2019-01-28

Authors

Raphaela Henze
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.
Lesley McBride
has a background working with young people through the visual arts. Currently, she is enrolled in the Innovation and Organization of Culture and the Arts (GIOCA) program at the University of Bologna.
Review Winter School 'Brokering Intercultural Exchange within Societies' 2018

What unites Young International Cultural Managers

The responsibility of cultural managers in transformation societies was the central topic of the first winter school for master's and doctoral students organised by Heilbronn University and the Brokering Intercultural Exchange (BIE) network with participants from 16 countries. It took place at the end of November 2018 in Berlin in cooperation with MitOst e.V. and the Robert Bosch Cultural Managers Network.
For the network BIE, the opening up to aspiring arts managers, who have different experiences with diversity and internationalisation, seemed to be especially important since the focus of the sector has been on established researchers and practitioners for too long. Since the network has inter alia dealt intensively with the topic of education of future cultural managers, it is necessary not only to talk about but with students striving for mutual empowerment. The more pleased we were that the call for papers for the three-day event had attracted far more potential participants from all over the world than could be admitted. The participants were selected in an elaborate process and had already received an extensive list of literature and tasks for processing in advance. Even though the group was quite large with 30 aspiring cultural managers from Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, the USA, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Egypt, Lebanon, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria, it still allowed an intensive working atmosphere and the participants to get to know each other. Moderated by Silvana Nagib and Sarah Herke from MitOst, the group started each day with a theoretical input from one of the members of the BIE network.
 
The chosen topic went far beyond the frequently and controversially discussed organization of sustainable and participatory cultural events and the management of cultural institutions. The assumption of the responsibility of cultural managers in transformation societies, which is reflected in a clear (political) positioning, must be preceded by a precise analysis of one's own privileges and prejudices. Dr. Antonio Cuyler from Florida State University offered a decisive input with various practical exercises and the use of the Social Identity Wheel. In my keynote lecture, I focused on how urgent it is to critically question our role/function both in academia and in practice in order to overcome a paternalism that is widespread in the cultural sector and that is not suitable for uniting increasingly drifting societies, but rather reinforces rejection. However, the fact that transformation processes are not only phenomena of society as a whole and are brought to cultural organizations from outside was demonstrated to the participants in the lecture by the Chancellor of the Barenboim-Said Academy, Dr. Carsten Siebert. Diversity in organisations, which is increasingly desired in general and in the case of the Academy in particular, leads to challenges in organisational development which have not yet received sufficient attention.
 
In all cultural-political and cultural-managerial contexts, the topic of evaluation is inevitable and was addressed by Dr. Victoria Durrer from Queen's University Belfast as the key impulse-giver of the second day. However, she deliberately did not do this in the sense of a tool kit approach, which explains how evaluation including a balanced scorecard must be integrated into the production process, but with a very personal approach to the impact of art and culture on the individual. As examples, she chose works by the artist Marina Abramovic and the exhibition Exhibit B by Bratt Bailey. The variety of emotions and reactions that these works elicited from those present alone can hardly or not at all be evaluated with the classical instruments. Furthermore, through interviews with curators, Dr. Victoria Durrer demonstrated how quickly the relatively homogeneous group of cultural professionals sets standards that - from another perspective - not only do not work, but perpetuate inequalities. Krystal Khoury of the Open Borders Ensemble in Munich used her own career, marked by a variety of migration experiences, and a practical exercise to explain how changes in perspective can make participative projects work in the long term.
 
Shaimaa Atef from the Cairo-based social and cultural enterprise Mahatat for Contemporary Art explained the organization's approach of identifying so-called 'abandoned spaces' and using them for temporary cultural projects in order to create cultural and economic value for the local creative scene, the artists, but also the respective neighbourhood.
 
On the afternoon of the second day, Barbara Meyer, Carolin Huder and Miodrag Kuc presented the Berlin free arts scene institutions Schlesische 27, Heimathafen Neukölln and ZK/U. They had brought with them a wide variety of current questions from their respective organisations, which were then worked on in teams according to the case study method and the results presented.
 
On the third day another excursion - led by Stella Cristofolini, like Shaimaa Atef and Krystel Khoury a member of the Robert Bosch Alumni Network - to the gallery and studio house Haus Schwarzenberg was on the program. Among other things, the excursion gave the participants an insight into the economic organization of a complex, non-government funded cultural institution that unites very different partners under one roof. Finally, the participants discussed further networking opportunities for prospective cultural managers and the role that international networks such as BIE can play in knowledge transfer.
 
