Posts with tag Renewal

Free Lagerhuset!

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?

See former post here and download the debate article (in Swedish) here: Befria Lagerhuset från Higab.pdf.

1 april, 2014

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Sustainable businesses?

Department of Finance invite each year board members and CEOs of state owned companies to a half-day board conference on different current topics. Today this year’s conference was held at Dramaten (Royal Dramatic Theatre) on the pressing issue of ”Sustainable business” with prominent guests as Al Gore, David Blood, and Petter Stordalen, and an introduction by Minister of Market Finance, Peter Norman.

According to the Swedish state’s definition of ”sustainable business” it includes how companies work with human rights, employment conditions, environment, anti-corruption, business ethics, diversity, and equality.

And apparently all of us board members in different state-owned boards are doing an excellent job.

This was pointed out by all speakers, with the exception of Petter Stordalen, who eagerly and passionately was claiming that we could all start our sustainable work today. Now! But for the rest it was more of a clap on the shoulder and reassurances that ”you are all doing such a good job!” looking out of the audience.

”I am happy with the support I get from the state”, two of the participants in the last panel claimed. With a cosy self-confidence the two CEOs answered the moderator’s questions on how they work sustainable, challenges they meet and how they solve them, and if they are satisfied with the support from their owner, the state. And they are happy with the support, both reassured.

And you wonder how is that possible?

How is it possible to scratch each other’s backs and claim satisfaction, when companies in the world, which also includes Swedish companies (state and privately owned), are still violating human rights? When climate goals are not reached? When children are used in child labour? When textile workers die in Bangladesh due to lousy working conditions? When women and children are sexually abused?

Shouldn’t the questions instead be: What are we all doing wrong? What is it we are NOT doing so that these violations can continue? What is it we are NOT doing but SHOULD do to fulfill the ambitions with sustainable business?

 

17 juni, 2013

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Pier Luigi Sacco – in Swedish

Professor of Cultural Economics, Pier Luigi Sacco, has been widely engaged around Europe as a consultant to governments, local administrators, and cultural organisations on culture-led local development.

His perspective is the system, and he talks about the system-wide cultural districts. The role of culture has changed over the decades, he says, and today the importance lies in the fact that it is system-wide which means it permeates social and economic life in cities and regions.

The worst thing a government can do is to cut in the cultural budget, he said on a conference in Göteborg in February 2012. The longterm effects will be severe for the city, region, and state.

Pier Luigi Sacco has also been engaged in Sweden. In Region of Halland his methods have been tried, and now also in the province of Skaraborg, part of Region Västra Götaland.

Nätverkstan has translated some of his texts, done an interview, and collected all this in a publication published in the end of April. The publication is part of the project Knep and financed by European Social Fund. Keep eyes open here.

18 april, 2013

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Center vs periphery

Often debated, and the politicians in Region Västra Götaland love to join the choir, is the relation between the central city or capital and the periphery. Urbanization has made this a burning question. A constant topic on politicians agenda is how to deal with depopulation of the countryside.

The discussion is often built as if the center is in opposition to the periphery. Instead of a perspective of how the two can support each other in development. American–Canadian activist and writer Jane Jacobs (1916–2006), who had a great interest in urban development and communities, wrote in mid 60s about this dilemma. Her main thesis was that cities are the main drivers of economic development.

The June 30th number of Economist puts London on a high as the international hub in UK and discusses its role for development of the rest of Britain. And the lack of appreciation of its brilliance among policymakers.

”Now history is moving on, and the policymakers are messing up.  They could tip the city into a decline without even noticing it, for the ecosystem of a great city is a complex and fragile thing.”

”Stay open to stay great” is the conclusion of the Economist leader article. Staying open means continue to let foreigners and immigrants coming into the country. They have helped built London to the city it is and more help is needed. Building a fortress around Europe doesn’t seem like the most forward-looking idea.

9 juli, 2012

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Book industry in transformation

”To see how profoundly the book business is changing, watch the shelves”

In the latest issue of Economist (Sept 10th–16th 2011) you can read how digitization is transforming the book industry. What has been known in newspaper and music world since late 1990s is now heading towards publishers. This year sales in the first half of the year of consumer e-books in America overtook those from adult hardback books.

