Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

19. Cultural investments - investment in culture


Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



19. Cultural investments and investments in culture

19.1 Investments in the arts to match funding of the arts

19.2 Cultivating different types of partnerships

19.3 Foundations, private sponsors,

Civil initiatives

19.4 Mixed balance of partnerships and the tools of cultural cooperation / intercultural dialogue / communication / narrative


19.1 Investments in the arts to match funding of the arts

There are two aspects to this: while the first aspect deals with investments in the arts in relation to how the arts are being funded by various bodies from local authorities and national Ministry of Culture to funding programs by the European Union (with the latter definitely a mismatch to the kind of investments needed in the arts), the second has to do much more with what kind of context is most conducive for real investment in the arts and culture, and thereby creates real opportunities for artists in the city becoming capable to sustain cultural development.

When referring to investments in the arts, then one example should illustrate a crucial point why a differentiated view of investments is needed. At individual level talent is never sufficient; it has to be developed and promoted so that the artistic expression is not a fluke but the person knows how to use this rare gift. There have to be made investments given such a talent. This insight is based on the knowledge that highly qualified work required for artistic and cultural performances presupposes an early spotting of potential talents, a hard and professional training of this talent and furthermore a variety of true outlets. While often good talent is not spotted, there is also the risk of making the leap from joyful and playful to more serious expressions and performances too great for many, especially if children and youths do not come from a social and cultural background which would be conducive to further such a talent.

There is a need for true knowledge and substantiated methods by which this talent is developed and shaped according to the best teaching possible. And it will not suffice there as any opera singer knows for the competition in the end is so high that every performance counts and thus the training of the voice must be linked to developing a specific profile as no singer can have a complete repertoire. Instead he or she will become specialized within a special field of talents in order to find the opportunities to perform. And no such training is possible on an ongoing basis if there are not supportive teachers and corresponding classes available to take this talent a step further and to yet a higher level of performance. It means investments in the arts is fore mostly also a matter of cultivating the cultural infrastructures needed to raise the overall quality of cultural performances.

At the overall level of society with many people interacting, culture is a metaphor for behavior and conduct, way of speaking and communicating with one another. Here the investment has to be in literacy and receptivity of the arts. There is no point in raising the level of performances if the audience has not kept up with this development. It too has to go through a learning process. A key term for further going innovative practices in the cultural fields is enhancement of receptivity through ‘cultural adaptation’. Once an audience can articulate its demands in a way that it stimulates the artists or performer to become even more innovative, then an innovative learning process has been initiated.

Once cultural levels are really sophisticated they become authentic and true to the nature of mankind in an unforeseen way. In that sense culture expresses how people plan their lives and what evolves out of it. When still farmers, such evolvement was linked to the seasons and the myths created were there to remind everyone what to do at certain time junctures. In the modern world, other needs for culture have to be fulfilled if people are to remember everything they have experienced.

The culture which goes with a certain way of life reflects what society is willing to invest in so that this particular culture continues to develop and as the European Commission would like to put it ‘to flower’.

In that sense there is a huge discrepancy between investment in the arts and funding of the arts. While the former covers schools and venues, project related funding of the arts has something ephemeral and relates to specific date e.g. year of the language or of the intercultural dialogue, the celebration of the Treaties of Rome with funds provided often unknown to but insiders and therefore applied for and obtained by organizations closely related to insider information. That means things done are in reference to but a restricted sense of meaning of cultural dissemination and explains why culture in Europe has not attained that form of legitimacy to be expected from the rhetoric surrounding it.

Perhaps one way to explain the mistaken viewpoint of most officials is that they are only then willing to look at the need for some cultural actions if funds are provided. They will not search by themselves for funds nor necessarily respond to the needs of culture as they consider this to a general degree as superfluous. Hence for any cultural planning to become a part of an institutionalized process there must be made available two kinds of financial sources: 1) investment in the arts and 2) funding of the arts whereby the long- and short term interaction between these two different ways of financing the arts and culture should be reflected already in a cultural plan as to when the infrastructural prerequisites are going to be tested fully by the cultural project about to be funded e.g. a city becoming a European Cultural Capital.

