Cultural promotion in Switzerland – like education – falls under the authority of the cantons and communes and has been anchored in the constitution since 2000.
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Cantons – and to some extent the local authorities – are responsible for culture at their own regional level, with the federal government responsible for cultural matters of national interest. Thus cultural promotion has become an established part of federal policy.
Of the about CHF2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) of public money invested annually in cultural funding, the federal government contributes CHF300 million, with the majority of costs being covered by cantons and communes.
Cultural funding policy
Swiss cultural policy is meant to contribute to national unity. It focuses on the country’s character as a “nation united by choice” with links to three great European (linguistic) cultures, and on its federal structure bringing together a large number of disparate groups.
All cultural promotion efforts are ultimately guided by the twofold objective of maintaining the political will that unites the country and encouraging the exploration of the cultural identities and cultural diversity of the regions of Switzerland.
The Federal Office of Culture looks after the areas of cultural promotion and awareness – notably the country's four national languages German, French, Italian and Romansh – as well as national heritage and the preservation of historic buildings and monuments. It maintains the national art collections, the Swiss National Library and several museums, including the Swiss National Museum.
The culture office is also active in the preservation of local character and archaeology. It supports the work of film makers, artists and designers and promotes the interests of the different linguistic and cultural communities.
The Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia
Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, exists to promote cultural works of national and international interest. It was established as a foundation by the Swiss government in 1939 and is still entirely funded by public money.
Pro Helvetia aims to provide Swiss artists and performers with the best possible conditions for the creation and dissemination of their works and helps them to maximise their impact in Switzerland and abroad.
The foundation supports international projects by Swiss artists, as well as co-productions or exchanges between Swiss artists and those from other countries – in particular from countries in which Pro Helvetia maintains a regional office.
As well as the two major players mentioned above, there are also many private foundations in Switzerland that give grants to the arts.
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