Artists and the bureaucratic jungle

Published March 30, 2023

Czech Mobility Info is an information portal of the Theatre Institute – Arts Institute that provides support to artists and encourages them to cooperate on the international scene.

It also helps foreign artists, experts, and other cultural professionals arrive to the Czech Republic. The portal’s main goal is to connect individuals in the cultural sphere and create an accessible environment. On the online platform, you can find manuals on dealing with taxes or visas, seek individual consultation for understanding contracts and insurance in the Czech Republic, or attend workshops. In an interview with Martina Hájková, you will learn more not only about Czech Mobility Info itself but also about other platforms that can make it easier for artists to navigate the European bureaucratic jungle.


Can you briefly introduce the Czech Mobility Info project?

Czech Mobility Info operates as a cultural activity within the Theatre Institute – Arts Institute. It is funded by the Ministry of Culture and was established based on the Concept of Support for the Arts in the Czech Republic.

In particular, we focus on supporting artists and cultural professionals who come to the Czech Republic for artistic collaboration and helping them navigate the country’s bureaucratic system. However, we soon discovered that the Czech scene struggles with bureaucracy as well, resulting in inquiries from local organizations.

The infopoint has been running for several years and is constantly evolving. As the range of the topics covered is quite broad, we are continuously expanding our network of collaborators and organizations to provide comprehensive support to those who need it.


How is the project designed and how does it look when someone reach for your advice?

The cornerstone of the project is an information website that is organized into different categories based on the areas in which we provide advice, such as taxes, visas, copyright agreements, artist status, etc. We then supplement the website with individual consultations, which are mostly conducted via email or phone calls. Additionally, we complement our activities with thematic workshops dedicated to specific issues. These workshops are a varied thematic showcase, which is why we collaborate with other professionals.


What is the team behind the Czech Mobility platform?

The platform currently consists of me, and we are expanding our activities through a collaborative network of experts and organizations, such as Fair Art, Touring Artists, On the Move, universities, and others.


What are the common cases of assistance and who applies for it most often?

The most common issues are related to visa, tax, and social insurance. Often, assistance is needed due to language barriers and the lack of information in English on the websites of some authorities. Typically, we receive inquirers from individual artists and professionals who do not have a background within an agency and have to navigate the demands of a new environment on their own. However, we are also frequently contacted by Czech organizations collaborating with foreign artists who need to recommend the correct legislative procedure. Queries are often based on specific combinations or transitions from different statutes, state, etc.


What other types of advice do you provide? What topics you can cover?

We also provide advice on copyright, insurance, artist status, transport, customs or mechanisms to support foreign cooperation. Additionally, we expand the range of topics through synergies with other projects, such as the Prague Expat Center. Last year, we initiated a platform of service organizations in culture with Nová síť, where we bring together organizations and projects that provide advice not only for artists. Aperio, a non-profit organization for parenting counselling, or The Counselling Centre for Integration Counselling, which deals with residency issues, are examples of organizations that artists can turn to for assistance. We connect and refer to each other so that we can, if necessary, point out an organization that specializes in the issue. It varies, everybody does a slice of the issues.


Where did the inspiration come from? Do similar platforms work abroad?

The project is based on inspiration from foreign platforms dealing with cross-border mobility. Our biggest inspiration was the German platform Touring Artists, whose system of functioning we partially emulate. They help with getting information and present the available options abroad. They also have a larger reach, unlike us, as they have a big team and are funded by several cultural organizations.

Touring Artists is part of the platform On the Move, like the Theatre Institute – Arts Institute. Within the On the Move, we have a working group of mobility information points that operate in other EU countries or outside the EU. Of course, each infopoint has a different system of operation – some are integrated within a city, an NGO or an institution that primarily provides other services.


What benefits does the On the Move network bring to the project through its cooperation?

The cooperation with On the Move is primarily inspiring. We create working groups, exchange information and experiences and collaborate on selected projects during regular infopoint meetings. Currently, we are preparing bilateral checklists of basic questions and answers for Czech-German cooperation obligations. In the past, we have dealt with complex issues such as Brexit and its consequences, which have made mobility to and from the UK challenging. Additionally, we have addressed the issue of travelling with musical instruments. Overall, we are working together to make claims and obligations transparent and clear.


Can you think of a complicated or interesting case you have dealt with?

Rather than a specific case, I can recall frequent complexity in the issues we deal with. Specific cases are not always known to the authorities. In the cultural sector, people often have diverse activities such as artistic endeavours, full-time jobs, self-employment, which make it challenging to determine how a person with parental or maternity responsibilities or in case of injury should be treated. In such cases, specialized organizations are more equipped than the authorities. The cultural sphere then has to distribute and share this information.

Recently, I have been interested in cultural visas, which are not widely used because someone coming on a cultural visa is not gainfully employed. Consequently, a classic permit is required because cultural activity is considered as cultural exchange or representation.

International taxation is another complex issue, and we often engage external experts for this. The issue of foreign taxation or taxation with a foreign element is intricate.


What are the most common obstacles people encounter in establishing cooperation in the Czech Republic?

Navigating the legal system is a significant obstacle, compounded by the fact that much of the information is only available in Czech. However, it is improving, and many things are now becoming available in English. Nevertheless, some things that are specific to our sector are minor and not included in the basic information. In addition, finding information about exceptions for artists or short-term collaborations abroad can be challenging.

However, the lack of information usually deters people from pursuing legal demands rather specifically discouraging them from collaborating.

Another obstacle is the question of funding. Most of the Czech open calls are in Czech, but there are no other significant barriers. The Czech Republic is generally open.


Has the Czech Mobility Info project been involved in addressing the impact of the war in Ukraine on artists? Have artists from Ukraine or other countries contacted you?

We were part of a working group in cooperation with the Czech Centres and other associations and organizations. We have been exploring possibilities for support and assistance and held a seminar on tax issues for Ukrainian artists in February. We have been approached more often by Belarusians who wanted to leave the country or had already left and wished to come to the Czech Republic, as opposed to than Ukrainian citizens, who already have a well-established system of protection and integration. However, the Czech Republic does not issue visas to Russian or Belarusian citizens unless they are not in danger of life or have specific family situations.


Lastly, do you influence the Czech cultural scene and cultural policy, or how?

While it is not our primary focus, we indirectly intervene in cultural policy. For example, we work through partner organizations or try to lobby for specific issues.