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”Since the 1980s cities have used art and culture to promote their image, regenerate older districts, attract tourists and creative professionals, and latterly, rolled into the creative industries as a new dynamic economic sector. There is no doubting the contribution all these approaches have made to the transformation of the urban landscape. But they have also provoked a growing crisis as to what exactly is the value of culture? Distinctions have been made between ‘intrinsic’ and ‘instrumental’ value; or different levels of cultural, social, economic and environmental ‘impact’; or even new kinds of ‘public value’ measures which use quasi-markets to valuate cultural assets of programs. A great many policy documents have used these and other models to try to ”fix” the value of culture for public policy.
This talk attempts to sidestep these debates by revisiting, first, the idea of cultural citizenship and second, that of cultural economy. I will suggest that these two ideas should not be separated into the socio-cultural and the economic but need to be combined in a new agenda for urban cultural policy.”
Check the event on Facebook. The seminar is possible thanks to Göteborgs Kulturförvaltning (City of Göteborg, Cultural Department), Frilagret, Konstnärsnämnden (the Swedish Arts Grants Committee), and Nätverkstan.
Etiketter:Artist, Artistic practice, Creative Industries, Creativity, Cultural economy, Cultural Journal, Cultural Policy, Cultural Project, Democracy, Economy, Entrepreneur, Globalization, International exchange, Social entrepreneur
In the middle of the roaring debate on the future of Lagerhuset, the Warehouse, a building in central Göteborg housing small-scale independent cultural organizations, publishers, and cultural journals, the digital journal Alba and Tidskriftsverkstan i Väst arranged a debate on cultural policy in the House of Literature (located in Lagerhuset).
It couldn’t be better timing.
But let’s start from the beginning. The old warehouse built in beginning of 1900 was for a long time a toll free warehouse for goods stored waiting for taxation to continue into the city. The building was then empty for a long time but in 1999 a group of small-scale publishers moved in together with Nätverkstan, Tidskriftsverkstan i Väst, the journals Ord&Bild, Glänta, and Paletten.
Other small businesses moved in, such as photographers, psychologists, architects, and editors.
In 2013 Frilagret started its cultural space for young people with dialogue processes and an active group of young cultural-interested people setting the agenda, an organization owned by the municipality. In October the same year the House of Literature opened its doors for readings, discussions on literature, space for writing, debates and discussions with authors, another of the municipality owned activities in the building.
And in March 2014 it was clear that the landlord, another part of the municipality, their own real-estate company Higab is chock-raising the rent for those in the house negotiating their contracts. One publishing house is leaving already in June.
The cluster of small-scale cultural organizations and entrepreneurs has taking long to create. And it can be destroyed in a second. No one can afford 30-35% higher rent.
With one hand the municipality is investing in a cultural house, while the other is pulling the rug under the feet of all the cultural organizations already in the building.
Of all the seminars, conferences, public debates and discussions on the cultural and creative city over the last ten years, Higab must have missed them all.
And they missed yesterday’s debate as well. Where are they? Are they at all concerned of the context and society they work in?
Categories: Art and Business Artistic practice Blogg Creative Industries Creative spaces Cultural Journals Cultural Policy Culture-led Development Economy Entrepreneurship Innovation Literature Medialab Music Nätverkstan Regional Development
Etiketter:Artist, Artistic practice, Creative Industries, Creativity, crisis, Cultural economy, Cultural Policy, Cultural Project, Development, Economy, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Literature, Renewal, Social entrepreneur
Is there a need for a joint Capacity Building program within Art and Entrepreneurship on the regional level in East Africa, driven and run by the cultural field? If so, what could a program look like?
Those have been questions discussed on the second meeting with representatives from cultural organizations as well as artists from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The meeting in Kampala on March 6–9, included several large questions.
What kind of competence building is needed among artists and cultural organizations? Is the perspective of livelihood a useful one? What are points of similarities in the context and cultural scene in the different countries, and what are the differences?
Three intense conference-days, with visits of cultural organizations in Kampala, ended in the conclusion that this process, discussion, and concrete ideas need to continue.
Three concrete points already happening is:
1) the GoDown Arts Centre start a term 1 course in Creative Entrepreneurship in May.
2) it might be possible to hold a facilitators’ course and training-for-trainers with regional partners sometime between May and August,
3) another meeting on the East Africa level will be held, probably in August, this time hosted by either Tanzania or Rwanda and with local artists invited.
