4th OMC expert group meeting - Accessible and inclusive culture (Phase I)

5/6th March 2012,
Brussels, Belgium

Organiser: European Council

Logo European CouncilEminent examples of the social outreach efforts of cultural institutions featured once more in the meeting of national experts. The shape of the ‘handbook’, which this group is tasked to produce, was a major preoccupation and advanced with the help of a ‘world café’ exercise. The work of the group in its current composition is due to draw to a close after only a couple more meetings.

Cultural heritage, contemporary art, theatre, museums and music were all examined for their social role. The examples came from Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Austria. The inclusion of ethnic minorities – though not the central preoccupation of this group – did feature:

  • Birgitta Englin from Riksteatern in Sweden – a member of the Platform for Intercultural Europe – described how her institution has been engaging with immigrant communities in Sweden through theatre productions. She set out that arts academies and arts institutions discriminate structurally against people of Iranian, Kurdish or other ‘foreign’ culture as they had done against women. The questions still was “Who is around the table?” - full participation depended on participation. Birgitta made the case that theatre is “infrastructure for democracy”. She said the challenge was “how to reformulate the public assignments of cultural institutions?” Read the full text of “From Access to Participation”.
  • Thyge Moos from the Danish Agency for Culture presented the 2009-2014 museum user survey (of Denmark’s government approved museums). By cross-referencing user data with national demographic date, underrepresented user profiles are identified. The major concern so far: the shrinking representation of 14-29 year olds. Museums are left to act on the survey results themselves and “young is the new black” as far as their efforts are concerned – a somewhat ill-chosen analogy given that the representation of ethnic minorities is not covered by the survey. The reason: “We know that ethnic representation is weak so we don’t need the survey to tell us.” Presumably the fact that there is a problem with getting young people to museums wasn’t a huge surprise either, but documented facts help address the problem. ‘Why does this not apply to resident users of foreign descent?’, one wonders?
  • Monika Jeschko from the Wiener Konzerthaus presented the initiative “Sing along ‘Blauli’”, which revitalise the practice of singing in schools. Caroline Rota followed suit with the presentation of “Superar”, which promotes singing, music making and dancing in children. Interestingly, all three projects do not explicitly address residents of Vienna ‘with a migration background’ although the outreach is to schools in areas where a high proportion of them live. “The distinction between ‘Ausländer’ (foreigners) and ‘Inländer’ (locals) doesn’t work anymore. We need to work for a better society for all”, according to Monika Jeschko.

The discussion of the prospective handbook took place in three groups and tackled three questions: Who should the handbook be for? What’s missing from the proposed structure? What content should be filled into the proposed structure? Given that the ‘good practice’ examples presented during the OMC meetings have largely been those of public cultural institutions rather than those of public policy-makers, participants seemed to have been drawn in the direction of producing a handbook for ‘practitioners’. Platform for Intercultural Europe Secretary General, Sabine Frank, pointed out that she would consider this as failing the purpose of the Open Method of Coordination. The OMC was after all about comparative policy-making and therefore the handbook should be addressed to cultural policy-makers at different levels, including to arts agencies. The handbook must tackle the conditions attached to public funding and the obligations in the public service remits of cultural institutions. Only in the second instance should the handbook address cultural institutions. For their purpose, the ‘good practice’ examples need to be presented according to their ‘conditions for success’ so as to be of practical use.

Written by Sabine Frank on behalf of Platform for Intercultural Europe
April 2012

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