Results and insights
 
During the three days of joint work, it became clear that cultural managers of different nationalities are by no means separated by different topics. The integration of different 'communities' - especially those with relatively few points of contact to the cultural sector -, the social but also the political function of art and culture as well as the related role of cultural managers and artists as public intellectuals drove the Master's and PhD students alike, regardless of their geographical origin. In particular, the large number of cultural managers from South America made clear how important an in-depth knowledge of methods, theories and narratives from various international contexts is to them. The awareness of having opened up too little in the past decades was in parts much more present to them than it is to many established cultural managers as well as scholars from the Western hemisphere, who so far have questioned the canon of the discipline, which is very limited in terms of internationality, frighteningly little. Even though the thematic focuses vary for geopolitical reasons, it is clear that the questions are similar. Knowledge transfer at the international level is therefore a major topic that networks such as the BIE and the Robert Bosch Cultural Managers Network must address. But academia is in demand as well. Reducing the literature for academic programs largely to those in English leads to a dangerous monoculture, which not only marginalizes excellent research and the work of practitioners from many parts of the world, but also makes it considerably more difficult to develop contemporary solutions to urgent geopolitical and cultural policy issues.
 
How clearly the 30 young participants advocated diversity, the protection of cultural heritage, cultural rights and artists, especially in times of populism, was extremely rewarding for the initiators and moderators of the event. One of the aims of the first Winter School was to connect prospective cultural managers as well as colleagues in academia internationally and to provide input and impetus for both practical and academic work. With a mixture of different participative formats, theoretical input and international expertise, the goals were achieved to the great satisfaction of all and expectations were far exceeded:
 
The Winter School was such a great opportunity not only to begin to build a network of cultural managers, but also a chance to unlearn: to know other realities, to dismantle old beliefs, to unfold primary questions in many others. I was pleased to leave the Winter School with more questions than answers and feeling challenged to find more questions about the role of the cultural manager and culture itself.“ Lorena Vicini, Ph.D Student from South America, University of Kassel
 
Getting to know many young people who already prove with their CVs how seriously they take internationalisation, who take a clear stand on (cultural) political issues, who make sincere efforts to find solutions to pressing social questions and who are keenly interested in exchange across national borders, has created a great, and indeed emotional, value for the organisers.
 
Nothing beats being in a room full of people that share similar concerns, beliefs, and hopes for the future of the arts and culture. I loved being at the Winter School, which provided that kind of space for three days with people from across the world. Case clinics, lectures, discussions and excursions made for challenging conversations, lots of fun, and connections with people from a variety of fields. Most impressive was the positive energy that persisted even when conversations turned to the challenges arts managers face almost daily.” Carolin Suedkamp, PhD Student, Teaching Fellow for Humanities for the Public Good and Graduate Fellow of the Department of Communication, University of North Carolina
 
Against this background and due to the extremely positive feedback of the participants, another Winter School will take place in Berlin at the end of November 2019 again with the financial support of the Würth Foundation. Arts Management Network will of course publish the call for papers.
 
Doing good work in the world – a participant’s review by Lesley McBride
 
At the end of November, I had the great honor to attend the inaugural Winter School on Brokering Intercultural Exchange within Societies. Over the course of three full days, practitioners and academics of arts and cultural management gathered to discuss related topics through an interactive workshop approach. The theme of the Winter School was hinged on intercultural/ transcultural exchange, and how arts managers can and should respond to the challenges and opportunities presented in our changing world, by fostering social impact and leveraging participatory practices.
 
The experience was nothing short of pivoting – we reflected on prominent implications and responsibilities of being an arts manager, then spiraled out, diverging into layered subtleties. Amid lectures and guided group discussions, we explored issues such as paternalism, power structures both inside organizations and at broader levels of policy and society, impact, and an ethical community arts practice. Admittedly, these are Herculean feats to accomplish in three days; however, dripping water hollows the stone.
 
Two of the behind-the-scenes excursions to the Barenboim-Said Akademie and the Haus Schwarzenberg offered an especially candid window into how organizations balance priorities and needs of different stakeholders, and how they build communities both external and internal to the organization. Woven throughout the session were informal opportunities to discuss with fellow participants about current personal challenges faced through work, study, or research. The atmosphere was inviting, but attentive, and the energy cultivated by the group allowed for honest sharing free from stigma, which proved to be a valuable exercise in self-care as well as in education.
 
The participants of the Winter School were a hybrid of people from 16 different nations at various stages in their career, all with diverse focuses, which nurtured an environment that encouraged exchange and support through peer-based learning. The relatively small size of the group also allowed relationships to form quickly. The discussions were particularly nuanced given the variety of national backgrounds of the participants, many of whom are studying or working in countries other than their birth origin. This synthesis provided a versatile means for exploring transcultural art management.
 
For me, the Winter School provided a mid-semester energizer to continue pressing forward and served as a healthy reminder of why I choose this line of work. Simply put, doing good work in the world was the original motivation for most of us to choose this career path, and it was particularly encouraging to be reminded of that. I admire art managers for our glass half full approach to our work, despite the often gloomy predicaments of the world. I find that kind of determination inspiring, and being surrounded by likeminded people during the Winter School was a great booster shot to keep nudging the world further in the direction toward creative justice. Like many things that get under your skin, a short amount of time only allows you to scratch the surface, but the Winter School has me itching for more, and I look forward to watching the program progress in the years to come.