On the meeting in Uganda artists within performing arts, writing, and visual art was participating, as well as representatives from Bayimba Cultural Foundation (Uganda), Femrite (Uganda), 32°East (Uganda), Autumn Ventures Africa (Uganda), MUDA (Tanzania), Ishyo Arts Centre (Rwanda).
The meeting is part of the project ”East Africa Capacity Building Program for Creative Entrepreneurs and Artists” funded mainly by the Swedish Institute and is a cooperation between GoDown Arts Centre (Kenya) and Nätverkstan (Sweden).
Etiketter:Artist, Artistic practice, Creative Industries, Creativity, Cultural economy, Cultural Policy, Cultural Project, Development, Economy, Education, Entrepreneurship, International exchange, Literature
What does the Norwegian author Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) have to do with Crowdfunding?
This week when Max Valentin, founder and CEO of the Swedish crowd funding platform Crowdculture, gave a lecture at the International Culture Project Management education Kulturverkstan, this is what it looked like.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that Ibsen earned his main income from performing rights, which gave – according to Wikipedia – around 3.357 euro in yearly income in 1899.
In 1898 he had a top yearly income of 9.983 euro, of these 8.469 euro was money from the rights of his collected works.
On the other hand, this doesn’t say much about funding by crowd funding…
Kulturverkstan invites professionals within art and culture, business and corporate field, voluntary and societal organizations; project managers, artists, professors, directors, officials, and many others during the education to always have the voice of practice within the education. During the two years the education lasts, a wide range of people have been invited who also serve as a good network for the students after examination.
During some winter months Nätverkstan, together with Sture Carlsson who is former CEO of the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Performing Arts and more, have dug deep into the situation of Wermland Opera.
Opera is probably the most expensive art form and operas around Europe are facing the same problem: increasing costs and lowered or stagnant public funding.
In many countries in Europe the tradition is to put a high degree of public funding into opera and concert halls. Today the situation is changing and for Italian opera houses – the cradle of the art form – the situation is acute. The accumulated deficit for Italian opera houses is enormous 300 million euro.
Wermland Opera, a small opera house situated in Karlstad in Region Värmland, is no exception. Although already getting a relatively large amount of the regional cultural budget (72%), the reality is that they have had to cut in expenses (mainly staff and productions).
Wermland Opera has showed impressive artistic results in its productions. In 2011 they put up the full Wagner Ring trilogy – something even large opera houses find challenging – a production that caused ripples far outside of Värmland with Wagner fans from all over the world traveling to the city and the national press praising the effort.
The opera house has managed to show high artistic quality opera in a small format, something that perhaps can be described as a new model of working for small opera houses with relatively limited budgets in Europe.
But they also face challenges. They can’t cut more in the economy without endangering the artistic quality. At the same time, getting such a high amount of the regional cultural budget as they do, leaving crumbles for other cultural initiatives, they also have a large responsibility. They need to open up for cooperations and to a larger degree see themselves a regional cultural resource.
Read articles in Swedish Television Värmlandsnytt, Swedish radio P4 Värmland or download the following articles here: Articles_WO.pdf. Read also the article ”The End of Italian Opera: Will They Wait for the Fat Lady to Sing?” in Newsweek. Read related post here.
Göteborg International Film Festival has taken over the city and people are rushing through snow and sleet to see films; join events, seminars, price ceremonies; or just do celebrity spotting.
On Saturday evening large crowds went to the big arena in the city to see the documentary from 1982, Koyaanisqatsi. The documentary was directed by Godfrey Reggio, photography by Ron Fricke, and music composed by Philip Glass, and quickly became a cult movie.
In a unique cooperation between the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra and the International Film Festival, this film was shown on 20 meter large screen with live music played by the Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra Choir, Philip Glass, and the Philip Glass Ensemble.
The film with a title meaning ”Life out of balance” in the Hopi Indian language, shows exactly that – a life out of balance – as actual today as thirty years ago. Or even more so today.
For those who saw David Guggenheim’s documentary on Al Gore’s campaign to educate people on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, might find similarities. Both try to show a disastrous development for humanity and nature that just can’t go on.
But Koyaanisqatsi is more than a documentary. The film photo, the silent ongoing fast pace, and the live orchestra music in combination goes beyond any simple messages.