As an example, watch the bookshelves, Economist say. IKEA is introducing a new version of the classic bookshelf ”Billy” next month, a shelf not necessarily for storing books, but a deeper one with glass doors to use for ornaments and other things.

Digitization has given new life to old books. Harlequin has digitized more than 13.000 of its books and the firm has started to publish romances as only e-books. Amazon is selling more copies of e-books than paper books. Digitization has for small publishers showed a way out of the difficulty of managing inventory. If you print too many books, many of them will be returned by stores. Print too few and publishers will get a problem of costing more than it tastes to reprint.

There are two important jobs for publishers:

”They act as the venture capitalists of the words business, advancing money to authors of workthwhile books that might not be written otherwise. And they are editors, picking good books and improving them. So it would be good, not just for their shareholders but also for intellectual life, if they survived”

Nätverkstan has started Samladeskrifter out if these exact ideas: to make small publishers’ and authors’ books available over time and possible to read in different digital formats. It’s both a digital tool for small publishers and authors to make books available on Internet, and a sales window towards the market. Building this has been an interesting roller-coaster ride through a book industry in transformation.

Read more here.

17 september, 2011

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Consensus and disagreement

The theories of philosopher Jacques Rancière and his politics of aesthetics got a very practical meaning the other day when listening to literature researcher and dramaturge Jan Holmgaard.

He was invited to give a talk at the closing of a mentorprogram run by DIK Association and took his standing-point in Rancière. Very simplified described as two spheres in constant struggle with each other; the current understanding of reality, and the resistance towards this understanding. The gap in between these two is where creativity and modern art finds its role in trying to distort current understanding. A vital society should be one that allows for this gap of disagreement to exist.

Translated to practical work in an organization or, such as in this case, a mentorprogram, it poses some crucial questions. Does a mentorship program institutionalize hierarchy? And is that good or bad? Can anything be done to brake this hierarchy? How would you radicalize the idea of a program for mentorship? What are the blind spots we don’t see, that influence on our understanding of reality and are used as the basis for decisions?

A struggle for consenus, a mutual agreement among a group of people, is undemocratic and just confirms the current. Instead, the democratic line is to allow for dissensus and disagreement, Holmgaard points out. A difficult task, and so beautifully addressed by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård in his summertalk in Swedish radio in August just a few weeks after the horrifying attack by Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo.

We are all pieces in the puzzle of existing understanding and structure in society. This was a good reminder of how important art is to keep us vital.

10 september, 2011

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Future cultural leadership?

Do you know the price of oil? Could you tell the eight Millenium goals set in 2000?

Venu Dhupa, Director Creative Development at Creative Scotland, starts with a quiz with the audience. We live in a globalized world and as leaders of cultural institutions it is necessary with a global perspective.

”Institutionally we are out of touch” and the question Venu Dhupa asks is: ”Are you looking for people just managing things or are you looking for leaders?”

Other skills are important for leaders such as ability to deal with uncertainty, question and reflection, perspective, a sense of place in the world and sense of value,

A series of two seminars took place recently, the first at Kulturhuset in Stockholm led by Sune Nordgren, and the second at Hanaholmen – Hanasaari kulturcentrum in Helsinki, to discuss leadership within cultural institutions and small organizations with guest speaker Venu Dhupa.

The seminars were arranged in cooperation between Kulturhuset Stockholm, Hanaholmen – Hanasaari Kulturcentrum, Kulturfonden för Sverige och Finland, Cultural Leadership Award in Sweden and Nätverkstan.

Download invitation here (in Swedish): seminarleadership.pdf. Read more related posts here and here.

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1 juni, 2011

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From industry -) small businesses

The two women at Print Design in Lidköping are keeping very busy. They do prints for porcelain and when we visit they are about to start working with gold details, something that takes patience and precision. The knowledge they have is rare and they have kept their aims high. Their small business have had a fairly steady stream of orders since the start in 2006 when Rörstrand closed down the porcelain factory. Now it’s particularly busy. Print Design got a large order to do all the prints to the porcelain for Swedish Crown Princess Viktoria’s wedding in June and also the memory porcelain sold to the public.

