is professor of Arts Management at Heilbronn University, Germany, author of Introduction to International Arts Management and co-founder of the international, interdisciplinary network Brokering Intercultural Exchange.
New understanding of the roles of arts managers
Itís time to say goodbye
This or a similar formulation can be found in various study and examination regulations of arts management study courses: The aim is "to enable graduates to meet current challenges in the cultural sector in a competent, creative and solution-oriented way". That is good - and yet still too little.
About ten years ago, Constance DeVereaux (2009, 66) pointed out that arts management is increasingly becoming a discipline that merely reacts, but barely reflects on how its existing practices can be placed in a broader context. What is missing, among other things, is the setting of agendas by arts managers and institutions and a clear (political) positioning, which is becoming increasingly important in times of massive threats to cultural rights.
How can university programmes enable future cultural managers to engage in critical discourse?
In the so-called "western hemisphere” arts management programmes have been established to equip the arts sector with business and administrative expertise and to create more efficient and effective organisations. For the development of the curricula, attention was paid in particular to the USA, where for historical reasons economic efficiency and the associated discussion of audience tastes were much more central.
Unfortunately, too little space was left for models, methods, epistomology and narratives from other cultural spheres. For example, the community commitment and the social component that have always been inherent to the South American cultural agents - who had developed in parallel with the Western job profile of the arts manager (Hernandez-Acosta 2013; 2019) - did only hardly enough in our struggle for the academic location of our discipline. In view of the increasingly (political) pressure regarding the social effectiveness of art and culture and its measurability, this is likely to retaliate today, as is the late recognition of the weaknesses of approaches such as the division of audiences into questionable target groups as seen in several audience-development concepts.
In contrast, who today knows several alternatives and models can choose. Who has theory-based knowledge about art and society, that can only be shared to a limited extent via best practices as is common in our discipline (Mattocks, 2017), can find tailor-made solutions. Only who is aware of the responsibility associated with the role of arts managers can behave accordingly.
To teach this theory-based knowledge and the related canon of methods is as much the task of the teachers as it is to finally take internationalization seriously. In a global world, solutions to challenges in Europe certainly cannot be found in Europe alone. A few weeks ago, as part of a reaccreditation process, I had to experience how the topic of internationalisation was insufficiently reduced to the number of courses in English. As important as knowledge of foreign languages is (Henze 2016, 49) and by no means should be limited to English (Henze, 2018 a), it must also be taken into account that internationalisation must primarily be taught through content. The question "Why is my curriculum so white?", articulated by US and British students already some time ago, is extremely relevant. How is it possible that our literature and discourses are still dominated almost exclusively by Western authors and narratives?
Other questions that we educators need to ask ourselves in this context are:
- How are globalisation and internationalisation reflected in our curricula? Which institutions and narratives dominate our practice?
- What role do we have to play when it comes to training our students in intercultural and, in particular, transcultural competences?
- How do students from different cultures perceive our programmes?
- Which teaching and learning culture dominates our arts management programmes and influences our curricula? Good intercultural lessons that make use of the diversity of the students can be an important experience that prepares participants not only for international and/or transcultural tasks (Henze, 2016, 37; Marginson & Sawir, 2011).
- Which opportunities for inter- and transcultural exchange exist and are used?
Only if we find answers to these questions soon will we be able to offer programmes that allow students to face the numerous current but also upcoming challenges proactively.
This includes a new understanding of media literacy as well. Too often we reduce the possibilities of social media to the areas of marketing and fundraising. That digitisation plays an important and expandable role in arts education and that it can even initiate democratisation processes is still not sufficiently recognised. Digital media can also contribute enormously to the protection of cultural heritage. In addition, the correct and critical handling of information must be taught since the distinction between propaganda and information is becoming increasingly difficult. However, only those who have reliable information can take a stand.
Arts managers cannot afford political disinterest - especially since art and culture are in many cases extremely political (Henze 2016, 17). It should have become quite clear in recent years that the conditions in other parts of the world, influenced and shaped to a large extent by Western politics, do not leave Europe untouched either (Henze 2016, 17). Arts managers therefore cannot avoid taking a stand when fundamental values and especially (cultural) rights are violated or cultural heritage is destroyed. In addition, as an empirical study involving more than 340 arts managers from 46 countries revealed, current political issues are an important concern for them. They were asked which topics they would like to see included in the curricula. In addition to 'innovation management' and 'writing funding proposals', the following topics were also on top of the list: cultural identity, migration, protection of artists and cultural heritage (Henze 2016, 87 ﬀ).
We therefore need more interdisciplinarity and knowledge from the fields of anthropology, ethnology, (cultural) politics, (developmental) geography and post-colonial studies. And in particular we need more professional and well-managed networks that enable intensive international and interdisciplinary knowledge transfer between researchers, practitioners and students. A lot has been written about the importance of networks in arts management (Laaksonen 2016; Cvjeticanin 2011; Pehn, 1999), but how these networks can be managed in a sustainable way is still hardly dealt with in research and literature despite the great demand in practice.
We need cultural mentors
These are many questions and great tasks we educators have to face. It is about nothing less than a paradigm shift. If arts management is understood as a reactive setting of frameworks and the administration of arts organisations, then we may no longer need it in the existing extent. And the declining number of students in many programmes suggests that potential applicants have already recognised this long before we did.
We need to dare a new understanding of roles that goes hand in hand with new skills and abilities. In transformation societies we need cultural mentors. They no longer have to mediate only between art, business and the public, but between all persons involved in the artistic process - and these should be as numerous and diverse as possible. This shift from a paternalistic "culture for all" to "culture with all" is accompanied by many questions - such as the measurability of social relevance or quality. Only arts managers who have learned critical discourse and thinking during their education will be able to find answers to them.
- Cvjeticanin, Biserka (2011): Networks: The evolving aspects of culture in the 21st century.
- DeVereaux, Constance (2009): Cultural Management and the Discourse of Practice, in: Jahrbuch für Kulturmanagement 2009, p. 155-167.
- Henze, Raphaela (2018): Introduction to International Arts Management. Springer VS.
- Henze, Raphaela (2018 a): The master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house, in: Arts Management Quarterly No. 129, Cultural inequalities, p. 29-35.
- Hernández Acosta, Javier Jose (2013): Differences in Cultural Policy and its Implications for Arts Management: Case of Puerto Rico, The Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, 43, p. 125-138.
- Hernandez Acosta, Javier Jose (2019): Navigating Between Arts Management and Cultural Agency: Latin America’s Contribution to a New Approach for the Field. In: Durrer, V., and Henze, R. (Eds.), Managing Culture: Reflecting on Exchange in Global Times. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Forthcoming
- Laaksonen, Annamari (2016): D’Art Report 49 International Culture Networks.
- Marginson, Simon/ Sawir, Erlenawati (2011): Ideas for Intercultural Education, Palgrave Macmillan.
- Mattocks, Kate (2017): "Just describing is not enough”: Policy Learning, Transfer and the Limits of best Practices. The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 48, (2), p. 85-97.
- Pehn, Gudrun (1999): Networking Culture: The Role of European Cultural Networks, Council of Europe Publishing.
This article was originally published in our German Kultur Management Network Magazin, issue on Arts Management Programmes and Trainings.