Making the Arts Accessible to Everyone
The City Arts Centre in Dublin has been designed as an integrated community resource for education to make the arts accessible to everyone and contributes to creative self-development of the individual and of the community as a whole. It has developed innovative programmes for children, long-term unemployed and disabled people, all groups often excluded from taking part in cultural life. These include an "open submission" exhibition "celebrating disability as difference rather than disadvantage," the Young Playwrights' Project (young people research and write a play based on the theme of disability), as well as a wide range of courses and workshops promoting intercultural learning.
Since 1990, the Centre has been affiliated with Very Special Arts, an international organization, founded by Jean Kennedy Smith in 1974, whose goal is to create access to the arts for people with disabilities. "The ability to communicate, and through such communication to participate, is central to an equal, just and developing society" says Sandy Fitzgerald, Director of Very Special Arts, Ireland.
All people need to communicate their experiences, their hopes and fears, as they have always done, and many local initiatives, notably in Africa and Latin America, help them to do so without wondering whether what they are doing is "creative" or even "art." It is enough that they communicate in a fresh and stimulating way, as do countless local groups producing music or theatrical shows. These people are active above all and in that sense they are, beyond a doubt, creative.
Community-based creative activity should be highly valued and supported. The community arts movement in many countries has incorporated strategies to stimulate local creativity and improve skills and standards by using contributions from professional artists. It goes beyond increasing community skills and actually supports the achievement of cultural development objectives. Cities, for example, are fertile ground for cross-cultural artistic creation and expression, especially in popular music. The ground is under-explored, however, because talented young musicians are not adequately trained and their career development is not properly promoted. This is especially regrettable in view of the vital contribution of music -- World Music -- to a shared global culture of young people. This is a world throbbing with vitality. Measures should be taken at the international level to develop guidelines and good practice to further the careers of urban musicians, to strengthen local capacities for their training, for the production and diffusion of their work, and for the enhancement of their professional status.
Creativity requires an environment that encourages self-expression and exploration. Educational programmes that allow an imaginative interaction between cultural traditions and new technologies should be encouraged and strategies stimulating creative initiatives in training should be further developed. Support to emerging or experimental art forms should be considered as an investment in social research, creativity, and human development, rather than as a mere subsidy to consumption. Cost recovery and revenue generation should not always be expected. If government support to encourage innovation is unquestioned in other economic areas, why not for something as important as the arts? The recognition of the creative imagination as a pillar of society's vitality and development -- in economic and human terms -- also calls for co-ordination between cultural creativity and other policy domains, i.e. urban planning, leisure and education.
The limiting effects of consumerism on creativity can be alleviated by realigning policies for the cultural industries with cultural policies as a whole. In this way, and as developed in chapter 4, media pluralism and competition can be encouraged as endogenous cultural production and distribution are subsidized. Policy makers should also acknowledge the importance of creativity and innovation as critical factors in the international competitiveness of nations. In a number of countries, cultural policy overtly encompasses crafts, software development, design, urban planning and architecture. Some would argue that the IKEA home furnishing chain of stores has made popular design the most successful Swedish cultural industry internationally. The company's approach has been to draw on Swedish design strengths. By promoting an identifiable Swedish note throughout its products, presentation and services, IKEA may have contributed more to forging a positive image of its country than the films of Ingrid or Ingmar Bergman or the music of pop groups like Abba and Ace of Base.
Creativity, copyright and the artist. Protection of artists' rights is fundamental. Technology is opening up many new horizons to artists and their creative work but is also jeopardizing their rights. How can these rights be protected in the light of the many new means of publication -- digital compression, virtual imagery, multimedia products of all kinds -- which sometimes undermine first principles? The necessary adaptation to technological development does not justify the dismantling of existing conventions and regulations; on the contrary, it does require the extension of copyright law which has to protect the creators' and artists' interests as well as guarantee universal access to artistic works. Technologies such as the Internet may require policy-makers to envision new systems of rights which may not necessarily use the principles of copyright. Advances in information technology are demonstrating that the two do not always fit well together.
The GATT accord, through its Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPs) agreement, has caused a subtle reorientation of copyright away from the author and towards a trade-oriented perspective. One challenge will be to maintain the balance between interests of countries exporting copyright and those of countries that import it, especially in the developing world. Defending the legitimate interests of the latter, while difficult, should be pursued through the establishment of adequate protection. The Commission encourages therefore the search for new legal bases in order to assure an effective implementation and protection of revised copyright and related rights to ensure the best possible living conditions to creators and artists. This is especially important for developing countries where inexpensive pirated copies of imported material discourage domestic creativity and production. Legal and technical assistance to those countries should be increased with a view to formulating or adapting legislation on copyright and related rights and help to fight against piracy. This is most evident in terms of audiovisual activity in Nigeria where "local production in 35 mm amounted to only one film in the last two and a half years, and today most of the cinemas in the south of the country have switched to video supplied mainly by video pirates."
There are important links between freedom of expression and artistic creation that go beyond copyright protection. Specific social, legal, financial and institutional measures should acknowledge the special status of the artist. Taxation, social security, employment strategies and professional training are all effective instruments for this purpose, although their use requires close collaboration between professionals working across distinct governmental mandates. While the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of the Artist remains a valid, indeed essential guideline today, new initiatives in the areas just mentioned are also required. The Commission recommends that a comparative evaluation be launched to assess progress towards enhancing the status of the artist across the world, including matters such as taxation, social security and training.
Training and awareness-building. Principles of good management should apply as much to publicly supported arts institutions, programmes and projects as they do to all state-supported services. As the scope of the cultural responsibility must be widened, however, building a broader new awareness has become even more essential. A holistic notion of cultural planning has already taken root in some Western countries and Australia but is still relatively uncommon elsewhere. The training provided by existing courses in cultural policy and management does not meet this need. What is particularly lacking is a multi-disciplinary methodology that would enable professionals to work across professional boundaries, bridging disciplines such as arts administration, conservation, curatorship, urban and regional planning, townscape design, and tourism development. The training base is usually too narrow to make creative connections between the different perspectives.
The media in general, particularly in urban settings, could become an open forum for citizens to air creative ideas, findings, anxieties, aspirations, polemics and debates. Universities and other research institutions could also play an important role. By the 1980s a number of studies had revealed to municipal level decision-makers the importance of the arts and the cultural industries in the local economy and their direct and indirect economic impact on employment and wealth creation. Today new research is needed to measure impact on skill enhancement, social cohesion, community development, local identity, and capacity building. How do well-organized urban cultural activities promote healthier, more convivial and less wasteful life-styles?