In the field of cultural policies, one of the collateral effects of the global crisis that for many is unfortunately still very much alive, is unarguably a shift in the tone of debates. Words, as Eduard Miralles would often remind us, have different meanings at different times in history and in different places.
To give but a few recent examples: the latest CoNCA report is on the social dimension of culture; the Carulla Foundation has come up a guide to culture and social transformation from its MUTARE meeting with the sector; Catalan Regional Minister of Culture Laura Borràs has called for projects and cultural spheres that go beyond financial revenue to have a “social return”; the Institut del Teatre and the Pere Tarrés Foundation are jointly holding seminars on evaluating performing arts and social transformation projects, and the OECD has published a guide to measure the social function of museums.
The economic impact of culture, which was such a central debate for so many decades, has apparently either faded into the background or been blended into that more holistic perspective which highlights the potential of shared cultural spaces and expressions to regenerate communities broken by rising inequality.
In the realm of development cooperation and international cultural relations in which the INTERARTS Foundation operates, this is the stance that Eduard Delgado and the Council of Europe already defended: culture as a factor in comprehensive, economic, and social development.
It is also a fact, however, that there is growing demand for projects that factor in culture to public policymaking and cooperation programmes that once seemed alien to it. This is the famous concept of the cross-cutting or interrelated dimension that we debated for many years and that for Jesus Martín Barbero had to be “homeopathic”. It is time to show that we can build bridges, forge debates with other realms and professionals, and work together to overcome common challenges and objectives.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – that grand universal horizon we are moving towards – did not, despite the efforts of the international culture sector (led in large part by INTERARTS and the Agenda 21 for Culture), attribute a clearer role to culture.
Nevertheless, the analysis of the final document undertaken by our colleagues from the Committee on Culture of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) clearly showed the opportunities that are emerging for culture agents to intervene, harnessing their experience and creative capacities to help achieve the goals that the international community has set.
States and governments must report on their attainment of these goals and indicators. Catalonia and Barcelona have positioned themselves in this regard and made a clear commitment. Those of us who work in and from the sphere of culture must strive to make our contributions visible, as other sectors are doing.
Culture has always been at the heart of absolutely all social transformation, because what transforms a society is how it understands itself, defines its priorities and values, lives with difference and adapts to its environment according to the conditions, which today are increasingly extreme. Artistic languages take forward and express these visions.
Gemma Carbó, acting chair of the Board of the Interarts Foundation