The story is not un-known of these days. Rörstrand started their business producing ceramics and porcelain in 1726 in Stockholm. They grew quickly, got well-known for the quality porcelain and from 1936 the main office was placed in Lidköping together with the factory, employing around 1500 people (about 25.000 inhabitants in Lidköping) in the beginning of 21 century. In 2005 the owner, Finnish Ittala, decided to close down the factory due to the heavy investment costs of new ovens and move the business from Lidköping. All employees lost their jobs. For the small porcelain-town Lidköping, situated right at the south end of the lake Vänern in Sweden, this was of course a disaster. The porcelain factory and the shop attracted around 450.000 visitors each year. Closing down meant a catastrophe. The municipality got cold feet and the landlord stood with thousands of square metres empty space.

Gunnar Hansson, who had been working at Rörstrand, got the question if he would try to do something with the empty space and started slowly building on what today is a cluster of small-scale businesses, small production space for ceramics and porcelain, education in ceramics and a porcelain Museum. To have a platform to work from, he started the development company, Rörstrand Kulturforum with the aim of developing Rörstrand’s factory area to an attractive area for ceramic production. They started from scratch where people who had been working for the same employer as long as twenty years, were suppose to become entrepreneurs and needed education in things like how to do a budget, how the selling process worked. They also wanted to start the production of ceramics again, but where was the market for producing ceramics to a reacenable price? If you produce more than 30.000 cups you make them in Bangladesh, Gunnar Hansson tells us, and 30 cups you can produce in your own home-oven. What about producing 3000 cups?

Maybe that’s a market share they could take. In these changes Print Design started, where the two women had a very specific expertise, but had never run a business before. Now they do prints for the Royal Family in Sweden. With a combination of education, creators and Artists, business, small-scale entrepreneurs and new ideas, Rörstrand factory area has managed to keep the attraction. What is the key to success? ”We have lubricated where lubricate is needed”, is Gunnar Hanssons simple reply. One such grease is, no doubt, money.

Look also at the small Art and design studio In Every Tree, Stockholmbased, but they also have a studio in the old porcelain factory in Lidköping. See a former blogpost from Biella, Italy, where the textile industry met the same destiny. The visit was part of a study visit with a think tank on creative industries in Region Västra Götaland.

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22 mars, 2010

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Thinking outside the box…

We need to think outside the box, we are told. Especially in times of crisis. Be creative. You are in a box, just go outside it and you will find new solutions. It’s a statement often presented to cultural entrepreneurs and institutions as an answer to lack of funding. You have to cooperate, look for co- funding bodies, sponsorship. Just think outside your normal structures and you will find new partners, new possibilities and, finally, new money.

The Norwegian Consortium Koenigsegg Group yesterday officially withdrew their offer to buy Saab Automobile with their factory placed in West Sweden. A devastating decision for Saab, who now stands without owner, and for West Sweden, where a lot of people already lost jobs due to the crises in Volvo and Saab. Another 8000 jobs are threatened in the region if Saab has to close down, a figure states in Dagens Nyheter.

”We are in desperate need of fantasy” a comment states in today’s daily Göteborgs-Posten. David Karlsson, cultural journalist and Chair of Nätverkstan, continues, ”Only a vivid cultural life can give us the durability needed to survive when hurricanes are sweeping away the Saab factory and jobs”. The crises affect cultural policy and culture. We need literature, film, theatre and the cultural expressions more than ever when, as in a crises, identity is lost.

Cultural industries are growing, this is where jobs will be created several reports have stated in recent years. Yet, the governement is responding by putting billions of SEK into infrastructure; roads, railways, maintenance.  Isn’t it time to think outside the box?

26 november, 2009

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The Green City

On the 25th floor at the Department of Environment we get a good view of the City Hall rooftop garden. It was planted in 2000 as a demonstration project to show how a green rooftop improves temperature and air quality. 20.000 plants were planted, more than 100 different species of native prairie plants known to grow in the Chicago area, to make sure they would endure the climate and the rooftop conditions of being exposed to sun and wind.

The project was a success and the green roof has been shown – and proven – to serve many benefits to the city and the building: It improves air quality, conserves energy, reduces stormwater runoffs and is a sort of self-sustained heating system. When it’s cold it has an isolating effect and a hot summer day it’s cooler inside. But only on the City Council side of the building. In the other half of the building is the County Council and they have decided to not join the project. The rooftop is divided in two halves, one with the green roof, the other without. And the effects are direct. Measures have been done showing the direct benefits for the working environment inside the building of the half with the green roof. One half is the future, the other is left behind.

