Carte blanche from Iseut Thieffry, head of artistic workshops in mental health at Pré-Texte Day Center
Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically states that “everyone has the right to participate freely in the cultural life of society, to enjoy the arts, to participate in scientific progress, and to enjoy the benefits thereof.”
However, in Belgium our economic models make access to culture and the arts increasingly difficult for some people, making their social or economic situation more precarious. Cultural institutions complain about the lack of sufficient financial support from public authorities, and this is undoubtedly a reality. At the same time, many public and private agencies are created and share these issues, manage and subsidize culture and arts, and manage access to culture and arts.
On the one hand, we are witnessing a significant increase in the quality of cultural and artistic activities, and our museums are gaining international fame. On the other hand, we are witnessing an abject impoverishment of the exercise of our rights to participate in the cultural life of our society.
At our day center for mentally disabled adults with mental illness (dual diagnosis), we have several art workshops where our residents do quality work. We are committed to taking them to exhibitions and museums regularly. Generally, we go out with a dozen people, two or three friends. All the adults we welcome are “minimum income earners”, all recognized by the Phare de la Cocof service as “people with disabilities”. However, when we want to benefit from adjusted (reduced) prices to allow these cultural excursions, we generally face various administrative and economic obstacles related to excessive administrative inflation.
In order to get access to always different “cards”, some paid, some inaccessible, we had to go through all kinds of administrative procedures to prove that our residents are indeed recognized as “beneficiaries of the minimum income”. Through the Phare de la Cocof service, we have obtained “European Disability Cards” which give them access to certain (but not all) cultural activities at a reduced price. While our day center is approved and subsidized by the French-speaking service, they have been denied access to the “article 27” system for years (why?). In order to get “Museum Tickets” provided by a subsidized private association, we had to go through a Dutch speaking service, Muntpunt, which provided us with “Uitpasses” or “Paspartoe” which gave them access to the Museum Pass at a discounted price. Each of these cards only gives (often partial) access to several institutions… as if not just one transport card for traveling by public transport in the city, but half a dozen…
When we try to book seats, we find that these devices limit the diversity of profiles of people who can benefit from discounted fares. Once upon a time, our students, children, people with disabilities, job seekers, senior citizens, etc. in case, now only Museum Pass holders, “item 2” and PRM (disabled) are considered. In terms of disability, moreover, only persons with reduced mobility can still benefit from special admission; A Museum Card is neither free nor readily available at a discounted price; “Article 27” is still not available to our public. Finally, regardless of the number of people we want to accompany, we can often only reserve ten places for the same institution. And when we think of contacting cultural sites by phone, we are referred to cars and websites where we shrink back from these challenges in terms of the number of accessible places to visit.
A closely guarded community
We prepare the trip as if applying for a residence visa: we carry a folder of individual documents for each of our beneficiaries, where we collect all the required supporting documents: national number, health insurance sticker (here the code “recipient of social grant”), recognition of the Phare service number, European disability card, Uitpass or Passpartoe, Museum ticket, etc. Despite all expectations, this is sometimes not enough to qualify us for a discounted rate, and we still regularly find that the financial demand for a particular exhibition exceeds the capacity of an institution such as ours.
After being more or less well-received, after spending twenty minutes or so counting, presenting and (ourselves) scanning our various documents, paying our admissions, we are still very closely watched: indeed, our public is made up of submitters. although sometimes they are more than the exhibited paintings and some singularities that can highlight the guardians whose mission is increasingly reduced to the protection of our cultural and artistic assets.
Let’s continue to preserve and protect our cultural and artistic heritage, but remember that it’s about preserving them so that everyone can have free access to them, and let’s radically reduce all the devices that provide access to hopelessly elitist art and culture.
In our institution, I have become the point person for administrative procedures aimed at exercising our right to freely participate in the cultural and artistic life of our society, and partly because of this, I have become the world’s most irritable and complaining person. . As a kid, I wandered around museums with a sketchbook in hand, spending most of my weekends exposing myself to the world without ever showing my credentials or putting my hand in my wallet. Today, I spend more time trying to find tricks to gain access to exhibitions, “policing” our public to appease the guards, than watching and commenting on the works we discover. However, our works are well preserved, as evidenced by their preservation despite some recent acts aimed at drawing the attention of the general public to the climate impasse in which we find ourselves.
Let’s continue to preserve and protect our cultural and artistic heritage, favor windows and other mechanical protections, but keep in mind that it is about protecting them so that everyone can have free access to them and reduce the radical way. All these devices that provide access to art and culture are hopelessly elitist.
The title, title and intertitles are from the editors. Original Title: “Access to Culture and the Arts: 1948 to the Present”