France Is Giving Young People €300 to Spend on the Arts After a Trial Run Found the Culture Pass Program a Success

The newly launched smartphone app gives young people a bundle of credits to spend on cultural discoveries.

President of France Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images.
President of France Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images.

After a regional trial run, French president Emmanuel Macron is launching his program to fund cultural activities for young people nationally. Culture Pass, as the initiative is called, is now open to all 18 year olds in France, and will be extended to high schools across the nation in 2022.

Users can activate their passes on their smartphones, which gives them access to €300 ($367) to spend over the course of two years on tickets to art shows or movies, or to buy drawing materials, instruments, and other offerings.

As of today, Some 800,000 18-year-olds in France are now eligible to sign up.

The news comes just as museums in France reopen after more than six months of closure. Locals flocked to the Louvre this week, and other museums, which are now open with time-slot tickets and social distancing policies in place.

Culture Pass has been undergoing test rollouts for the past two years. Eligible users can attend museums or cinemas, take dance or music lesson, subscribe to music or video platforms, or buy books. Nicknamed the “GPS of culture,” the pass also prioritizes French creative businesses, such as Deezer, France’s version of Spotify.

Since Macron’s government first raised the idea for the program in 2019, it has faced some push back from officials who say it is too expensive and commercial. “At the very moment when culture is at a standstill, when artists are dying in our country, we’re pouring €59 million into the Culture Pass,” said senator Jean-Raymond Hugonet at the time. “It’s not the right time, not the right formula, not the right process.”

The current rollout, timed to the reopening of cultural venues in France, seems more tactful. The pass, which was initially supposed to offer €500 ($612), has also been reduced to two sums: high schoolers will receive €200 for the first two years, and then €300 when they are 18 to be used for another two years.

Macron said he hopes the program will be add to the country’s cultural revival after the pandemic.

So far, the demand seems to be there. In a test run, the Élysée Palace received reservations from 125,000 users of the Culture Pass. In the test, which was implemented across various departments, 73 percent reporting discovering new cultural activities and 32 percent went to the museum for the first time in 2021. Books were ordered more than video games.


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