In Nancy, the culture is in the poor

Despite its prize for “Best choreographic company 2021-22”, Ballet de Lorraine has no visibility at the end of its season. Picture DR

This is a cry of alarm launched by the cultural sector and sent by Bertrand Masson, deputy mayor of Nancy, in a recent column published in “Le Monde”. He challenges the minister on the immediate threats weighing on the activity of operas and performing arts in general. At issue: the increase in operating costs not covered by subsidies. The risk: cancellation of shows, even temporary closures.

This is a small company that has never really experienced a crisis. Or who endures because in France, my good lady, we do not move the culture, even in the middle of the storm. But in 2023, at a time when bad winds are blowing in all directions in public finances, when inflation is causing operating costs to explode, it is time to face the facts: there is a fire in the culture house. and there isn’t much water in the pipes to flush it out.

Sometimes not custom, it is in the form of a platform that the world of lyric art is exposed in the public square. Published in Le Monde at the end of December, signed by several cultural assistants and opera professionals, it shows a dizzying figure in black and white: “In concrete terms, 89% of our houses is preparing to suspend their activity, to cut a part of their programming from 2023.

Threats of cancellations and closures

Since the Opéra national de Lorraine did not survive, its president Bertrand Masson signed this forum: “This is a global alert for all cultural institutions. In Nancy, Opera is concerned but also Ballet. This forum is there to sound the alarm and say that if we don’t find a solution, the risk is that these houses will have to be closed in a few months. Thus the Nancy Opera will see its program for the next season revised, revised down, with a concert and non-staged version of the first shows, the number of performances of which will also be divided.

For Bertrand Masson, the risk of closure exists and it is urgent to find concrete solutions to a crisis that should last beyond 2023. © Ville de Nancy

The City of Strasbourg has already thrown a stone into the lake by closing its museums one more day per week. An initiative that Nancy did not choose to emulate, states Bertrand Masson, incredulously: “Today, we have the political choice to support the cultural sector strongly in Nancy, we know the importance that it has for the public , for attractiveness, but at some point the City must also face its own difficulties. It can maintain its level of intervention but it can hardly do more. It is not intended to fill the gaps in cultural structures. »

2023 less flamboyant in Nancy?

Nancy is a friend of culture, yes, but not in the “whatever the cost” mode. Recalling that with an annual cost of 35 million euros, culture remains the main budget of the City, ahead only of education, Bertrand Masson recognizes that we have to look at the costs very closely: “In 2023 , there is a need to make 10% that saves the City budget. Including in the field of culture. For example, we will slightly reduce the acquisition of books for libraries – without seeing it. On the part of the museum, the “Impossible Architectures” exhibition that ends in March will be the only exhibition of this size in 2023. We will also see how, in the Book in the Square or Saint-Nicolas, we will find ways of saving. I cannot guarantee at this time that the face of these events will be the same in 2023, we must not lie to ourselves. Perhaps there will be fewer authors in the Livre sur la Place. We assume the reality of saving money in this kind of big meeting. »

The essential Nancy Jazz Pulsations also had to tighten its belt a bit and had to curtail its plans for its 50th anniversary celebration. © Vincent Zobler

By cutting the events it organizes itself, the City of Nancy intends to keep some resources to maintain its assistance to its historic cultural partners: “If we make these savings in our own establishment, Bertrand Masson also specified to take care of partners such as Opera, Ballet, NJP or Other Canal. »

“We will count the dead…”

Through the signature of this forum, cultural professionals reveal the full scope of the crisis, visible in large structures but just as dangerous to more modest players, less visible: “I also called – because I don’t want to give impression that I am concerned only with big houses – to be attentive to what is happening in the territory and especially to small companies and small places that are completely lacking. I am alerted by many artists who are struggling a lot. The a company is sometimes two or three artists and they do their best. Right now it’s very difficult, some say they won’t last long. »

In terms of solutions, everything is being studied. Bertrand Masson wants to reflect on the long-term: “There is no bad topic, we can consider ways for strengthening mutual cooperation, more frequent co-productions than are already being done. For example, I spoke with the Reims Opera, we put on the table the tracks of a reinforced partnership.” Aware of his role as a conductor, the elected official emphasizes the interest of better organizing events to allow easy savings: “For example, the new director of the Other Channel had the idea to change the date of the Bon Moment festival. , to fit the opening weekend of the Photographic Event, scheduled in May in Grant, a very close distance. The combination- cost savings will be possible and this will be a plus for the public. »

Faced with the need to economize, there will be fewer authors in the next edition of Le Livre sur la Place. Picture DR

In this new approach to culture, Bertrand Masson assumes that future disturbances will be seen, because the software must change, especially if we include in it the concerns related to the ecological transition: “Still do the exhibitions of our museums tomorrow offer, without diversity, works coming from the other side of the world? Can we think of more collaborations with regional museums, or more exhibitions designed with works we’re holding in reserve? Is the future of the Ballet still touring the world? I don’t have an answer to that, but it’s not a bad question. If we don’t do anything, my worry is that in two years we’ll be counting the dead… I just don’t want to see things go badly and let everyone sort themselves out. »

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