DIY (Do It Yourself) is almost like an invitation, a command, to not sit around and wait for things to happen. Instead: Take Action!
Meet up with colleagues, experts, friends, academia, practice, interested folks; create a space, combine your expertise, and solve a problem, found a new idea or make innovations.
DIY Days Gothenburg, taking place this week (18-26th of January), is full of creation, ideas, hot spots, talks, and exchanges. It’s an interesting combination of low thresholds, an open and inviting attitude, and a willingness to share.
The goal is set high: How do we create a sustainable city for the future?
Described under the theme ”Future Cities – Sustainable and Playful Design with focus on Water” people pitch in their ideas such as Tikitut, the community-based tourism or Halo, working on sustainable architecture, or the mix between Hackathons, game industry meet ups, world cafés, crowdfunding, and mentorships and advice.
So take action and pay a visit!
As the bus with the musicians from Wermland Opera leaves Karlstad to go to the evening concert in Karlskoga, darkness comes early and fast. Most of the trip goes through the woods of Värmland in pinch black darkness and in poring rain.
The orchestra at Wermland Opera, normally based in Karlstad, does tours like this now and then to small cities in the region to let opera and classical music reach out to the different corners of Värmland. The concert this evening is arranged by Karlskoga Konsertförening and is this year’s Epiphany Concert led by conductor Henrik Schaefer.
Karlskoga (Karls Skogar/Woods of Karl) got its name from king Karl IX who saw these woods as his royal woods and is a small city of around 27.000 inhabitants. Between 1970–2010, the municipality of Karlskoga was second on the top list of municipalities in Sweden loosing most inhabitants.
When the bus stops at Bregårdsskolan, the location for the evening concert, the musicians eat, change, rig the stage, do the sound check, and start in no time. Around 150 people have found their way to the school assembly hall, average age being sixty plus something, to listen to the tones of Richard, Josef, and Johann Jr Strauss, and composer Constanze Geiger.
Karlskoga born opera-singer Anna-Maria Krawe sings and on Oboe is Malin Klingborg. Conductor Henrik Schaefer guides the audience through the concert in a pedagogic way that inspires, and the story of how he digged deep in the library in Vienna to find a suitable piece to perform by female composer Constanze Geiger is open and inviting.
After the concert, everything is packed back in the accompanying small trucks, musicians in the bus, and within thirty minutes or so the assembly hall is empty as if nothing has happened.
Research has been done to try to prove what art and culture mean to us human beings. At University of Gothenburg you find Centre for Culture and Health, a centre focussing on research and statistics to show the positive connections between culture and health.
It’s hard to say if the audience of this concert got healthier after listening to the orchestra. Or if people are more willing to stay and live in Karlskoga thanks to events like this (another large discussion in Europe). If so, these effects are secondary. First and most, it was a wonderful moment of music.
A study from the Arts Grant Committee (2010) showed that women within art generally have lower income than their male colleagues. Men’s part of income also increases with higher income figures.
At the same time, women within the art field are more highly educated than their male colleagues, and in comparison with women in the population as a whole.
Looking at income the following are shown.
Visual art have the lowest salaries and are dominated by women, while music has the next highest median income level – and to 70% consists of men. Theatre seems to be the most gender balanced art form with the highest median income level, but also the art form with highest differences in salary due to gender.
A lot more needs to be done when it comes to equality within art and culture, something that the New York-based group Guerrilla Girls have picked up. The following art piece could be seen at this year’s GIBCA (Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art).
So stand tall, fellow Guerrilla Ladies, and don’t let gender and equal rights slip away unnoticed!
Arts Grant Committee, Artists’ Income from a Gender Equality Perspective (Part 2, 2010)
Tayga is an experimental platform for people within arts and cultural in central St Petersburg.
A group of artists managed to convince the landlord to let artists use this large empty building for art production, meeting-places, and networking, instead of leaving it empty and rundown. Art studios, a small shop, meeting rooms, a garden for music and other events, media, video showroom etc have been built up since then. And the deal is simple: The artists pay low rent to keep the facilities in shape.
One of the artists work with video art and mapping in the artistic collective Tundra. Sasha Sinitza has worked with different projects with Tundra, for example they did the interesting piece Void to try to visualize emptiness.
Mapping is becoming more and more interesting and the Tundra has explored this art form to the full extend, showing work both in a four-wall room with four projectors simultaneously working, and on buildings outside.