The initiative has now spread and around 400 rooftops in Chicago have green roofs, Mr Larry Merritt, Public Information Officer at Department of Environment tells us. And also the private sector see the benefits. More an more private firms install green roofs.

Chicago was once called the Green City and during the time Mr Richard M Daley has been Mayor of Chicago (elected 1989) 300.000 trees have been planted in the city. By the end of the decade, the park district each year sowed 544.000 plants, 9.800 perennials, 156.000 bulbs, and 4.600 shrubs (Kotlowitz, 2004). The Mayor has put a sustainable environment high on his agenda and perhaps the largest green project could be said to be Millennium Park. The Park took six years to build, finished in 2004. and is built on top of railway-rails and several parking garages, hiding the still active railroad under a 24.5 acre (97 124 square meters) large green roof. The green gardens, together with a concert hall designed by Frank Gehry, several art works like Anish Kapoor’s ”The Bean” is attracting tourists and has made Millennium Park to be the second largest tourist attraction in the USA, we are told (Las Vegas still holds number one).

An article of  green roof projects can be found in the latest issue of the Swedish edition of National Geographic. Also read National Geographic News about the Chicago green roofs. In the book ”Never a city so real. A walk in Chicago” (Crown Journeys 2004), written by Alex Kotlowitz gives both facts and insights of the city.

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15 juli, 2009

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Trans-Racial Institute

Maybe you are actually white, even if your skin is black? Maybe you were born Chinese, but come to think of it you are really a Swede? Perhaps the color of your skin deceives your real identity? Are you who you think you are?

The Trans-Racial Institute is a project, a workshop, an Institute, working with issues of race and identity. You get a chance to become the race you actually are, through a workshop find the real you. As they put it themselves ”Your desire – our mission”. The project is developed by Max Valentin, an inventor and entrepreneur, and Yolanda de los Bueis, a Basque video Artist based in London. Max Valentin is also running the consultancy firm Fabel, based in Stockholm. Their mission is to help organizations to develop and design methods and processes to put light on and affect people’s attitudes and values.

The next Trans-Racial Institute workshop will be in Israel in August. Have a look at these two clips from Shanghai (China) and Graz (Austria).

10 juli, 2009

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The funding gap • Project work in Kenya

As we in the project team pursue the question of interaction between business and cultural field during our sessions, several things emerge. And as we get in to the thought of investors investing in cultural businesses to make profitable returns, a few more things get clear.

Many of the people we meet talk about the potential of creative industries in Kenya, people from both business and cultural side. There is an opening, a collective thought is, a potential, which should be addressed. But how? How would you do to catalyze this potential and at the cost of what? What are the trade-offs?

Samuel Muvelah, at Zimele Asset Management Company Limited, has long experience of project work in different parts of Kenya, venture capital and is now a money manager for those who put in around 50 dollars and want their savings to grow. ”The reason the creative field is not seen, is that it’s lacking sufficient institutional organization to integrate with formal capital structures”, is his major point. ”The field is disorganized, so how do you find talent? How do you begin to cooperate with creative industries?” ”To catalyze the potential you need an entry point!”

Muthoni Udonga, on the other hand is musician and a real entrepreneur. She runs festivals with a variety of the top East African Artists, run workshops, and she does this with the perspective of both doing excellent music events, and do activities that develop the field. All this at the same time as she runs her own music career. ”Film, tv, music are really taking off here in Nairobi. On small budgets and very entrepreneurial”, she says. Together with producer Robert Wawawei, they describe a growing and bubbling music life with many upcoming new Artists. It’s a growing field, but one also struggling with skills gaps. ”Artists have to think like entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t happen here”, is Muthoni’s point. Together with few funding bodies, lack of investment money and an unpredictable audience, it’s hard to come forward. Hard – but not impossible.

So how could this funding gap between investors wanting to invest in creative industries but don’t know how, and a creative field wanting to be able to live on their content be resolved? How can bridges be built? In September the first meeting will be held in Nairobi putting these partners together to find concrete suggestions to come forward.

But in such a complex project there are many things to consider, and the team of Godown Art Center, Mangowalla Ventures and Nätverkstan, have been digging deep in to these discussions. A few things has emerged, perhaps not so new, but still very evident.

