Monday, 15 July 2013

Guest post: "Cultural Chile or the attempt for decentralized management models", by Eduardo Duarte Yañez (Chile)

Eduardo Duarte Yañez is a chilean cultural manager. In this post, he shares with us his concerns regarding what he calls his government's obsession with the impact of culture – a concept which he thinks has been very little or even not defined at all by those using it. At the same time, he places his trust on local communities which, together with international cultural cooperation and local political authorities, are building management models aiming to blaze a trail for actually making cultural programmes happen. mv

Opening of the First International Meeting  Mujeres por la Cultura, that took place last week in Chile.

To talk about cultural processes in Chile, from the perspective of registering city management models, where the role of culture, although not that of a protagonist, is of vital importance in public policies of local development, is not something very exciting for cultural managers, artists and community cultural movements, the organized civil society.
There is, of course, an approved national cultural policy up to 2016, where we are offered a series of mainstream concepts, where the value of Intangible Cultural Heritage is mentioned for the first time, a number of measures and lines not associated, almost transversally, to a management plan that will take them forward.
Moving beyond this landscape, we’ll try to focus, in a general way, on the local realities of the different communities. In the last four years, there was no advancement with any concept or criterion that would help us understand what the Culture Ministry of Chile (without a ministerial classification, yet another contradiction) means by “impact” and its obession with it. What’s the impact of a poem or a musical composition? The number of people who read or listen to it? The quality of reading or hearing? And what’s the deadline for measurig it? How many decades for Gabriela Mistral’s work having an “impact” on national culture, if it’s actually having one...? How to quantify the “impact” of a painting? By the number of eyes that viewed it in a specific period of time (months, years?) or by its value in the art market? I am afraid that the legitimate concern regarding the results of a certain public policy (in this case, a cultural public policy) obsessed with “impact”, if one is not careful, might end up in a dead-end.
On the other hand, also the debate regarding gratuity or not for cultural activities (access to culture) is taking place in a marginal way, and not as a debate among citizens. Most of the cultural offer is free, and in many cases it is mixed and confused with entertainment shows for the masses, which can cost as much as the annual budget of the Municipal Department for Culture.
There are 345 municipalities in Chile. According to the second national survey on culture (carried out by the National Councilfor Culture and the Arts), the artistic form that draws the largest number of chilean audiences is cinema (34%), followed by concerts (29,3%). This situation prompts an interesting debate regarding the cinematographic contents, where traditional cinemas were substituted by rooms in big shopping malls, and where the programming is based on Hollywood’s cinematographic industry, in which “choosing” the film to see actually means “choosing among the films I oblige you to see”, there is no variety in content where there can also take place independent cinema festivals or cinema events in public and private universities.
The promotion of reading is another chapter, even longer, of ambiguities. Chile has got 19% tax on books, something that drains publishing houses, emerging authors and authors in general, and mainly the common citizen, who’s not able to buy books which, quite often, equal a 20% or 30% of a monthly salary, with which one must sustain his/her family. A worker cannot buy books with quality contents, it’s become prohibitive.
Contrary to everything that has been said so far, local communities, as is the case of Coquimbo, together with international cultural cooperation and local political authorities, are designing cultural management models as flexible tools built together with all local cultural agents, in order to be able to draw a navigation route which will result in the delivering of cultural programmes, sustainable and with a larger number of indicators, through the registration of every action. There have been projects such as the Sociocultural Mapping of Popular Neighborhoods of Coquimbo and School Ethnography, following the successful models of Heritage Education of Brazil and Colombia. In 2012, with funding from the municipal budget for culture, there was the starting of the Seminars and Debates of the Microneighborhoods experience, in order to include, following a disciplined and scientific way in the gathering of data and also with multiple formats for aquiring those indicators, without being necessarily academic, issues that arealso important to take into consideration.
In this way, the municipalities are creating a world visualization of their principlal biocultural assets and they move forward with experimenting city cultural management models, in an inclusive way that involves the community. It’s a large task and it has, for sure, many ups and downs, nevertheless, the most important thing in the cultural process of the Coquimbo region – from which originated the first woman to win a Nobel prize, Gabriela Mistral – is that there is an inter-relation between its cities and the wish of all manages, artists and political authorities to work together in an articulated way. We hope to have by the end of 2013 the first register of this process, which is being adapted and receives many impulses on behalf of the local community.
Eduardo Duarte Yañez is a writer and cultural manager, creator of various cultural projects and programmes for local development or cultural integration. In 2006 he received a national award for Municipal Cultural Management in Chile. He has a degree in Cultural Management from teh Arts Faculty of the University of Chile; he has a postgraduate degree in International Cooperation and Cultural Management from the University of Barcelona, Spain. He publishes in various media in Latin America and Spain.

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