After about one and half hours with bus from St Petersburg on the highway towards Estonia we arrive in the small town of Kaykino. Here Olga Gracheva, former fashion designer and now project manager and business consultant, and Victor Grachev, a sculptor, have decided to live and be part of working for a lively and interesting society in rural areas.
Their home is their project. From the house and garden cultural projects are created, ideas developed, and sculptures formed by artistic hands in material such as stone, wood, metal.
And they involve their neighbours, the children’s culture school, the Agriculture College, and others in Kaykino. It’s about involvement and creating possibilities, because the simple fact is that agriculture is dying and young people move to the big cities.
During a four day visit to St Petersburg, we spend a lot of time discussing what this means. We meet with the Art Academy (Stieglitz), Kuryokhin Center, and the Children’s Culture School in Kaykino as well as the Agriculture College.
The visit was initiated by NGO Creative Project Kaykino in St Petersburg and is supported by the Nordic Culture Fund and included invited guests from Not Quite, Tou Scene (Stavanger), StoneZone, and Nätverkstan. The visit ended with a seminar with invited authorities, a report will be written as the end of this exchange project. A former post you find here.
Kulturchock packed the suitcases with Swedish cultural journals and travelled to Helsinki Book Fair that just took place.
On the airport they met the first (that we have seen) print-on-demand machine for buying periodicals and journals, Meganews. It’s time to check what the deal is and how cultural journals can be part of this very modern way of buying journals.
Sarah Thelwall, a UK consultant on cultural entrepreneurship, took a deep dive into small arts organizations’ difficulties to communicate the value they contribute to society – a value that is rarely counted in profit or money, but in other things.
It’s a difficulty art organizations over the world can recognize.
Put any cultural organization next to statistic measurements, economic outcome, and evaluations with a quantative focus, and culture comes short. So how do you measure intrinsic value?
Many of us within culture are already initiated, we know the value but come short in describing it. It’s like the Swedish artist Staffan Hjalmarsson once said about the lack of measurement methods for culture,: it’s five squares of sorrow. It referred to a report by the Region Västra Götaland where the consultants had evaluated the work within the region’s five focus areas. The other focus areas had facts and figures, but culture glowed all empty and became according to Hjalmarsson: Five squares of sorrow.
Riksutställningar, The Swedish Exhibition Agency, decided to pick up this dilemma of showing the value of culture and has put focus on this during 2013 in seminars and discussions.They have invited Sarah Thelwall to talk about her report and discuss with others in two larger events: Supermarket 2013 in February and now Samtidskonstdagarna in Göteborg on October 18–20.
She wrote the report on commission of Common Practice, an organization based in London and with the aim to focus on small art organizations’ situation.
Riksutställningar translated, in cooperation with Nätverkstan, some of her work into Swedish in a book that just came from the printing presses. Everything to bring light and perspectives on the continuous discussion on describing the value of art for others than those already initiated.
Read also this blogpost on the same book (in Swedish).
Take the tram fifteen minutes from the center of Göteborg – and you arrive in the periphery. At least that’s how many feel if you live in suburbs or areas around the city center. Hammarkullen is one such area outside Göteborg and where many initiatives have started with the aim of bringing the art, culture, and social work done in the area into the spotlight.
Ten Russian visitors representing culture, art, business, and the authorities in St Petersburg is on a tour in Göteborg and Region Västra Götaland with the aim of discussing the role of art, culture, and social work in the rural areas and to address the question of the center versus periphery.
One stop has been meeting people in the area of Hammarkullen, with visits to different initiatives such as Hammarkullen365, Folkets Hus, and the local radio. Another Nätverkstan located in the city center, and then visits to the artistic workshop for sculpture, textile, ceramics, to artist Lukas Arons and his sculpture precincts, and Gerlesborgsskolan (School of Gerlesborg) along the coast-line. And today the visit is to the artistic collective Not Quite in the very small town of Fengersfors, a two and a half hours drive NorthEastly from Göteborg.
The visit was initiated by NGO Creative Project Kaykino in St Petersburg and is supported by the Nordic Culture Fund. Next step is to Stavanger in Norway, and the project ends with a seminar in St Petersburg in November.
See here a former post on the topic of center vs periphery.
