Chile’s government places culture at the center of its program

President Bachelet’s administration promises to double the arts budget and improve
access to culture for most vulnerable.

Less than a week after her March inauguration, President Michelle Bachelet pledged to double the government’s culture budget during a speech at the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center (GAM) — a flagship arts complex in downtown Santiago. The second term head of state’s also included a commitment to improving access to arts facilities, especially for society’s most vulnerable in her plan to bring more culture across the country.

“We want to ensure that everyone who has talent and awareness can launch their career, regardless of economic or geographical disadvantages, or other impeding factors,” said Bachelet. “That’s why, within the first 100 days of this administration, we will order the creation of 15 new cultural youth centers to add to the five already in operation.”

In total, the planned cultural centers will reach more than 25,000 young people once completed.

The president also announced plans for an expansion of the GAM, specifically the construction of a large capacity theater that will accommodate 2,000, establishing the downtown cultural complex as one of three mega venues in the country. Chile’s two other major theaters are the opulent 19th century Teatro Municipal, also in Santiago, and the recently opened Teatro del Lago in Frutillar, in the Los Lagos Region.

Other projects announced included the creation of a new ministry to oversee heritage and cultural patrimony, the construction of more regional libraries and the expansion of a youth orchestra program.

Attending the speech alongside Bachelet was Culture Minister Claudia Barattini who took the opportunity to praise the projects for their focus on decentralization — a key initiative in a country working to wind back several decades of over-concentration of industry and arts in the capital.

“This is a decentralized program which will reach all the regions and we will be seeking to include local authorities throughout the implementation process,” she said, stressing the importance of cultural spending for any administration. “These announcements put art and culture at the center of the development program outlined by the president for the next four years.”