Now to strengthen the position of culture vis a vis the economy a new approach to the creation of investment opportunities should be considered by any future cultural plan.

Without question crucial is how to improve the local authority’s ability to respond to any new ideas for further going cultural actions which lead to an improvement in the overall investment climate. For one, usually culture is not perceived as a learning process of even local workers when they have the opportunity to work together with an artist when setting up an exhibition. By enhancing new skills along with aesthetical reflections another standard of work is introduced. Any quality work means handling of materials presupposes not only a reliability of a different scale but also what materials are used make a difference in the result achieved. Once there is a higher level of skilled workers then also new forms of organizations can materialize as higher demands can be met. On the other hand, a more sophisticated culture will satisfy needs of those who wish to locate themselves in the city and who bring with them higher skills. Out of that general reinforcement the attractivity of the city will enhanced and favor new types of investments. Especially in the age of the Information Society investments in culture pay off in the long run to attract precisely those who have and enjoy a sophisticated approach to life and who demand a corresponding service and culture to sustain their work and life style.

Taken from a cultural planning strategy point of view, developing the overall image of the city rather has to go hand in hand with improving preconditions for investments to have some definite short, medium and long term returns. As things stand right now, time lags are hurting most investment opportunities. In the absence of a common culture mistrust will mean quite often endless negotiations until in the end there is the need to begin afresh.

As is the case with cities becoming more European and indeed international orientated, they have to avoid giving in to a kind of localized culture known only to insiders and therefore by definition an exclusion of outsiders with interest to bring into the city new investments. There has to be found a way for cultural mediation to make local and international needs compatible and responsive so as to secure as much responsible involvement of the people from the outside as local residents and citizens are interested in participating in new and further going projects.

The culture of a city should not reflect such schisms between locals and outsiders as it would affect all relationships between various institutions at local level in a most negative way. Consequently anything resembling a cross sectorial partnership to facilitate cultural planning should be promoted and sustained through a thought through institutionalization of this kind of partnership.

All investment opportunities need to be located in time and then be dealt with as the opportunities arise. With it goes a specific communication and information policy so that transparency is secured. Nowadays people can follow processes from everywhere. The main difference is if they are informed directly and properly and within the expected time frames for when responses have to come as issues are raised. Not to inform or to try to silence these issues would only create mistrust and make potential investors become skeptical about the investment climate in that city. Gains from investments have to be looked at from all sides and especially assessed in a cultural way rather than in a just a pure financial way. This is why localized interests retain a closed culture insofar as they specialize in obtaining their contracts at local level without wishing to face any alternatives or competition. But by taking such an approach, they shall take only a small part of what would have been potentially a gain for all. Consequently cultural planning must facilitate through cultural actions a comprehensive approach to developing projects and work by giving immediate feedback to everyone throughout the entire process.

19.2 Cultivating different types of partnerships

Culture is complex, horizontal and does not fit into any pre arranged scheme or corresponding categories. That is why culture facilitates cross sectoral partnerships once seen as a tool of governance but it presupposes people perceive it to be in their interest to work together. However, collaborative work forms are not really developed and hardly taught in schools. The educational system and the work organizations rely still very much on individual workmanship with even craftsmen being proud to be able to do everything alone. Obviously in a global world such individualism has its limits and will leave moreover the individual unable to respond to the cultural needs of the others.

As Phil Cooke has pointed out, culture can mean two things: a value system linked to standards accepted by everyone as to the quality of work to be done in order to secure a positive outcome; and secondly, a way to distribute work which goes along with the dissemination of information as to where further opportunities can be found. Once a bigger demand for work is put upon an entire city, the responsiveness to such a demand depends upon this sharing of interest in doing excellent work together and also on the quality of coordination to make the various and different kinds of partnerships needed to do the job possible. As such culture can facilitate the bringing together the results of different partnerships between even small and big companies so that a common thrust is felt by everyone as a collective effort is made to upgrade services and organizational possibilities of all institutions in the city. If that happens the cultural impact can be felt immediately as a thriving economy will have people feeling their city is becoming a hub of activities.

