and the performing arts, or the 150 or so cultural actors who were supported in building their digital skills. In some cases, the feedback and lessons learned were so positive that it was decided to integrate the new measures into the «product» portfolio of the disciplines in question for the coming years.
In 2021, the pandemic continued to profoundly influence the cultural sector globally, posing a risk to the continuity of established partnerships and existing artistic practices. The Pro Helvetia mandate, to promote and foster exchange between Swiss and regional cultural contexts, depends directly on the «health» of regional cultural scenes. With «To-gather», Pro Helvetia aimed to foster connections between Swiss and international artists and cultural practitioners, in order to maintain the existing professional networks and to establish new ones during and beyond the pandemic. Artists and collectives were encouraged to submit collaborative projects lasting 2–3 years and involving partners in Switzerland and at least one liaison office.
The open call generated a total of 133 submissions, with 31 applications selected in various artistic fields, including multidisciplinary projects, and regions: Arab region 5 (out of 15 submissions), Southern Africa 8 (37), South Asia 7 (28), China 3 (14), Russia 3 (13), South America 6 (26). Many applications proposed projects seeking to further explore possibilities for digital and hybrid collaborations. There was a clear interest in reflecting on the future of residency exchanges so as to nurture international connections. Finally, the call also received an increasing number of applications for research-based projects taking longer to complete.
The call attracted a wide range of partners and generated great interest. This shows that the proposed measures respond to issues of relevance to artists and organisations from both the Swiss and international cultural contexts.