With his interest in territory and cultural heritage, artistic director Christophe Guiho wanted to create an organization with this specific focus. Territoires Imaginaires started in July 2012, is based in Nantes (France), and around one year later the project La Nuit des Pêcheries took place.
The idea is simple and inviting. Along the Atlantic coast on the west coast of France you find small private fishing huts, pêcheries, placed on poles a bit out in the water due to the tide. The huts are private and walking a bit out on the bridge, you are met by a locked door. For the owner it’s an enjoyable asset, overlooking the ocean where you quietly roll down the fishing nets and wait for your catch. The public in general has no access and usually these huts have been inherited within the families. No new ones are aloud to be put up.
With the project, Christophe Guiho wanted to make this heritage sitting along the coastline accessible and opened up for the public. He worked together with artists to make art installations in each of six fishing huts.
More than 1500 people gathered on the opening night on the hills overlooking the huts, enjoying music event and visiting the art installations. He did this project with little money and with mainly his own drive, energy, and a successful project as payment.
Another project in Nantes over the summer is Le Voyage Nantes, run between June to September and with a much larger budget. During 2013 Nantes is The Green Capital and to celebrate this, the city has decided to each summer fill the city and its surroundings with artistic interventions.
Over forty interventions in just the city of Nantes, with artists such as Daniel Buren, La Machine, Jean Jullien, Mathias Delplanque, and Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping. A green line is put in the pavement and is easy to follow around the city and Ile-de-Nantes to find each of these grand, imaginary, humoristic, and serious interventions. It’s by no means touched up, many pieces poses relevant questions and raises reflections.
And for the city of Nantes this has become a success. Visitors are many, and children and adults can enjoy the happening such as joining the enormous elephant created by La Machine for a tour on Ile-de-Nantes.
Yet critical voices are heard. It doesn’t have to be a contradiction between a city’s will to create big events and the on-going small-scale cultural organizations’ every-day struggle to create art with little money in their pockets. Unfortunately it often is.
A wise cultural policy that both enjoy the small-scale initiatives and the large events is wanted!
On a three day seminar in Stockholm at Museum of Modern Art in 2007 to celebrate a hundred years since philosopher Hannah Arendt’s birth, the book on Eichmann in Jerusalem and the banality of evil was not mentioned, journalist and critic Ingrid Elam noticed in her review of the seminar in daily Dagens Nyheter. It was not until someone in the audience asked the key speaker, philosopher Agnes Heller, that this work was discussed. It was all good reasons for this; the focus was on Arendt’s other important work.
Yet, reading Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) it’s difficult not to stay with her theories and reflect on their importance. They not only say something about the times in Europe during the Nazi era, they describe an on-going civil dilemma between bureaucratization and people.
Two things are especially terrifying and still today relevant.
One is the systematic way the in which the bureaucracy was built around, first emigration of the Jewish people from Germany, later the ”final solution” to send Jews to death centers. The language used to describe this wasn’t a mass-murderer’s, Hannah Arendt reflects, it was instead in terms such of ”programs” organizationally put under ”administration and economy”. Hitler and his men managed to build a bureaucracy in which the language around the ”final solution” was not immediately offensive or against people’s normal conscience. Finally, it seemed like a necessity, like an objective question that needed a solution.
The other is how she described Eichmann. He was not a monstrous murderer; he was not even particularly evil. She de-demonized him and he stands out neither as a diabolic character or a fanatic. He is just a dull bureaucrat with no ideas and a complete lack of critical thinking. He follows orders and is trying to do his job the best he can, wanting to climb to more important jobs and positions within the structure.
Since Arendt wrote this book in 1960s, even since the seminar in 2007, the European society has changed.
The economic crisis have had devastating effects in many countries with high unemployment rates and raise of poverty as a result. Art and culture has seen substantial cuts, of which effects for society we haven’t yet seen. Where will critical thinking be practiced?
Racist parties around Europe are filling seats in parliaments, some of them with roots in neo-Nazism. They changed their shaved heads to slick hairstyles and proper suits to better fit in to the political corridors. Their language is changing to not being immediately offensive and therefore suit a larger group of the population. Their main point on the agenda is limiting immigration, keeping a nation ”traditional” concerning everything from habits, culture and people.
As Ingrid Elam writes in her article (DN 15/1 2007), If Arendt had lived today she would have written about how today’s stateless people and refugees are handled by very ordinary people.
