Monday, 5 September 2011


E.Hopper, People in the sun. Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

In physics, a body which does not move is said to be at rest, motionless, immobile, stationary.


Grants supporting mobility in the cultural sector are normally for artists and curators. Many other culture professionals (those working in the fields of management, communications, education, etc.) – who also feel the need to invest in training during their careers, to travel, get to know colleagues from other countries, promote projects of cooperation – are rarely considered. In the beginning of August I was informed that the Organization of Ibero-American States (OIS) had launched the 2nd Call for Mobility Grants. Some of the objectives announced: to help ibero-american creators, managers, promoters and other professionals in the cultural field who wish to enrich their work by getting to know other professional contexts which allow for the exchange of distinct cultural scopes in the ibero-american space; to strengthen the work of public institutions; to stimulate the building of a culture of peace, based on the exchange, intercultural dialogue and cooperation, favouring a better understanding of the different ibero-american cultural realities. However, candidates could only be of a ibero-american nationality. Given the objectives announced by the OIS, is the candidates´s nationality truly relevant? Should it be a condition? In a world where people, culture professionals, constantly travel, increasingly develop their professional activity in countries different from those of origin, collaborate in international projects, does it make sense, within the scope of an initiative as the one launched by the OIS, to exclude candidates that do not have an ibero-american nationality? Is the country issuing the passport more relevant than the country and the institutions where one develops for years his/her professional activity? I asked the OIS these questions, via email and Facebook. I didn´t get an answer. The deadline for applications finished a few days ago.


For family reasons, a friend decided to leave her job at one of London´s major museums and return to Greece. After one or two short collaborations with museums in Athens and many years of unemployment, she decided to go back to London and try again. Within two weeks she was hired by another big museum. Two or three years later, she moved to another. Three more years and she was at another. All those jobs had been publicly advertised, attracting a large number of candidates. In every case, it involved a national museum.

I thought of my friend many times in the last months, when, talking to various people working in the cultural sector, I realised there are many professionals and institutions ‘trapped’ in rather unproductive situations. On one side, people who occupy the same post for a number of years, tired – of routines or frictions -, eager to face new challenges; on the other side, institutions that naturally go through phases too, which could and would like to benefit from some sort of renovation in their teams.

I thought once again of my friend when, a few weeks ago, I found out that a post in a public cultural institution, a post that does not involve functions that would require political trust, was ‘discretely’ occupied by invitation. It´s common. But until when? It´s true that there are few jobs in the cultural sector. But it is also true that rarely, very rarely, are they publicly advertised, in a way that could guarantee (and allow to benefit from) more diverse applications and, thus, the mobility and renovation one whishes for, promoting - and defending, at the same time - the equally desired transparency and meritocracy. Anyhow, both in the public and private sector, neither the professionals nor the institutions benefit from this kind of stagnation. What to do once the ‘honeymoon’ is over?

“And what if there was an exchange system”, I said joking to someone who´s been in the same post for 10 years. And what if there was? A public, open, transparent system, that would allow for the exchange of professionals between two institutions for three-year periods – which seems to be the maximim duration of the ‘honeymoon’.

1 comment:

Hélène Besançon said...

Totally agree. I have been conscientiously looking for a job in the cultural field in Lisbon/oeiras/Cascais area for a year and a half. Nothing was advertized so far even temporary projects and nothing happened.The recruitment of the staff of Casa das Historias Pauala Rego in Cascais went throught Turismo Portugal (???) and was done confidentially... Even a volunteering project couldn't turn into an interesting experience because no cjance was given to initiative and creativity.Very hard to live and very hard to believe. Regards.Hélène Besançon