Cultivating different types of partnerships has to merge in culture with the creation of audiences for various and different artistic expressions. Only once these audiences have come into existence then new work patterns can be sustained in the long run. In turn people will have to be able through culture to deal with complexity in a better way best expressed by allowing simultaneous events taking place at the same time. As this supports diversity, it can be said that things have come to life. It is not mere tolerance for the other but active recognition and support which is given to diverse activities which make the place become more interesting than any monolithic activity reproducing itself only in the same repetitive manner.

The existence of diversity, of different identities can be seen and felt immediately when entering a city and seeing in the streets by the variety of people under way that here different cultures are at home. Nikos Stavroulaki described as such Thessaloniki before the tragedy of Asia Minor when in 1921 Turks were ousted and in return the Ponti Greeks had to flee their homelands in Asia Minor. As soon as a single cultural stamp is put upon a city and only one official narrative allowed, then culture dies and objects like houses become downgraded expressions of nothingness. Assertion is an empty gesture and leads only to violence. On the contrary culture lives out of challenges to all identities created and re-created each day by learning from the others.

Consequently the arts and culture flourish best when different types of partnerships facilitate the bringing about of cultural performances and achievements. Especially cultural actions taking on a degree of complexity will stay focused when a certain standard is set and everyone realizes this could never be achieved by a single individual. Here it is possible to remind what Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo when explaining to him why he wants to found an atelier of the South: ‘there are so many subjects worthy to be painted but an individual has not the strength to do so, only if many artists come together will they be able to paint that subject.’ This presupposes collaborative work, a most difficult aspect of Western Culture with its overemphasis upon the creative individual, the genius, and therefore ignorance of the need to enter many more collaborative work processes in order to bring about great works of art as is the case with children in the Kids’ Guernica movement. Here partnerships entered mean as the work evolves parents supporting their children enter a community based support system of these efforts until the peace mural involves the entire community. It means aside from individual friendships made, and the relationship between the children to their coordinator transformed into group process allowing for collaborative work in which age differences no longer play such a role as much more the bringing together of various ideas becomes important, so the linkages to society alternate and become freer to interact with many more people. It is called opening up to society and society becoming open to such impulses so that everyone feels a positive energy typical for bottom-up grass roots movements. With them come the NGOs, associations and other more formal organizations especially if schools and public authorities are involved in the process. Crucial is the blending of informal and formal processes until there is a sense of continuity in what everyone does and knows is happening in the community. As such it sets standards and leaves the consciousness of everyone at a level that sophistication means to become more articulated in public. It is reflected directly in the various types of partnerships discovered as existing to make possible this collective collaboration in the name of culture.

Different partnerships allow for a diversity of funding possibilities. As the cultural action gets under way, the organizational shift from non profit, volunteer work to heavy investments as part of the risks undertaken when spending time on the arts, becomes noticeable at every phase ending with crucial decisions. For instance, a gallery owner will quickly notice how thin are his resources when he has no longer consistency in quality with regards to the exhibitions he organizes while people rely in the long run on his good taste and ability to judge quality of art works. Still, it becomes another level of interaction once gallery owners speak about a boom with people coming into the gallery not to negotiate prizes but buying at the level of acceptance already manifested in the high prizes. This means the gallery owner can concentrate on long term relationships between him and the artists who evolve over time and with time gain in value as their works are being shown around the world. The criterion of showing a well known artist has itself a marketing value that cannot be underestimated as the audience will then be of a different composition. It makes the world of established taste in comparison to innovation into not a highly funded gambit but indicates that artists themselves know of the difference between customers doing sporadic purchases and collectors of their specific art works. Once an artist has achieved the backing of a group of collectors then his correspondence with them is of another quality. It helps furthering his particular artistic expression while staying within certain boundaries means he has to take care to uphold the reputation and therefore quality of art works for which he has become known amongst the collectors. That means artists are limited in their freedom of expression if they wish to fulfill the expectations of those who have come to identify themselves with his specific art work. It goes against the very creative style of any individual artist who can alter his works even beyond recognition when compared to original art works. There are many more sensitive issues which are touched upon in due process once interaction with an artist becomes a serious business and where money bridges often the gap between perceiving the value of the art work and speaking really in terms of understanding such an art work.

