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The artist Staffan Hjalmarsson called it ”Five Squares of Sorrow”. He was referring to a report, the index- and indicatorstudy, in a blogpost during the large conference arranged by Region Västra Götaland last year. The study was showing how the Region had fulfilled its indicators within the different focus areas. All focus areas had information and follow-up except one: Culture. This was glowing empty like five squares of emptiness and sorrow. Here there were no ways of measuring, no indicators that could be followed up. No statistics.
The question of how to measure and follow up culture is a difficult one. What is to be measured and how? What should be measured by indicators, what should not? What are the evaluation criteria?
In Sweden two different authorities has been formed for analyzing, evaluating and measure statistical datas of culture: Myndigheten för Kulturanalys (Authority for Cultural Analysis, my translation) and Tillväxtanalys (Growth Analysis). While the former are working for the Ministry of Culture and follow effects and evaluate cultural activities initiated by them, the latter is working for Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communication. Tillväxtanalys is the authority following for example business support activities – cultural entrepreneurs and businesses also fall under its responsibility.
On EU-level ESSnet-Culture was formed in september 2009 with the task to during a two-year period improve methodology and production of data on cultural sectors and also improve comparability within EU-countries. They have now published a final report from its four different task force areas: 1) update the cultural framework, 2) define cultural economic indicators and cultural employment, 3) on cultural finances and 4) cultural practices and the social participation in the culture.
Region Västra Götaland held last week a first small seminar to discuss statistics and evaluation methods of cultural entrepreneurs. The seminar was initiated by the regional think tank Kombinator. A seminar on the work of ESSnet with invited guests is also planned by the regional office later on this spring.
Read ESSnet report here.
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) used to be an organization seeing art and culture as a tool within international development. It was so important that a Department for Culture and Media was created with its own responsible officer.
Now winds are blowing differently.
The department is closed down since several years and to find art and culture, you have to look under the department responsible for questions such as freedom of speech, democracy, equality, environment and climate.
Between 2007 and 2011, the Sida budget for culture declined from 180 million SEK to 40 million SEK, Swedish Televion’s Kulturnyheterna (Culture News) reported on the 18th of January. With a fourth of the originial budget, many international cultural projects have lost their funding, among them now Selam, an established world music festival and organizer of education, development, inspiration, exchanges for artists in Sweden and East Africa.
Where art and culture used to be seen as a tool for grassroot development and democracy building, Minister for International Development Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson, is instead talking of efficiency, results agenda, more distinctiveness. Sida is saying that the changes are due to orders from the government. The Minister says, in the tv interview, that this is a complete misunderstanding.
The fact is that the decline in money to culture projects at Sida coincides with the Conservative government in power since 2007.
It also coincides with the years when the Ministry of Culture published the report from the work of Kulturutredningen (Committe of Inquiry of Culture Policy) in February 2009, an inquiry proposing that culture should mainstream all policy. Sida’s decline in culture projects is exactly on the contrary of this.
It’s also during the years when Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications decided to release a plan for supporting Swedish development of cultural and creative industries. Small money has been invested, it’s true, but it’s at the same time the first time Ministry of Enterprise is discussing culture. Where this discussion goes, we will see.
Gunilla Carlsson seems to have missed all this.
American artist P Nosa, he draws art on a sewing machine, is planning a sewing tour in the US with the mission: ”…to navigate the country promoting people’s creativity, providing a tangible patch of their ideas, and to teach how to use alternative energy sources”.
To fulfill his idea, he has created a website where you can donate money. If he gets to the total amount of the cost (7500 USD) he is on his way, otherwise the tour is cancelled.
The funding idea of the project goes in line with the idea of crowdfunding, where people pitch in a sum of money, big or small, to an idea they like. If fully funded, the projects runs. It’s the thought of ”the crowd decides”. These types of alternative funding ideas are growing and in Sweden you find for example the site Funded By Me.
Sarah Thelwall, a British researcher and consultant in creative and cultural industries, has written an interesting paper (July 2011) based on research on the value of small visual arts organizations in the arts ecology as well as society. Some of the outcomes include:
• The role and value of small visual arts organizations in society and within the arts ecology is often under-estimated by public authorities.
• The evaluation and measurement methods, ”the metrics”, of government and funders do not correspond to the value produced by these small organizations who build their operation on collaboration and flexibility.
• By investing in risk-taking and development of work, small arts organizations contribute to the development of larger art organizations.
• Small art organizations have very few tangible assets to capitalize income on compared to larger organizations, un often unacknowledged incomestream to be found in these small organizations is the intangible assets such as organizational expertise and experience, intellectual property, research skills, risk-taking etc.
• The report suggest a new investment model in order to measure the value of small visual arts organizations.
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