Hanna Arendt wrote the book ”Eichmann in Jerusalem” in 1963 and it is a collection of a series of articles written when she was covering the trial on Nazi Adolf Eichmann for the journal The New Yorker in Jerusalem in 1961. The book is translated into Swedish and published by Daidalos in 1996.
Article by Ingrid Elam in Dagens Nyheter (DN) on 15 of January 2007 can be found here.
In this year’s Göteborg International Film Festival (January 2013) they showed the film on Hannah Arendt by director Margarethe von Trotta.
American artist Andrea Geyer did an interesting piece on the trial with Hannah Arendt’s book as main base, Criminal Case 40/61: Reverb, 2009, which was shown, among other places, at Göteborg Konsthall in 2010.
It takes a bit of driving around to find Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemoráneo, (CAAC) which is a bit strange since it is an old monastery and a quite specific place. It’s situated in the centre of Seville, but still outside. As the gallerist Julio Criado put it during our visit in his gallery later the same day: It’s actually very central but often perceived as being outside of the city.
It’s on the other side of the river Guadalquivir and in the very same area that 1992 hosted the Universal Exposition of Seville (Expo ’92), an Expo of 215 hectares land and with 41 million visitors between April to October. The signs left now are – what seems for us as we drive around looking for the monastery – empty buildings and fenced areas. And behind white steel rods around the monastery and its gardens, we finally find it.
CAAC opened in 1998 in Monasterio de Santa María de las Cuevas with the aim of being a place devoted for Andalusian contemporary art. Art tradition in Seville, we are told, is that many artists are painters and within the Baroque tradition. The 80s is described as an interesting period in Seville, where the art scene (at least this is one way of understanding this period) hooked on to the era and buzz around film-maker Pedro Almodóvar and his often both provocative and controversial films on topics around sex and violence, religion and people in the margins of society. CAAC is aiming to put such an art discussion back on the agenda.
Walking around the garden, you see this ambition in the interesting, humouristic, and yet serious art interventions placed around the precincts. The Bus stop by Pedro Mora, Alicia by Cristina Lucas, and As a monument to the Artist by Curro Gonzales, are among some of them; the last one being an ironic commentary on the controversy around artists since Romanticism – and a very current such. In the temporary exhibition inside, Chilean performance artist Lotty Rosenfeld, stands out.
Luisa Espino, Coordinator of Exhibitions, tells us about the ambitious program, with temporary and permanent exhibitions, educational programs, music and art in the garden, seminars and conferences, and not least the publications 11 to 21 on the themes of the conferences and exhibitions.
Unfortunately CAAC has seen severe cuts in funding due to the Spanish economic situation that makes it difficult to keep the high ambition. The publications have, as a consequence, been closed down. For now, that is. The hopes are to be able to pick it up again. But the cuts are a bit like stepping back in time. A bit like being back on square one where it all started.
Gallerist and owner of the Gallery Alarconcridao, Julio Criado, talks about the art situation from another perspective.
Interestingly, the gallery is just one street from the famous bull arena in central Seville, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. Cultural heritage right next door to the new upcoming artists. Julio Criado sees an art market in change, where you have to find other ways than the traditional to find the buyers and the market. Also the artistic scene is changing, where a fairly traditional art education is not educating the most interesting artists. Instead he finds the most interesting work done by artists educated within other disciplines.
The first photo: Alicia by Cristina Lucas. The second: As a monument to the Artist by Curro Gonzales. Listen to the fanfare in the last piece here: artist fanfare. The last piece is the Bus Stop by Pedro Mora.
”We” in this blog are a group of five educators, consultants, and actor within art, entrepreneurship, art management from Germany, Austria, UK and Sweden, who formed a small think tank a few years ago to meet once a year and exchange experiences and ideas. This year a smaller group of three of us met in Seville on July 12–16. During the meetings we discuss, have workshops, exchange ideas, meet people within arts and culture, and just enjoy ourselves.
The last issue of the Economist (June 15–21st) brings up the topic of the tremendous cuts in art funding that we’ve seen in UK the last few years.
The viewpoint in the article is from Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, an art centre opened in 2002 in one of the abandoned mills along the river Tyne in NorthEast England. The Baltic was a former flour mill opened in the 1950s and closed in 1981. The transformation to a significant art center was led by (Swedish) founding director Sune Nordgren and cost 50 million pounds, money coming from mainly the National Lottery Fund, Arts Council, the region, and European Union.
