Archive for maj, 2008

Konst & Politik/Art & Politics

The initiator of the clothing brand Julian Red took a radical decision. They have grown immensely and sell their collection of clothes in cities like Paris, New York and Stockholm. But their head office is not found in one of these international metropolis. It’s placed in a small village about a two-hour drive north of Göteborg. To get there you get off the main highway and drive on narrow bumpy roads through fabriken.jpgbruket.jpgthe province of Dalsland until the village of Fengersfors turn up behind some trees. It was the people, the initiator Mattias Lind told us. What made them take the decision to move from the big city was the people forming the artistic group Not Quite and the milieu they created in the old paper mill.

When Not Quite moved to Fengersfors, it was a dying village. Young people moved away, houses were empty, and the only food-store was about to shut down. The future looked dark and the municipality had no solutions. It was really a coincident and a very open-minded owner of the run-down paper mill that made it possible. The artistic group Not Quite was formed in 2003, insidan.jpgmoved into the mill and started renovation, created ateliers, started a café with hardly a penny in their pocket. Today it’s an attraction and within just a few months three hundred visitors have been there to get inspired and learn from their example. Babies are born, people move in, artistic work is produced, exhibitions run, projects formed and the food-store is an important node in the area. How did they create this meeting-place in the outskirts of any reasonable big city?

Good meeting-places have the capacity to draw people to it. In Fengersfors you find sculptors together with photographers, visual artists together with a clothing brand. With people come initiative and new ideas. How are interesting meeting-places formed? What are the components? How do you draw ideas to a place?

The questions were put forward by participants in the project Art & Politics, led by the artist Jörgen Svensson. It’s a group of artists and politicians within culture in the region of Västra Götaland that meet five or six times a year to discuss the situation for artists in the region, ideas of development and to reach a better understanding of each other’s work. On May 26-27 the meeting was placed in Fengersfors, organised by Not Quite, as a case study of entrepreneurship in the region.

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28 maj, 2008

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Local meets global

In Sånga-Säby, a small village on the countryside outside Stockholm, around eighty participants from cultural life gathered to discuss local initiatives meeting global influences. Two full and intense days on May 20-21 with experiences of how to make change happen, the challenges of renewal, living the network, leadership and plenty of examples of local intiatives. One of the glimmering moments were when Rasoul Nejadmehr, Multicultural Consultant from the Region of Västra Götaland, told a good-night story. It was the real story of his life as a nomad, born somewhere in the borders around Afghanistan to his today life in Sweden. ”The grass is always greener somewhere else”, he said when reflecting on his childhood. A nomad is always looking for greener grass and a better spot. It’s always somewhere else, it’s always changing. A woman in the audience made the reflection that in the Swedish farming land, you stick with your land and it’s a sign of discontent or envy to look for where the ”grass is greener”. Two opposite perspectives on life.

Global influences came from organisations like Raqs Media Collective and Sarai from New Dehli, British Council in London and Labforculture in Amsterdam. We listened to the experiences of Intercult and Swedish Travelling Exhibitions. The Artist Jörgen Svensson talked about his project Public Safety and the artistic work he did in Stavanger, the Cultural Capital of 2008. The work in Stavanger includes a website for confessions, found at www.skriftestol.se.

Have a look at the programme: sanga-saby_programme.pdf. The seminar was arranged by The Foundation for the Future of Culture.

Nätverkstan arranged last year a conference in cooperation with the network Encatc under the topic ”On Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life” which very well relate to the same topic as this one. The documentation is possible to download here or from Encatc or Nätverkstan webpages. Nätverkstans contribution to this seminar is found in the following pdf culturalleader08.pdf.

22 maj, 2008

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Washington D.C

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”What blocks do you remove to make it easier to start initiatives?” Mr McNulty from Partners of Livable Community looks at us intensively and repeats. ”What blocks does your society need to remove to welcome people?” Immigrants will form forty percent of all small businesses in US, he tells us. ”Who will welcome these people? Probably Art and Culture”. Anne L’Ecuyer from Americans for the Arts concluded her speech by saying that the role of structures to let innovation take place, is to make sure of two things. Get out of the way. And get rid of the blocks.

Three interesting seminars was arranged by the Region of Västra Götaland and University of Göteborg in Washington on May 10-13 2008 on ”Mutual Benefits”, ”Building on Thin Air?” and ”Artistic Entrepreneurship”. The seminar took place at the House of Sweden and several interesting initiatives, organisations and Universities from both USA and Sweden discussed Art and culture as a resource for social transformation, new partnership building and the need for interdisciplinary environments, Art Universities and how they should deal with entrepreneurship and much more.

