IAurent Wauquiez has become the public enemy number one of culture, and he has worked hard for it. In two years, the very right-handed boss of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has cut off supplies to packages of theaters, companies and festivals for an amount of 5 million euros. The gesture is unprecedented, to the point of masking a deeper phenomenon: a revolt of local elected officials, from all sides, against the cultural power of the State. A revolution even.
Let’s say that there is only one Wauquiez to remove all of its subsidy (149,000 euros) at the good Théâtre Nouvelle Génération, in Lyon, after its director, Joris Mathieu, denounced in Télérama “a climate of terror” In the region. Only him to attract the wrath of eight former ministers and two hundred big names in creation (The world of May 4). Than him to strongly politicize culture by targeting left-wing or green cities (Lyon, Grenoble, Villeurbanne). Only him to bully the protesters and reward the docile.
The elected Les Républicains knows what he is doing. It often cuts money where it has no control – cities or the state have. It cuts more in places of creation, often directed by artists, therefore not very accommodating, than of diffusion, considered less political and more festive.
Laurent Wauquiez clarified his choices in The Sunday newspaper of May 28. First fight the“territorial injustice”, by returning to the fields what it takes from the towns, from the little ones what it steals from the big ones. It remains to be seen whether he will really do it or simply save money. It’s a bit early to answer but so far he has taken more than he has given. The regional president also emphasizes heritage against creation, especially bobo, which he considers disconnected from the French. He claims to carry a civilizational fight, “a certain popular truth”according to Stéphanie Pernod, first vice-president of the region.
Let’s say it: Laurent Wauquiez embodies the hatred of cultural elitism, which is found, less brutally, among many elected officials of all stripes. Already on the money. Local authorities, especially cities, have had declining cultural budgets for ten years, with a very recent worsening. This is the case in eight of the twelve regions studied in March by the site News Tank Culture.
Double-digit budget cuts
Add inflation and you have this: almost everywhere, theaters, museums, operas, have to do with double-digit budget cuts. Fifteen of the thirty-eight national drama centers are experiencing strong “tension” for five months. Operas manage to draw the curtain for a time or reduce the sails. Dozens of small museums are downright closed by mayors.
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