The Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam

“Isn’t that a beautiful sight?” Eric Holterhues points at the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam. An eye-catching iconic white building with a futuristic design, the EYE has welcomed 750,000 film fans per year from all over the world. “EYE is one of the recent investments from Triodos Cultuurfonds”, explains Holterhues, who has been involved with the fund from the beginning and became its manager in 2011. The EYE showcases the very best of cinematic history – often in newly restored versions. It also screens new independent releases, hosts special evenings dedicated to experimental film and acts as a national film archive.

We offer a diversified fixed income portfolio with investments that will appeal to any investor with a moderate risk profile and a long-term investment horizon, who has arts and culture close to his or her heart.
Eric Holterhues

The art of financing culture

This November, Triodos Cultuurfonds (Triodos Culture Fund) celebrates its tenth anniversary. To honor the event, Eric Holterhues takes us on a trip to a few of the projects financed by Triodos Cultuurfonds. From EYE we move on to one of the smaller investments in portfolio. On the train to Weesp to visit Het Domijn - a cultural cooperative where artists can rent affordable working spaces - Holterhues enthusiastically recounts the last few years. “The funding of arts and culture has changed over the past years, especially when the government started to cut back on its subsidies. Artists and cultural institutions had to look for additional sources of funding. I think the sector has greatly succeeded in this, in which, I’m proud to say, Triodos Cultuurfonds has been playing an active role.”

Het Domijn, Weesp

Triodos Cultuurfonds provides loans to cultural entrepreneurs, which they use to invest in for example a building, the renovation of a building, or diversification of income sources – for example a museum operating a cafe or the installation of solar panels to reduce the operational costs. Arts and culture play an important role in any society. They provoke thought and discussion and as such contribute not only to the cohesion and wellbeing of society as a whole but also to the personal development of individuals. “The mission of Triodos Cultuurfonds is therefore to stimulate and support a healthy, resilient cultural sector in the Netherlands which we do by providing loans to cultural entrepreneurs and strengthening the sector’s financial base,” says Holterhues.

Over time, the character of Triodos Cultuurfonds has changed somewhat. Holterhues explains: “Initially, the fund provided low-interest loans, which was made possible by the fiscal stimulus from the Dutch government. When this arrangement was abolished in 2012, we broadened our scope and started offering loans that are slightly less risk-avoidant.

The loans we provide are backed by a (semi) government guarantee, mortgage or other securities. A good example of a loan from this category is debate centre De Balie in Amsterdam, where Triodos Cultuurfonds co-financed the renovation of a rented building. With this type of loan we continue where banks usually stop. Under certain preconditions, Triodos Cultuurfonds may even provide loans without any guarantee.”

A multi-cultural portfolio

Meanwhile, we have arrived in Weesp. “Looking at our portfolio, Het Domijn is one of our smaller and lesser-known investments”, says Holterhues, “but it’s as important as the more eye-catching ones. It is a unique place, accommodating creative people, each with his or her own artistic discipline. They vary from artists to craftsmen and from furniture makers to writers. In 2014, we financed the purchase and renovation of the premises and in 2015 the purchase of solar panels. This way, Triodos Cultuurfonds generates double impact: Het Domijn saves on its energy costs and at the same time reduces its CO₂ emissions by generating renewable energy.”

financing arts and culture
Marije Vogelzang, Food designer

The portfolio of Triodos Cultuurfonds not only contains artist spaces and museums, but also individual artists, theaters, and other cultural institutions. An example of an individual artist is Marije Vogelzang, an eating designer who focuses on the act of eating and the cultural and educational component that goes along with it. Holterhues takes pride in his diversified portfolio.

“Obviously, we do not determine what culture is and what it is not. We have no strict definition, and invest in large and small, famous and not so famous, across the whole country. It makes no difference if an artist or institution has international, national or only local appeal. We require a sound business plan and do the ususal due diligence and risk analysis and analyse the social and cultural impact of a project.”

The investment appeal

Here we touch upon what Holterhues thinks makes his fund interesting to investors. “We offer a diversified fixed income portfolio with investments that will appeal to any investor with a moderate risk profile and a long-term investment horizon, who has arts and culture close to his or her heart. Someone who wants to achieve positive impact with his money and at the same time earn a decent return – an average annual return of 2.1% over the past five years.” Yet he acknowledges that even though a lot has been achieved over the last ten years, investing in arts and culture can still hardly be considered main stream. “In that sense, being unique in the world is both a strength and a weakness. We have proven to be viable – we actually never had a default in our portfolio since the start of the fund - and have clearly shown to fulfill a need, both on the investee and on the investor side. In the coming ten years, we are going to take things a step further and speed up the growth of the fund."