2015-04-09

Series "Central & South America"

Authors

Cristina Gleich
studied Acting and Communication Sciences in Ecuador, worked at the Goethe Center Quito and participated in a training program for cultural managers from the regions Mexico, Central America,the Caribbean, and South America.
Culture and Politics in Ecuador

Where culture is limited to the cities

The Institute for Cultural Concepts Hamburg talked with Christina Gleich about the status of cultural politics and management in Ecuador.
Which are the social developments and the most important issues that are currently approaching to culture in Ecuador by your opinion?

In Ecuador, there is a variety of cultural activity, but unfortunately it is mainly concentrated on the larger cities. Insofar for me one of the largest remaining tasks of Ecuadorian society is to support smaller towns' and villages' access to culture. A near- and intermediate-term program has to enable cultural events in multiple locations and support local cultural productions. Many culturally important places just stay in oblivion, while cultural projects take only occasionally place. In most cases, its artists who are engaged in creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the local culture. Unfortunately, they can only hardly hope for assistance and sponsorship by public institutions. Consequently, one can not expect sustainability of such projects either.

In the field of education there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. On the one hand, art and culture in primary and secondary education have to become an issue at all, and on the other hand, more funds are needed for the training of artists. Now the government is planning a great University of the Arts for particularly this issues. I think this is very important. But it would also be important to improve the current offerings and institutions by giving them more promotion and support.

A "boom" in Ecuador in recent years was the development of film productions. Previously, you had to wait a few years until a new film was produced. Today, there are at least 4 productions that premiere each year in the cinemas. Since a specific film law (Ley de Cine) passed in 2006 the panorama has improved vastly because conditions for public funding of film production were created. Despite these achievements, there was a big disappointment last year: Audiences did not appear regularly. This small number of attendances is not an exclusive problem of the film industry, but can also be observed in other sectors. Also theaters have difficulties with the appearance of audiences, despite the fact that there are many productions based only on very limited resources. This is due to several factors, such as education and practice in certain cultural offers. It is a question of audience development and community building, where much remains to be done.

In recent years, a positive and interesting social development in the field of museums and exhibition centers in the city of Quito could be observed. Very well-organized initiatives have been founded inclusively and creatively designed. As an outcome, museums and community centers have become living places. Many of these organizations owe their new characteristics in large parts to cooperations with the independent scene or the third sector.

What role do politics and especially cultural politics play in this process and in the wider context of ecuadorian society?

For me, there is still no cultural policy with clear objectives in Ecuador. This is a contentious issue as a "ley organica de culturas" is indeed in work for years now, but still remains only in debate. A Ministry of Culture has been founded only 7 years ago and in that short time five different ministers have been in office. That may be the reason why there is no clear vision. In the course of the bill many expectations originated among artists and cultural promoters, but the results have not been so positive: excessive bureaucracy, almost exclusive support for competitive funds, poorly structured and benevolent events (which harms other artists and organizations) and many thematic restrictions.

The Ministry of Culture has already set important topics as guidelines, such as decolonization (descolonizaciˇn) of culture, protection of the cultural heritage and other cultural products. Among many creative artists, this creates a feeling of restriction when they want to realize something that does not fit the guidelines. Similarly, there is no clear separation between state and government, which is of course a great disadvantage not only for the artist, but for the whole society. In addition to the mentioned challenges, a clear cultural policy is needed; one that is open to a permanent dialogue with the various players in the cultural landscape.

In this context, an important issue for me are networks. They are a good way for further development as well as for organized pressure to the political level. Networks of artists and organizations are still weak, but have great potential.

Wich particular aspects of the German cultural landscape attracts your attention most?

What struck me first in Germany is that there is no need to live in a big city to find cultural offerings. Secondly, I noticed the presence of audiences. Maybe it was just coincidence, but at all stage events (of any kind) I attended so far in Germany, I have found always crowded or nearly full rooms. An interested, demanding and present audience is crucial for just any cultural activity.

This article has first been published in German on http://kulturkonzepte.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/kultur-und-kulturpolitik-in-ecuador/.
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