From a community perspective it is always interesting to see if the public authorities provide gallery spaces and such funding is available as to make possible different types of exhibitions which next to the commercial ones have a more distinctive value in showing cultural trends, or else featuring new forms of expressions unseen and unheard of until now. Modern Art is in that sense another kind of risk with regards to public taste while the main established art has always this element of retrospection in them since the artists have died already and the legacy has been established more after their deaths than what was conceivable during the life time. Vincent Van Gogh is such an example when thinking he sold perhaps only two paintings in his entire life time while after his death and especially at the end of the twentieth century his sunflowers sold to a Japanese Insurance Company for $55 Millionen. Since then other art works have flourished even better in auction houses like Sotheby and may that be a Picasso, Warhol or some of the Impressionists.

The issue of financing has become nowadays a matter of ethical concerns since museums tend to sell a part of their collection they were meant to preserve and to promote in order to finance other activities in their houses. This refinancing of cultural activities by selling off works of arts which then go often into private hands and therefore cannot be seen anymore by the public raises new issues about the ownership and property relationship to these works of art meant to be available for everyone to see. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louvre is such an example that it is doubtful if such an art work would end up in the hands of a private collector although there are many art works not at all accessible to the public and therefore many are deprived of what can be said aesthetical experiences which would make a difference in how they perceive the world.

19.3 Foundations, private sponsors, civil initiatives

The organizational framework for the arts and culture depends a great deal on autonomous funding. There is a value in creating a climate of diversity of funding possibilities as recent initiatives have examined such sources as lottery to replace state funding. In the UK the entire museum sector received a tremendous boast through lottery funds. Whenever there are cultural initiatives, the main risk is that the spirit of bottom up actions are taken over by larger institutions or foundations once they prove to be successful. Repeatedly the experience has made that there is a serious conflict between ethical and funding principles. As cynicism spreads, the risk the arts enter by obtaining doubtful funds as if anything goes as long as it is money, culture will no longer be able to counter this kind of cynicism. Since the burdens upon individuals and societies are increasing due to war and conflict, loss of real perspectives in life can lead to all sort of negative developments including collective suicide or radicalization of that youth which does not feel integrated into society. Consequently such funding must be secured that ensures the independence of the arts and culture if only to remain convincing on its own terms. It is quite something else if someone is paid to develop only certain ideas in a direction befitting overall strategies e.g. many intellectuals were on the pay roll of the CIA during the Cold War and this meant they had to keep up the propaganda against Communism and Left Wing ideas. Whether now Radio Free Europe or the literary periodical ‘The Encounter’ such ambivalences were created that it was extremely difficult to find a third way, intellectually speaking. In today’s world other premises exist but they reciprocate to the pro Huntington or anti Huntington believers about a clash between civilizations making it nearly impossible to uphold positions favoring intercultural dialogue or culture as a way to attain consensus in society.

19.4 Mixed balance of partnerships and the tools of cultural cooperation / intercultural dialogue / communication / narrative

A clear indication of a forward looking strategy is to perceive culture as a communication process which allows people to enter life with an open mind so as to learn and to ascertain their options of choices and through culture obtain sufficient orientation so that the choices made brings about a fulfillment of life as prime source of happiness. Once there is added a sense of beauty, then this happiness can bring about changes within the scope of people’s lives that takes on meaning as form of existence. It is as Pablo Neruda would say in his autobiography, “I confess, I have lived” and that means he could fulfill what people entrusted in him as if his poetry became their river carrying down-streams meanings they had given to life despite all hardships and set-backs. It should never be forgotten that entrusting in individual writers to take the spirit of humanity further means also showing what is possible not beyond but does exist as human possibility.

