Cities must reinvent the way that they support culture, says report

Cultural experts express concern about gentrification
Jonathan Knott
Cities need to reinvent the way they support culture and do more than just promote famous buildings and international festivals, said a report from the World Cities Forum — a group of cultural policymakers from 32 cities.

The report, compiled and researched BOP Consulting, said that in order to avoid making culture the preserve of the elite, cultural policy leaders need to "nurture the cultural capability of the whole of a city” and work with a range of people.

Richard Naylor, a director at BOP, told the Museums Journal that many large cultural institutions like museums, galleries, concert halls and opera houses “came out of an 18th or 19th century version of culture that was the result of a very particular set of historical and geographical circumstances – a white, European enlightenment project.”

“They now operate in a much more multicultural, diverse, globalised and inclusive environment and have to be able to adapt accordingly,” Naylor added.

The report also expressed concern that gentrification was forcing out creatives who were important to a city’s economic success. But Naylor said that this was more of a problem for artists than people working in cultural institutions.

“It’s slightly different because creatives are looking for producing spaces as well as living spaces, and workshop and office space comes with short-term leases," he said.

“Our big cultural institutions tend to be fixed in particular places, and a lot of people who work for those institutions also have permanent contracts (as opposed to self-employed and freelance creatives). But the degree to which workers in our large cultural institutions are forced to have ever-longer commutes is clearly a question.”

The report is based on 150 interviews with artists, business leaders, civil society representatives, entrepreneurs and politicians.

Tomas Zierhofer-Kin, who from 2017 will be the artistic director at the Wiener Festwochen festival in Vienna, said: “Vienna is a city with a strong historical and musicological tradition but it is bourgeois, prestigious and expensive. One has to ensure that many people will find themselves represented in the cultural offer of the city. Much will need to change in this regard.”

Majid El Jarroudi, the founder and general delegate at the Agency for Entrepreneurial Diversity in Paris, said: “The culture that is subsidised in Paris remains an elitist culture in many ways. There is a need for a recognition of immigrants by integrating their culture in the common heritage and by valorising the history of immigration in France and its contribution to present Parisian society.”

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