There’s just no public funding in art and culture in India, V. Venu, joint secretary in the Union Ministry of Culture, lamented on Friday.

The Union budget earmarks hardly 0.2 per cent of its annual expenditure towards cultural affairs. It is poorer in the case of States like Kerala. Of course, there are other high priority areas like infrastructure and social welfare, but it flags the need for devising new methodologies and partnerships to organise, own and maintain art museums and fetes, he said while delivering a talk on ‘Public-Private Partnership in Heritage’ at the Kochi Muziris Biennale.

Given the government’s poor track-record in keeping up heritage structures, museums and organising art fetes of public value and import, people’s involvement should be ensured to turn the tables in our favour. “The biennale being a public space belongs to the people, as shown by the Kochi Muziris Biennale,” he said.

Further, the monetary (corporate) aspect of the three-month festival has been based on a model where public money was spent before its start on 12/12/12 and private funds are being used subsequently, he said.

Dr. Venu, one of the first to endorse the idea of an Indian biennale, said he could instantly agree with the 2010-proposal from artists Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu thanks to his official association with the State’s tourism development and his personal interest in art and culture.

Kerala’s tourism sector has always pioneered off-beat ideas and the biennale looked like another promising step in that direction, he said.

Private support to heritage conservation and growth of the arts need not be derisively branded as a ‘corporate’ activity, as money is anyway necessary for such tasks, he maintained.

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