There is to be favored a mixed balance of partnerships when cultural actions are undertaken with a main focus having to be on diversity and individuals entering into dialogue rather than forming a mass which can only communicate via slogans shouted out at them on billboards.

The tools of cultural cooperation have to be improved at all times. The study made for the European Commission on this subject matter indicates that the main cooperation in need of being supported is between the NGOs of Civil Society and official and semi official bodies within governing structures.

At international level but also within cities intercultural dialogue has to be promoted in order that such cultural borders are not drawn which silence one part while the others live oblivious of the conditions they impose upon the others e.g. Israelis with regards the Palestinians. If walls are erected out of security reasons and threats which need to be taken serious, then the unresolved conflicts making peaceful negotiations nearly impossible bring about a cost of life in many ways. It will be hard to justify to future generations that only such defensive solutions were opted for. Still, peaceful negotiations presuppose trust and clear commitment to peaceful solutions while the conflict for rare resources becomes even more intense when cultural exclusion through language, education and practical experiences are manifested symbolically and therefore no longer translatable into the languages of the others.

Human communication begins with passing on just information in a way that facilitates acknowledgement of human reality. It also does not end by taking side with those who have been silenced by the modern communication process. Then, it is up to those favoring cultural solutions to propose such strategies which allow people to step forth out of all kinds of silences and earn their Right to speak by expressing first of all their needs and fears. Once their language becomes a flow like a river then solutions have been found since they reconnect themselves with humanity. As this is expressed by Nelson Mandela who said once everyone realizes the greatness inside serves a purpose then once the others have no longer fear of that greatness then freedom from that fear means others can be free in one’s presence.

There is another level of passing on information and this is reflected in the narratives of the city. It seems crucial that there is not only a top down version but that the language of the streets enters the narratives and brings to memory stories told already a long time ago. Vincent Van Gogh identified them as the good old stories residing in the hearts of people. He identified them as the best proof that people are not over alienated in cities as Marx presumed but could retain a sense of their freedom and human dignity by way of remembering where they come from and what they have done in the meantime. Countless such stories feed into the overall narrative and even if there is an official version it still matters if the people of that city partake in it or else if the narrative just serves to uphold certain powerful interests that only a definite version is told and none other.

Stories about daily life may begin superficially. All trivialities have it in them such as collecting the rubbish, neighbors complaining about parked cars and windows not shutting out entirely the noise of the street. All these and other narratives have to do with location, way of life but also how the persons living at that location have slipped into a fold of thinking about their respective lives.

Culture is horizontal, says Spyros Mercouris when speaking about the legacy of the Cultural Capital Cities he and his sister Melina Mercouri initiated back then in 1985 and by that he means culture should not be something only the elite has and therefore intimidate others, but culture exists only where freedom has a concrete meaning to everyone.

Once culture is perceived as a strategic interest, then other categories in the logic of organizational dispositions enter the planning process and all of a sudden it is not so much about culture, but about being successful, even if that can mean in today’s world not winning a war with soldiers but by methods of propaganda aiming to win ‘hearts and minds’ of people. This is not taking place alone in Iraq after the invasion in 2003 but in many other parts of the world where children are abused and conflicts between neighbors and within communities on the increase to such level that non violent behavior is no longer guaranteed. If culture has a single task then to make possible redemption based on learning out of past mistakes and it may mean just narrating what took place in a most truthful way so that those listening or reading can avoid in future doing the same mistakes. But if the negation of culture produces non resolvable disputes which lead on only to more violence and endless exploitations of those held hostage by fear, poverty and lack of information, then there shall be missing the cultural dimension as political testimony of mankind. In its very absence it will make many succumb to the logic of a poor life without hope for any positive change. That means a poverty of experience intensified by the destruction of dignity concerns all people for when without ‘culture’ they have no sure footage in how they account their lives to others. It is then that the narrative of mankind shall go silent.


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