We’ve seen it in many places all around Europe and elsewhere; industrial ruins become art centres, galleries, art studios, incubators within arts and culture.
The Italian Professor of Cultural Economics (IULM University, Milan), Pier Luigi Sacco, calls this process by a name: Culture-led local development processes or System-Wide Cultural Districts. He uses Newcastle as one example of culture-led local development processes in is his paper Culture as an Engine of Local Development Processes: System-Wide Cultural Districts (2008).
P L Sacco argues that art and culture is an important base for local development. If the right energy and mix of cross-boarder cooperation from the cultural scene, business community, authorities, and money are there, a positive local development can take place.
But as the article in Economist notes, it’s hard to measure the payback of money spent on art and culture, and it’s difficult to justify art spending to the larger group of tax payers.
”The truth is that the economic value of art is often as hard to quantify as its social or aesthetic benefits. That makes it vulnerable to cuts in tough times”, the article argues.
UK is one of the European countries that has cut the art budget with as much as, some figures note, 40%. This means less money to artists within all artforms, closing down many of the regional offices promoting art and culture, less money to the Art Council, and so forth. Regrettable but perhaps inevitable, Economist states. Money needs to be secured from other funding resources, mainly private.
It’s a problem on many levels. The lack of methods to properly measure effects of art and culture is one. Another is funding. Experiences show that private funding might be easier to find for building icon buildings, but is not a reliable source of income for production of art.
If new large cultural icons such as Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art are to be able to bring tourists and have an effect on the overall economy, and in time pay back the investment to the local community; visual and conceptual artists, film-makers, handicraft artists, designers, musicians, poets, and others are needed to fill these large buildings with content.
Whose responsibility are their working conditions?
In Nairobi, Kenya, meeting with the people from the GoDown Art Centre and now developing step two of the educational programme ”Reaping the value out of your artistic creativity”.
GoDown Art Centre and Nätverkstan have cooperated since 2009 on workshops and developing ideas of how to build a capacity-building programme for artists and cultural entrepreneurs in East Africa. Professional artists from different art forms, university professors, directors, managers, and others from the cultural scene have been involved in building the content of the programme so that it will fill the needs found by the sector in the context of East Africa.
In the developing process Sian Prime at Goldsmiths University has been involved, also Kenya Polytechnic University in Nairobi, British Council, and Swedish Institute.
The result has been tested in two pilot programmes of 10 weeks that were run in 2012, each with around
30 emerging and professional artists in each group. And now we are gathering again to continue the journey of developing step 2 of the programme.
And I can’t help but think of the article in the new issue of the Art journal Paletten in Sweden about a week before leaving for Kenya. The article is arguing that all talk of entrepreneurship within the art is a sign of instrumentalization and the economization of the art, a result of this are courses on art and entrepreneurship at the university.
It’s necessary to always argue for the role of art and culture in society, and rightly being critical to some processes and initiatives. But to wipe away all efforts on trying to find useful ways to tackle artist’s reality as freelancers and how to deal with their livelihood as neo-liberalism is a little far-fetched. It can only be said by someone who doesn’t have to worry about money.
The reality in Kenya (and Sweden) is that you have to try to find ways to balance your artistic practice with income so bills can be paid and food put on the table. Some do this by trying to live on their art, some do this by finding bread jobs and pursuing the artistic practice and career on their free time. Solutions are many.
It’s not about becoming just like any other business, instead it’s the opposite. It’s about putting efforts into finding ways forward that works within the artistic field and for your artistic practice.
Reading the evaluations from the two pilots, participants seem to agree.
The last semester at Kulturverkstan, the two-year International Culture Project Management Programme, the students do an internship at an institution, organization or project which they have identified as interesting from a learning perspective.
During their internship, they also identify a question or focus area which they research. The topics range from the sustainable society, citizen dialogue, equality and gender in cultural life, the relation between an intense working situation and the every day life, work and motive, and much more.
Coming back to Kulturverkstan, they write a final report as well as have an open presentation to discuss their topics with invited guests and audience. The discussions are rich both in depth and learning aspects and it’s a time of the year that has become a must if you’re interested in keeping up-to-date in important discussions in the cultural scene.
Read more here and if you happen to be in Göteborg – slip into one of the seminars!
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