1. Investors expect an economic profit in their investments. Considering the creative field, which consists of a wide variety of activities from the Arts to design and media, only a few will be in consideration. Only a very small portion of cultural businesses and organizations has the chance to make these sorts of profits. They exist, of course, and there is a point to build bridges so they can meet, but for the cultural field as a whole, this will not be a solution.

2. Majority in the creative field are single Artists, small-scale cultural entrepreneurs and organizations that run not-for-profit entities. These might not be in the viewpoint of the investors, but are important as job creators. Here future jobs will be created.

3. Content production and symbolic value are becoming more and more important in the business world. The business field needs the creative field to be able to sustain the value of their products in a world in fast transition.

4. The Artists and investors have one common denominator: they both live on taking risks. The Artist takes risk to create meaning, the investor to create returns.

5. What are the trade-offs? For the investor one such is perhaps the relation between the higher expected returns, the less quality of the Artistic work, if you in the ”quality”-word also put in the aspect of uniqueness. This relation might not be binding, a film production selling very well and generating a large profit might also be of high quality. But for most cultural entrepreneurs striving in the field, there will not be large amounts of money to be made, unless you put less amount of time into increasing quality or your Artistic talent or do something else.

So for the Artist on the other hand, the relation between Artistic value and survival are true. Will you be able to live on your Art? If you want to earn money, is there a trade-off on your Artistic value?

The project is a project funded by the Swedish Institute and Strömme Foundation and run by Pratik Vithlani at Mangowalla Ventures in cooperation with Godown and Nätverkstan.

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27 juni, 2009

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Community Art Lab

On a café in San Francisco close to Union Square, in a rest between meetings with cultural organisations and Artists, the Artist Jörgen Svensson together with a few of us from Nätverkstan started a discussion on how Artistic competence could be an asset for city development. It was June 2008 and the European Commission were assigning the coming year as the year of creativity and innovation. The question intriguing us was: What boosts creativity? And how can an Artist’s competence be used in real life challenges, not only as an Artistic project, but as an asset for city developers? The project Community Art Lab took form.

The idea is simple: Put together people with different competencies to create a creative process which will enable new perspectives and ideas to form. This will become a resource for city development and innovative ideas. In this project we want to have local authorities, Artists, Art University and other expertise working together. The process is led by an Artist, and starts by the city authorities presenting a real challenge they are dealing with. All participants in the process are equally important for creativity to take form; the working method is to work in a genuine and long-term cooperation in a group of the different competencies, and through the process created catalyze ideas and find alternative solutions to challenges.

The project start with a five day Lab in the city with the partners involved. The starting point is the presentation by city authorities and where the invited group are seen as an asset to find alternative solutions and action plans. An intense five working days in a Lab-form starts. The process continues over time, between three to six months. A process leader leads the Lab and is a guide and mentor in the continuing work. The Lab-form is flexible and new competence and expertise can be added as the work proceeds.  Read more of the project in the outline: community-art-laboratory_090603.

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To read more of the study trip to San Francisco, look under Category with the same name. A quick look can be done on ”Thought on the road” and ”Public art and entrepreneurship” . The democracy project the South Bank Process in Göteborg, can be found on ”Transformation: from Warehouse to Cultural Center” and ”Democracy projects”. Read also about the Encatc Working Group ”Creative Entrepreneurship and Education”. Also read about the Artistic group Berlin, working with process as a method, and also the project Art and Politics in Västra Götaland.

4 juni, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Last day.

Art Villa Garikula is a contemporary Art center, placed in a village around one hour drive from Tbilisi. In the lack of infrastructure, Artist unions, and of space for Artistic work in the cities, Artists and curators try to fill this gap by taking initiatives and run projects. Many small projects start, to research, investigate to try to understand how to move in this new era, how to change.

The center is not a small project. It’s a big main building and a smaller one next to it, in constant need of renovation. A lot has been done already. There are bedrooms and studios, and a large garden to use for Artistic work, tenting or putting up exhibitions. And having parties. Art students and professional Artists come from the city to explore work forms and expressions, or for just relaxing. A new Georgian utopia is needed – Art Villa Garikula is where this new utopia will be formed, they tell us.

The visit to Georgia is part of the project EKAE 2009. People from Art, film, literature, publishing, cultural journals, education and crafts in Sweden and Georgia have met during a week in Tbilisi, having working meetings to form mutual project ideas within each area. The projects are planned to run during 2009-2010. Read more in posts May 12, May 11, May 9, and March 10.

