Unexpected partnerships: where are the new spaces for creation and creativity and how do we support them?



Verónica Ahumada
Director of International Cultural Cooperation, Secretary of Culture (Mexico)

Honor Harger
Director Art Science Museum (New Zealand)

Dennis Marita
Director of Culture, Ministry of Culture and Tourism (Solomon Islands)

Lidia Varbanova
Cultural consultant, researcher and manager (Bulgaria/Canada)


Magdalena Moreno Mujica
Deputy Director IFACCA (Chile/Australia)


Wendy Were
Australia Council for the Arts

Key words: 

intersection, creative linkages, next generation, partnerships, support momentum, diplomacy, entrepreneurship versus institutionalisation, horizontal thinking versus vertical thinking.





The session opened with a traditional welcome by Dennis Marita, followed by three short presentations and then extended dialogue about cultural partnerships, opportunities and challenges.

Honor Harger discussed science as a part of culture, in the context of her work at the Art Science Museum in Singapore. She described a number of examples of intersections between science and art, and the experimental culture of this border crossing as an ongoing continuum where art leads to science leads to art. Examples included embedding artists into science dialogues and artists providing science with a source of ideas. She also raised the role that arts education might play in developing the scientists of the future.   

Verónica Ahumada discussed the relationship of food to culture through the example of Ibercocinas, a multi-country partnership between Ibero-American countries which designes and implements programs around traditonal cuisines. The program has an ultimate objetive around intangible cultural heritage and takes up the ideas of the role of food to history, heritage, gastronomy, regional significance, promotion of cultural traditions and so on.

Dennis Marita discussed the challenges of the cultural sector in the Solomon Islands. A diverse population of 6,000 with120 languages spoken in the three groups of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia, along with economic and geographical challenges, has resulted in close connections between culture and government. Government priorities require creative options to be realised as funding is unlikely to come through other channels. This partnership brings its own challenges as the government priorities and policies then influence arts development. Cultural tourism factors widely, with local cultural festivals in the nine provinces and cruise shipping to the islands. Cultural exchange programs. Key opportunities include making use of regional and international networks, the establishment of a national cultural policy, and the value inherent in traditional culture and knowledge.

Lidia Varbanova focused on different types of entrepreneurship, arguing that leadership and entrepreneurship go hand in hand in the creation of partnerships with science, environment, technology, and suggested art and culture could be the catalyst for economic and social change.  She noted the interconnections and connectivity between creative industries sectors and key trends of global issues, new digital technology, virtual and augmented reality, Gen Z, crowdfunding, greater consumer choice. She noted culture’s connection with tourism and other industries and used a number of case studies to illustrate her point.

The session then moved to a long table format with those ideas picked up in a wide-ranging discussion. Nineteen people participated over the session.



On Cultural Leadership in the 21st Century

The potential new roles that culture could play in other contexts through non-traditional partnerships –social, scientific, economic etc.

The need for leadership to promote inclusive approaches to enable those linkages to happen – the need for artistic and cultural leaders to seek those opportunities as well as welcoming approaches.



Examples provided of leadership development 



Examples included artists playing an unexpected but critical role in the development of other disciplines and industries, such asartists practising science in poetic ways – trying to comprehend gamma rays or mapping dead stars – or the example of a 50 year old astronomy problem solved by using a homemade setup made by artists, which in turn had highly significant research applications, or conversely, an arts venue transformed into a biotech lab to enable the artistic principles and methodology to inform the science.

  • Motionhouse – bringing dancers into construction spaces.

  • Ocean Sole – turns waste plastic from flip-flops into ornaments and jewellery.

  • Food, traditions, innovation within food, food as a space where art and science meet.
  • Artistic discoveries made scientifically, scientific ideas made artistically, such as the work of Oron Katz – cultured meat.

  • Artists taking the tools of science to create/agitate science/tech discourse. Less discussed is where scientists are making art as this seems less comfortable/acceptable.

  • Gaming and virtual reality, particularly in the context of what role African artists can plan in that space.



Problems/obstacles to developing sector leadership 


  • How do arts funding bodies address and adequately support the ‘slash generation’ who are already working in a trans genre context and more quickly respond to the new environment.

  • Lack of spaces that enable new experimental work to be realised.

  • Perception of arts and culture by Governments as a liability or ‘investment vampire’ rather than as an channel to expand and create new opportunities.

  • The lack of trust/belief in artists and their relevance of their work.

  • Misalignment with operating funding and capital funding – the former in arts, the latter in development or infrastructure departments. Need better alignment within government on this. Cities increasingly taking on an enabling rather than providing role. 


  Examples of culture sector leadership on wider community issues


  • International meeting of indigenous poets to support both language preservation and indigenous conservation.

  • Artmarking assisting in scientific research e.g.  pulsar diagrams turned into 3D representations by artists.

  • The beginnings of a fourth culture which is a hybrid of arts and science.

  • Uniting culture with sustainable development.

  • Arts students being placed into interdisciplinary research projects

  Recommendations for action to enhance sector leadership


  • Lobby for/establish support systems for partnership and crossover strategies and projects - loans/grants, incubators, city level support, government support (legislative mechanisms).
  • Embed the principles of artistic practice more widely in research programs to enhance research practice and evidence the value of this skill base.
  • Enable other disciplines/industries to tap into the creative emerging that is arts-making by making crossing into new areas and territories part of our artistic process. 

  • Explore the possibility of using art to test the ethical perspectives of new ideas/practices.
  • Capacity building and grant-making options for new digital technologies and VR.

  • Look to the next generation and let them lead the way – they are already working in the future model


  Key quotations

We must be tapping into the creative energy that is in arts making and making crossing into new areas/territories part of our process.’ Heng Leun

Making art can be very helpful for scientists when they are failing to make progress.’ Honor Harger.

There's only one difference between art and science. In science, the universe is in control. In art, you are.’ – Nobel Laureate Harold Kroto quoted by Honor Harger.