Chile sinks to new low

Chile sinks to new low


norman lebrecht

November 05, 2020

Message from the conductor Helmuth Reichel Silva:

Very sad news for culture and arts in my home country Chile. Culture Minister Consuelo Valdes: “Any cent you assign to culture can no longer be assigned to other necessities of the society”. It is unbelievable how the wrong politician for such an important governmental position can destroy the future of arts in any given country.



  • Pianofortissimo says:


  • Christopher Culver says:

    In my visits to Chile I have been struck by how little high culture there is in the country outside Santiago, in spite of Chile’s wealth. Much fewer and smaller bookshops than in Argentina next door, little sign of classical music, even pops. (Some locals said this must go back to the Pinochet era supposedly emphasizing mercenary capitalism and discouraging intellectual life, but I don’t know how much stock I could put in that.)

    So, this article comes as little surprise to me.

  • Sharon says:

    I understand Mr. Silva’s sentiment but if the audience cannot afford to eat the arts are meaningless.

    Apart from the Kennedy administration where the US was trying to imitate the achievements of the Russians and to a lesser extent the Clinton administration which was trying to imitate the Kennedy administration the arts are and were pretty much always considered a low priority for the US federal government and much of the time low priorities for state and local governments as well.

    Part of the reason that all arts organizations do educational programs is to be able to tap into education budgets of governments on all levels

    • Craig says:

      This has to be one of the most misinformed comments I’ve seen on this site.

      1) Stimulus money doesn’t evaporate into thin air once given to an artist (directly or via an arts institution). The artist then spends it on food or essentials, and it continues to be circulated in the economy. Leaving artists to find those dollars through low level or non existent jobs does not help anyone. Government austerity is not the right solution in this kind of macroeconomic environment.

      2) While some arts organizations may request grant money for educational programs, I have never seen one where the $$ is the driver. Those are never entirely funded by governmental money and there is certainly never a surplus. Instead, it’s trying to fill an area public education has increasingly abandoned due to many factors. There is proven value in participating in the arts for both individuals and society and we lose something important if it’s not tended.

    • V.Lind says:

      To be perfectly honest, having worked for four orchestras in Canada and the US I can tell you that the chief reason they do outreach is in the hope of building audiences, and the chief reason they give you is some well-tailored prose about the value of the arts to the development of young minds.

      I am not aware, in the case of any of these (major orchestras in major cities) of their having any access to education funding. Their outreach programmes are hugely funded by their foundations. (If the schools make some contribution in order to be included, that presumably comes from education budgets, but as far as I know musicians’ fees were included in their contractual agreements).

  • David K. Nelson says:

    But as a matter of pure math — not public policy, but math — the Culture Minister is of course correct. You have many needs, and you cannot allocate the same dollar to more than one. So every expenditure involves a decision – and a comparison. Even symphony conductors should be able to grasp that. So what worthy and essential expenditure is culture more important than? That is a very tough call for even the most heartless aesthete.

    Perhaps the Culture Minister said other things that were indeed appalling but I do note, if this translation is accurate, that she said “to culture … [and] other necessities.” So she at least ranks culture among the necessities which is certainly less appalling than where most US politicians (and to be fair, most of their constituents) would, and do, place it.

    Outrage should be saved for more worthy targets than this statement, unless of course there are genuine outrages coming from her beyond what is to be seen in this brief quote.

  • David Boxwell says:

    When learning of this, “Uncle Milty” Friedman gave a thumbs-up from his grave.

  • LaLore says:

    Nothing that Chile does surprises me anymore. They destroyed everything beautiful that existed before Oct2019. They are burning churches and sitting on the altars, laughing as the building goes up in flames. Google it. It was shown on 24horas Chile news. Welcome to socialism everybody.

    • Miguel says:

      You probably are unaware that the police arrested navy officers among the people that set the fire in that church; the suspicion is that right wing elements are, once again, trying to blame the people protesting. Sounds familiar,doesn’t it? Reminds me of the many similar situations starting with the assassination of general Schneider in 1970 trying to stop the election of Salvador Allende.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    I wasn’t sure what to make of this quotation, so I decided to ask a good friend and colleague of mine in the mainstream arts scene over there. He feels that, although not being terribly political himself, the Minister of Culture is a disgrace and her comments an accurate reflection of current Chilean society.

  • Bill says:

    Milton Friedman’s playground; the gift that keeps giving

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    That said, if the statement is to be treated in isolation, she’s right: money you spend on one thing cannot then be spent anywhere else. Is there any way of knowing the entire context?

  • Rudy Sanzana says:

    As a contributor to Chilean Culture for over 30 years I swim against a strong wave of lack of interest and poor education.

    Beginning in the early 1800’s through 1930’s, Chile was a huge magnet for culture. But unfortunately, must of it was concentrated on Santiago and Valparaíso, spilling into Viña Del Mar and surrounding areas, but culture and art failed to remain a priority to a country that was born to create writers and artists .

    Sad that such a gorgeous country doesn’t invest neither in the arts nor in education of them, after all, the difference between an advanced nation and an underdeveloped one, is the presence of art and culture in one’s daily life.

  • Edgar Self says:

    The homeland of poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, and of pianists Rosita Renard and Claudio Arrau, Chile deserves better. When its national library director visied Chicago, I sent him backto Chile with Rosita Renard’s complete live and studio recordings, which he was delighted to have and to return. His counterpart in Buenos Aires was Jorge Luis Borges.

  • Thank you very much from Chile. BTW, if you are curious about today’s Chilean classical musicians with international careers, I have a monthly report and a Facebook group devoted to them. There are Chileans at the Wiener Staatsoper, Berliner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester, Houston Symphony, Accademia Bizantina…

    • Edgar Self says:

      Many thanks in return, Felipe Elgueta! I have now read your monthly reports with pleasure and will follow them with interest. Saludos. Edgardo el Mismo