Read also the article ”Crunch time in the Southern Caucasus”, written by Ivan Sukhov, Journalist at the Moscow newspaper Vremya Novostei, published at the OpenDemocracy website.

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13 maj, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Continuation.

”We need a new Georgian Utopia”. Magda Guruli, Curator and Artist, meet us in her  home in Tbilisi. 1970s and 80s was a very artisticly interesting period in Georgia, she tells us. Many interesting initiatives with artistic high quality were taken. After the Soviet period, this infrastructure fell  and everything needs to be rebuilt. A whole new infrastructure is needed. This takes time. Perhaps the gap between systems will allow for new ideas, a transformed artistic scene?  ”In the system of Art, we are still in the mentality of Soviet. We need something completely new”.

Many Artist have their own NGO, as the platform to work from. They have their offices at home. The driving force is to do Art with high quality, but also be part of transformation of society.

Human Rights Center is a center working with issues like freedom of speach, discrimination, injustice. Through newsletters, research, workshops, training and projects they want to work for mutual understandning between ethnic groups in Georgia and put the focus on injustices performed by the Georgian government. Informing the public is as important as working with target groups like refugees. They offer services like legal support and counselling in entrepreneurship.

”Through Art you can make the changes otherwise not possible.”

The visit to Georgia is part of the project EKAE2009, run by Natverkstan and financed by the Swedish Institute.

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12 maj, 2009

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Long Live Localism!

The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) is a trade organization dedicated to supporting, nurturing and promoting independent retail bookselling in California. With over 500 members, including nearly 300 booksellers, the NCIBA has been an experienced provider of services for over two decades.

Hut Landon, Executive Director, walks us through the domains of – among others – George Lucas (passing by the Yoda-fountain) to their office in San Francisco. The association is led by a 15-person Bord of Directors, and their main task is to increase the sales for independent bookshops in northern California.

The competition from Internet selling has led to the fact that independent bookshops must be much more proactive in their way of marketing themselves. Localism has become a watchword; people must become aware of the importance of supporting their community stores, if they want a  lively and prosperous neighbourhood. To explain this to the customers, Landon and his staff has made the poster ”Eight great reasons to shop at locally-owned businesses” (http://www.nciba.com/dls/8-great-reasons.pdf), which is now available to all NCIBA-members.

Apart from this, the association also arranges the NCIBA Trade how, produces the Holiday Showcase (yearly catalogue which features new titles), sets together workshops with topics of concern to the members and prints a weekly regional bestseller list.

Landon makes it clear that NCIBA does not regard the big chains, like Borders and Barnes & Noble, as competition. Independent booksellers have something that the big stores may lack: great book-knowledge, devotion and close relations with their customers. Amazon though, constitutes a big threat. The future will tell if David will stand a chance against Goliath, in Californa as well as in Sweden.

Books Inc. in Van Ness St. Sheryl Cotleur, Buying Director, BookPassage Hut Landon, Executive Director, NCIBA Street of San Francisco City Lights Golden Gate Bridge Lilla Gilbrech Weinberger, Readers' Books, Sonoma Wall Painting in Castro Another one + flying books From Natverkstan - Marie & Karin

Written by Karin Lundgren and Marie Johansson, Managers at Natverkstan.

11 maj, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Continuation.

The heroes survived. They were supposed to be killed after the film was made, but the film maker just couldn’t. The animated dolls were characters, personalities, so how could you kill them? Instead he hid them. After each movie he hid them in his house with the risk of getting caught. Intellectual property rights in the 70s, the government was afraid that the dolls would be used in another movie and they would have troubles with angry doll makers who wouldn’t get paid. Now we are able to watch them in a small, one-room museum. Beautiful hand-made dolls, made in Russia in the 70s for animated film made in Georgia. The most known is Bombora, a character who just wanted to go to school and in his frustration for not being able to sets fire on things. Now this character is posing over the entrance in the newly made amusement park at Tatsminda.

Wato Tsereleti, a well-known curator and Artist is describing the contemporary Art scene for us on a café. A major problem, many Artist tell us is space and funding. There is no space for Art or large events. In October the conference Artisterium is taking place, and a difficult part has been to find where to have it. A wonder, really, since Tbilisi is still very much a city in transition and there are many empty spaces. Wato Tsereleti has finally been able to find a locality, and the idea is to restore it into an Art center.