You can download the speech held by Nätverkstan here: natverkstan.pdf

An article in Swedish about the event is also found at the website University of Göteborg.

Partners for Livable Community

Americans for the Arts

Artomatic

American University

The John F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts

Arena Stage

National Children’s Museum of America

The Region of Västra Götaland

Vara Concert Hall

Film i Väst

Nordic Watercolour Museum

Göteborg Universitet

Jonsereds Herrgård

19 maj, 2008

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Self-confidence

The fly of the day is to use business knowledge and models to solve the difficulties in culture. Artists have a hard time surviving. So they should become entrepreneurs. Cultural institutions struggle with problems, so they should be reorganised and run as companies.

The latest in a row of such efforts is when the world-wide known firm KPMG was asked to do the evaluation of the Museum of World Culture in Göteborg recently. KPMG has a lot of respected knowledge specifically within areas such as auditing, taxes and counselling. But have they ever run a cultural organisation? The results of their evaluation are not surprising. The Museum does not fulfil their goals. The old collection of heritage is packed in boxes and not shown for the public. Someone who does not have knowledge of the cultural field in general and museums in specific can only say this. Most museums with old collections of objects struggle with their identity and the question of how they should handle objects of which many was collected or stolen from other countries during the Western colonisation. Many deal with how to reach a younger audience, how to renew mediation, and find new combinations of old objects and modern societal phenomenas in exhibitions that interest a public of the 21st century. The Museum of World Culture has balanced on this edge and done so very well.

In the latest issue of The Economist there is a story of the remarkable turnaround of carmaker Fiat. The Italian company was long written off as one of sickest firms in Europe, struggling with inflexibility in the workplace, bureaucratic management and lousy economy. In 2004 a new manager was recruited, Mr Marchionne. He took over a company doomed to failure and had within a short period of time changed it into a success. How did he do that? The combination of two things was important: An insider’s knowledge of how to make cars and an outsider’s view of what changes needed to be done.

The specific conditions under which the cultural organisations and entrepreneurs are working differ from, for example, the business sector. They have to be valued from a different set of models. That is not to say that business and culture don’t have things to learn from each other. A combination of skills as shown in the case of Fiat is needed. Unfortunately the cultural field is struggling with a lack of self-confidence. Politicians, civil servants at the cultural departments and even the cultural practitioners themselves rather look towards other sectors, than trusting the knowledge and experience from people in the field.

The article is found in The Economist, April 26th – May 2nd 2008. Also have a look at www.economist.com.

The evaulation of the Museum of World Cultures is found (in Swedish) at:
http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/10018/a/104393.

9 maj, 2008

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Start from scratch

Finally the new premises of the Arts Grants Committee at Maria Skolgata in Stockholm could be properly celebrated and officially opened. One year after moving in. Many people has been involved in one of the Committee’s biggest – and for some controversial – changes. Staff, architects, the Director (both former and sitting), civil servants at the Cultural Ministry and many others have put a lot of effort into this promising new localities. Everything from the art on the wall to the colours, furniture and the specific floor put in for dancers in one of the project rooms has been thought through. You rarely ever have the chance to do that. Start from scratch.

From here, the Committee hand out scholarships, grants and support to visual artists, musicians, dancers, composers and filmmakers. One of the assignments is also to focus on the working conditions for artists in Sweden. To put forward the situation for artists and set the light on the specific and hard working conditions that they have. Few survive on their art. Still, to get the great piece of opera that give new light to music; the fantastic theatre play that put forward the difficult questions; the dance-performance that pushes the limit of what can be expressed with your body; or the local underground band that catches your heart – artists need paid time to work, rehearse and perform.

Many questions have been and will be discussed. What does the working conditions look like for artists? How do our musicians survive in-between their gigs? How should the grants be formed to let composers write new music? How should the pensions for dancers be solved? How can the situation for the independent artists become better? What is artistic quality and how should this be judged? How do we discover new artistic expressions that are unknown today? Hardly new questions, but still valid. And what if we could start from scratch – how would a cultural policy for the 21st century be formed?

Take a look at www.konstnarsnamnden.se to get a glimpse of their work.

5 maj, 2008

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Authors

Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

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