Innovation in action: how are cultural actors transforming the sector?



Abid Hussain
Director, Diversity at Arts Council England (England)

Nirit Roessler
Jerusalem Culture Unlimited (Israel)

Inés Sanguinetti
Dancer and choreographer, Director Crear vale la pena (Argentina)


Erwin Maas (Netherlands/USA) 


Brit Holtebekk
Head of International Cooperation, Arts Council Norway   

Key words: 

diversity; top-down or bottom-up; creative industries. 





The parallel session was organised as a long table session. The idea is to make people meet and discuss, in the same way as at a dinner table. The conversation floated easily and touched upon many subjects, and it is therefore difficult to capture the main points in a report. The session started with four brief presentations:

Ines Sanguinetti gave a presentation on a project on art and education, “arts across the curriculum”. It was project where arts contribute to social transformation”. 17 countries from the Latin-American region are involved. The idea is that learning key skills and working towards cultural transformation will make education better. The teachers are working to connect school and community, for example by involving people from the local community as “teachers”. How can we do such projects across nations and continents?

Abid Hussain from the Arts Council England presented some reflections on how funding can be made more accessible for those who normally don’t get funding. He had noted that the definition of diversity varies largely in the IFACCA summit. All countries seem to have a different focus. Diversity means equity, and everyone should have equal access for instance to funds. Therefore, arts councils need to be accessible. Abid further felt that conversations on diversity not yet is at a crossroads, and that questions such as how a more level playing field can be created, still needs to be discussed. There is a need to make conversations about diversity in the arts, and maybe also to change how decisions on support are made.

Nirit Roessler works in a NGO in Jerusalem. She explained how she had started training programmes based on bottom-up initiatives. Artists who has recently finished their education, often need training regarding adminsitration and finances, therefore a one year training programme was started. It was a big achievement to bring people together and make them cooperate across organisations and institutions. Now, 40 organisations are involved.

Erwin Maas presented a bottom-up initiative called PACE (Pan-African Creative Exchange). The motivation for the project is to make the global south, and in particular Africa more visible, in many different contexts. The lack of visibility is partly caused by lack of infrastructure in Africa, and it is therefore important with initiatives that builds infrastructure. Globally, Africa’s share in the creative economy is (too) small, and the project also tries to counteract this. The initiative is to start in 2018 with an African exchange programme (“send one artist to Africa receive one African artist”), with many other activities to come. It is still possible to become a partner in this project.

The long table discussion touched upon many subjects:

  • The best way to create and promote projects and programmes: Artists need to talk first, and then bring the project to the governments. It is better to think small, and not leave the initiative to the big organisations, governments etc. Bilateral agreements should be used to engage political leaders. It is important for arts councils to talk a lot to people, and travel to meet in person is often more important than office time. For artists, it is necessary to be motivated to be in a project. It is more important to establish a few, good partnerships than many.

  • Creative industries in Africa: Fairtrade should perhaps also be a concept for creative industries. Would it be possible to create a pan-African trade exchange? It is also important to find a way to get money back to the sector. One participant pointed out that it would have been interesting to include someone from the commercial side in the list of speakers of the IFACCA summit.

  • Relationship between artists and government/funders: An example of Medellin in Colombia was given. It used to be the most dangerous city in the world; now it is transformed to a creative city. The transformation happened because first, artists went there and did their job in the streets – then the government provided funding. When arts councils are talking to artists trust is important. It can sometimes be a problem that artists don’t understand that the arts councils have to compromise.

  • About artists and societal challenges: Artists need tension. The most inspiring speakers in the IFACCA summit come from troubled areas.

  • About cultural diversity: One participant pointed out that African artists who are presenting African contemporary art, are often conceived in the West as traditional. Participants from Asia said that this is also often the case with Asian arts. It is necessary to have diverse evaluation/understanding of arts.

  • About digitalisation: It is important to share digitally what is going on, and all arts councils should share examples on their web sites.

  • The discussion ended with a short comment that a collaborative approach is better that either top-down or bottom-up approaches when it comes to transformation of the sector. It is important that politicians to go out and see culture, and not only stick to documents.




Problems/obstacles to developing sector leadership 

Several pointed out that it is important to let the young/emerging leaders in the field be heard at conferences like the IFACCA summit. There is a lot of talking about change, the young leaders are actually making changes. The fact that the Young Cultural Leaders Programme from the European Cultural Fund only joined the IFACCA summit for 1 day and only in the audience was a missed opportunity.

  Examples of culture sector leadership on wider community issues

Especially the example by Ines, with a community programme educating the community at large presented a programme providing leadership on wider community issues. 


  Recommendations for action to enhance sector leadership

  • Take part in the Pan-African Creative Exchange programme!
  • Artists and arts councils should speak and interact.
  • Arts councils should be diverse.