Imagine 250,000 culture and arts employees so angry that they abandon their jobs to join a 24-hour strike, leaving movie theaters, film/television sets, opera houses and concert venues vacant and shut down.
Earlier this week, the scenario above became a reality as Italian workers marched from their businesses to protest the government’s culture spending cuts to its lowest level in 20 years. Silvio Berlusconi’s 2011 Budget Law reduced the country’s single arts fund, FUS, to €300 million ($416 million), approximately €200 million less than where it stood three years prior.
Raphael's famous The School of Athens, or Scuola di Atene
Last month, more than 1,000 actors, director and producers disrupted the International Rome Film Festival at Rome’s Auditorium Parco Della Musica to protest against budget cuts.
Despite union strikes and tension, Minister of Culture Sandro Bondi refuses to back down on spending cuts and the government is pushing to slash the budget even sooner – three weeks earlier than usual. Instead, the budget vote will be scheduled four days before the confidence vote for Berlusconi. If he loses, he will have to resign and more money could possibly be added to the FUS budget by a new government. The culture minister has a confidence vote of his own scheduled Nov. 29 in which he will also have to step down if he doesn’t receive a majority nod from parliament.
I say, c'mon! They gave us Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael ... a major international contributor to the art world, the Italians' reactions imply something much deeper is being taken away than merely money. Currently, the country's FUS is far more restricting than funds in Germany and France.