Funding and Residencies

Author: Michael Freundt, International Theatre Institut ITI Germany, Berlin

Supporting Culture in Germany

Why the arts and culture are supported and by whom

Germany is among the few countries in which culture and education are considered valuable assets and are supported extensively even in times of crisis. The public cultural expenditures in 2010 amounted to about 9.6 billion euros. 

In addition to this, private financial sources fund cultural institutions, events, and projects as foundations, patrons, or sponsors, or they act as contracting entities or buyers of art. Furthermore, the area of culture funded privately through admission fees and art sales – the cultural industry - has gained more attention in recent years.  

In Germany, the promotion of culture takes place at the local, regional, state, and federal levels. As a Federal Republic, Germany is a federation of individual states (for example, Brandenburg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Thuringia). Whenever this text refers to “states,” this reference pertains to the individual federal states, not to other countries. The responsibilities for certain areas are coordinated between the states and the federation (German Federal Parliament and Federal Government) – local authorities and states are responsible for the promotion of art and culture. Their share in the promotion of culture amounts to approximately 87%. The federal government provides funds only in exceptional cases, for example, when projects of national importance, particularly innovative projects, or international projects are concerned. 

Much of the cultural funding flows into large institutions: museums, art collections, concert halls, opera houses, and theaters. The city and state theaters in Germany, for example, receive about 2 billion euros annually. 

However, in comparison, public promoters make much less money available for the promotion of artistic projects, especially since the promotion of culture is considered a voluntary service and hardly any long-term commitments, such as collective labor agreements, exist. 

All funding tools that pertain to the mobility of artists, residencies and exhibitions of artists from abroad, international exchange, support of artistic work abroad, or international co-productions, are found in this general area of project funding. General types of funding often have their own system for artistic work in an international context. 

In the municipalities, the cultural authorities are responsible for the promotion of culture, while ministries (e.g., the Ministry of Science and the Arts in Saxony) usually exist in the individual states – although the states often delegate the promotion of art projects to their cultural foundations. No "Federal Ministry of Culture" exists, but since 1998 there has been a Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The German Federal Cultural Foundation (KSB) is funded by this budget and in turn funds the Stiftung Kunstfonds and the Fonds Darstellende Künste. The KSB, the Stiftung Kunstfonds, and the Fonds Darstellende Künste are the main contact points for project funding. At the same time, other ministries also provide funds; for example, the Federal Foreign Office, which, among others, funds the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations and the Goethe Institute.

Whether local authorities, federal states, or the federal government, all of the funding comes from tax money. For this reason, any support is usually associated with the submission of applications and application criteria. This often includes that the parties involved or the project must be related to the respective city or state – i.e. that they live and work there or that the exhibition or opening takes place there. It is not uncommon for an independent panel of experts to review the applications to make a decision regarding the funds. Upon successful application, public visibility of the project and transparent accounting with proof of the use of funds are expected.  

For specific projects, sponsors should first be sought at the local level. An application at the state or even federal level is only expedient if supraregional appeal can be demonstrated. In addition, funding agencies at the state level expect that the local authorities also contribute; foundations and funds at the federal level expect that applications have also been submitted at the state and local levels or that partial funding at the state or local level has already been secured. Finally, it is expected that part of the cost will be financed personally. It is rare that a single sponsor will want to contribute more than half of the project cost.

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What are funds provided for: the instruments of cultural promotion

Funding for artistic projects can be sought during nearly all phases of creation – from research to production and presentation (the exhibition or performance, as well as the purchase of a work of art or a guest performance), and finally to the documentation (catalog or video recording) of a project. Regionally and locally, however, options differ greatly, of course, and must be researched with individual cultural offices and state ministries. Artists’ associations provide advice and information on the Internet. Our website,, has selected those forms of cultural promotion and art funding that relate to international projects, exchange, and travel or are also available for foreign artists. The websites, und, provide an overview of the multitude of offers by public and private sponsors in Germany. 

Funding, such as a grant or residency, for example, in an artists’ house or a choreographic center, can be sought even for the research stage or initial artistic orientation. Workshops or internship programs are offered to promote encounters and exchange – even internationally. Grants and residencies can also be used directly for artistic production. Subsequent funding comes from studio subsidies or (as is the rule in the performing arts) project funding for a particular production. Project funding can be used to cover remunerations, rent, equipment costs, and advertising – usually up to the opening. 

Some states and local authorities support additional exhibitions, reopenings, and guest performances; some local authorities, states, and the Fonds Darstellende Künste also offer multi-annual funding, often called basis funding or conceptual funding.  

Persons engaged in the cultural sector indirectly profit from the financial support provided by the states and communities to the approximately 300 nationwide art societies, museums, artists’ houses, art collections, art libraries, or production houses and theaters. In addition, more than two-thirds of public-sector purchases and contracts are paid from municipal funds. 

Cultural awards are also an instrument for promoting the arts. There are several thousand nationwide, which are usually announced by cities and municipalities but also by individual states for nationwide or international funding.   

Finally, catalog funding or sponsored video documentation allows artists to document their work and thus ensures better visibility in the cultural landscape and on the art market.  

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Funding with regard to the mobility of artists

The website,, mainly presents funding programs that through international or travel grants, promotion of bilateral projects, and travel and transportation allowances afford German artists the opportunity to stay abroad. This includes international funding programs open to German artists, such as offers from the European Cultural Foundation or UNESCO, for example, the Aschberg grants.

The website also includes programs that afford foreign artists a stay in Germany through residencies in artists’ houses, travel grants, and international workshops. It furthermore covers all funding programs that are available not only for German but also foreign artists. 

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