Many meetings has been taking place among visual Artists and Art education, between colleagues in the literature and publishing scene in Sweden and Georgia, as well as performance and film. Bakur Sulakauri Publishing is the biggest publishing house in Georgia, publishing around 200 books every year. They are meeting with colleagues at the publishing house Tranan in Sweden, together with writers, to discuss on how they can work together. The idea is that each Art form will come up with project ideas for future cooperation and exchange.

And as we walk to all these meetings, have  discussions between colleagues in the Art world, we pass the cells at Rustaveli Avenue and get reminded of the situation in this country. What is it we see in the streets? At Rustaveli, near the Parliament and Freedom Square the streets are filled with cells, small plastic covered boxes where people stay all day, all night in protest of the government. It’s difficult to analyse or understand what the cells stand for. Is it an organized protest of a well defined opposition? Or a more a protest of angry inhabitants showing their miscontent of the president? Or is it a show put forward by a few people with economic resources wanting to overthrow the president and take power? Perhaps it’s an Art show, or an installation? We get different versions, different stories. But it is clear that many people are very tired of the situation, of the threats of war, and long for coming back to a normal situation.

The visit is part of the project EKAE 2009, run by Natverkstan and financed by the Swedish Institute.

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11 maj, 2009

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Independent Bookselling – Will it Survive?

Michael Tucker, president of Independent Booksellers, Books Inc., really believes that there is a future even for the smaller, independent bookstores. That is if they are willing and capable of adjusting to the fast changing conditions of today.

The reason for going to San Francisco, when Svensk Bokhandel decided to arrange a trip for Swedish booksellers, is that this area has met up the challenge from the Internet bookshopping. Books Inc., with 10 stores and more that 200 employees, serves as a shining example that independent bookselling can not only survive, but also prosper – even if they ”must dance among the elephants”. However, the elephants set the rules and the best you can do is being as flexible and innovative as possible.

Kitty Clark, manager at Books Inc., Vann Ness Ave., lets us in on her recipe for creating a successful bookstore: Focus on customer service – by engaged and trusted employees – make sure that the interior and selection appeal to your clientele, arrange author events, book clubs, book launch parties, seminars led by writers etc etc.

During our tour to four of Tuckers’s stores we could see exactly what she ment; they were all Books Inc. shops, but completely different. Neither orientation, nor design, looked the same in any of the places. It’s all about fitting into the context. Tucker also stressed the importence of events. Even if you have the most amazing store, you can not be sure that the books alone will stand the competition from the Internet commerce. You need something that makes you special, something the digital world lack. Above all, that’s eye to eye contact and interaction.

Can these advice be applicated to the Swedish independent book stores? Surely, the conditions are in many ways quite different, but here’s defenitely every reason to be inspired by the Book Inc., and the San Francicso way of finding ways to reinvent the traditional book shop.

Written by KarinLundgren and Marie Johansson, Managers at Natverkstan.

10 maj, 2009

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Forum for Creative Regions and Cities

Committee of the Regions, a political assembly giving local and regional authorities within EU a voice within the EU structure, arranged a two-day meeting in Brussels on 20 – 21 of April. More than four hundred participants gathered, together with a hundred invited ”young talents” from many parts of Europe, to discuss what makes regions and cities creative, what would make Europe more creative and together with practical examples both in panels and study visits around Brussels.

The first panel discussion addressed the question ”What makes regions and cities creative?”. A crucial question for EU-Commission if the aim of the year of creativity and innovation is supposed to give results in more innovation and affect economy in a positive way. Many things were put forward, both by the panel, and also by the many young entrepreneurs, cultural practitioners and students in the audience. Why doesn’t education in Europe have more ideas about how to foster creativity? How come the visionary eyes of the young child is gone in the eyes of grown-ups? What happens going through the educational system? Many Art Educations are quite conservative, how could these change? How can Artists and politicians work more together? Are there educational tools to be used? Where do you turn to if you have ideas of something to start?

On the question ”If you get to choose, what is the priority action at EU level?” the answer was unison: Get rid of the blocks in EU, make access to EU money less bureaucratic!

A crucial question if the hopes of creative economy is to come true. There is also a close link between the year of intercultural dialogue in EU last year, and the year of creativity and innovation. If new creative ideas are to happen, the wide variety of competence, skills, cultural and ethnic backgrounds need to be addressed and taken care of in a different way than is done today. There are hopes that the creative field will be the new savior in the financial crisis. Perhaps it will be. But only if you do a correct analysis of the field, understand how running organisations, Artistic practice, projects work, using the competence in the field to find the right incentives to catalyze the potential – there are of course an enormous potential. If you don’t, and get stuck in policies and the overestimated perception of what creativity and innovation is, it will be more difficult. There is a balancing act that needs to be performed.

Artist Jörgen Svensson represented Region Västra Götaland with the project Art and Politics and the project Community Art Lab formed together with Nätverkstan, a project based on using creative processes as a tool for city development. Interesting projecs were for instant FIRST innovation Park in Brno, Czech Republic, and the housing project led by Territorial and Urban Development of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, led together with Mia Hägg, an archtiect in Paris running Habiter Autrement. Urbact, European Programme for Urban Sustainability, just launched a report that can be found on the website.

The Community Art Lab project will soon be posted on this website. Other posts connected to this are for instand Robert McNulty from America for the Arts, on Migration and Entrepreneurs, the seminar in Barcelona in January on the same topic, and examples from India. A programme of the seminar can be downloaded here CreativeCitiesRegions16-04-09. Encatc had a smaller seminar in the afternoon of the 21st of April to continue the discussion, with interesting inputs from Pascale Bonniel Charier of experiences from Grand Lyon and Donato Guiliani from Region Nord Pas de Calais. Download the programme for the Encatc seminar here seminar_encatc090421.

23 april, 2009

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Cultural Leadership

”Running cultural institutions and cultural projects of tomorrow into the 21st century will put new demands on leaders. Competencies as flexibility, risk taking, courage, intercultural awareness and international outlook are increasing in importance for leaders in organisations.”

Eight leaders of important cultural organisations and institutions in Sweden gathered in a think tank last November to discuss leadership omslag_2within Art and culture and the idea of a Cultural Leadership Award in Sweden. The results are put forward by Nätverkstan in the newly published report on cultural leadership: ”To lead Art into the Future. An idea to develop leadership within culture” (in Swedish ”Att leda konsten in i framtiden. Om en idé för utveckling av ledarskap i kulturlivet.”).

Leadership within the field of Art and culture is an ignored area, and possibilities are few for development. Management-courses are many, as well as courses in laws and regulations, staff management, economy and likewise. But how do you develop the leadership role? This has to do with personal skills as well as a continuous interest in reflecting on experiences. The model for the idea put forward in the report is from UK; the successful ”Cultural Leadership Awards” run by Venu Dhupa, which at the time was put up by Nesta. The award was dedicated to exceptional leaders within Art, technology and science and showed to be an innovative way of developing leadership. As Venu Dhupa says ”an investment in leadership is necessary for the future of cultural life”.

Leading Art and cultural institutions and projects is difficult and put specific demands on leadership. Again you are expected to be an all-area-Artist. And there are, argued by people in the field and Art Management researchers, specific conditions in the cultural field you have to handle. The main goal is rarely profitability, but rather human, Artistic, social or aesthetic goals. It is therefore more difficult to show when goals are achieved. It’s easy to put economic figures on paper, but how do you measure social or aesthetic goals? For many working in the field, money is not the main goal. This means motivation, drive and belief in higher values are important factors for anyone working in the field and a factor when motivating staff. It is a production-driven field, research shows, and not consumer-driven as in so many other areas. Another factor is that Art production doesn’t follow the logic of competition and is often unprofitable. All these factors put demands on the leader, who also has to adjust to a changing society where flexibility, risk taking, resilience and resourcefulness are necessary personal skills. Interestingly the same skills were put forward in an article in the Hindu, in October last year, when discussing necessary skills when working in the Indian context. Read a short version here.

The report was written by Karin Dalborg, Manager of Nätverkstan’s training programme Kulturverkstan, and Lotta Lekvall, Director at Nätverkstan. Download the report (in Swedish, a translation is hopefully published soon)  kulturledarskap2009. You can have a look at the model for the Swedish Cultural Leadership Awards on the attached images, just double-click to make them larger.

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13 april, 2009

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Authors

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

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