Rallying in Rome for Cultural Resilience

Culture Action Europe held its 21st Annual General Meeting on Oct 13 in an atmospheric former slaughter house in Rome. And defeated we got, but in the best way imaginable. We got reminded of what we knew all along. This is not a crisis – it is a transition, and it is culture alone that has the potential to lead the way into the new world order.

I went to Rome because Res Artis was nominated for the Executive Committee of Culture Action Europe, and I was to give the nomination speech. Apart from this anticipation, it was a moment of great joy to witness this specific change in the history of Culture Action Europe from an organization that tries to represent the cultural sector at the EU level to influence policy, to an organization that wants to tear down the walls of institutionalization that confine the power of culture.

[Left] Entrance to the venue at the 3rd University of Rome, and [Right] during a break on the first day.

The European culture sector has matured

As the President of the Executive Committee, Mercedes Giovinazzo, said, there has been an attempt to unite the cultural organization in Europe about 20 years ago, without avail. This time around it can work. The European Cultural sector has matured, and with this meeting in Rome, we know that it is also ready to take up its responsibility to be acknowledged for the role it has played all this time, and it wants to engage all the sectors, public, private and civic to co-create this new reality in Europe, and beyond. It comes as no surprise that the term revolution would make its rounds during these three days.

[Left] We had to accuse and defend various sector’s negligence towards culture in a role play workshop. [Right] The notes of one of the speakers, economical as one would expect from someone from the OECD, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Culture equals social development

To see Luca Bergamo rally up an audience of about 200 people was nothing but exciting. Our linear world view has come to an end, he explained, the shared prosperity and welfare as the two pillars we were told it was built on no longer exist. The argument that we need to shrink the resources that go to the public sphere in order to restore the financial base and finally our societies, is unjustified propaganda, he laid out for us.

That money has been dramatically cut already, badly affecting welfare, justice, human rights, public space and services, environmental care, rights to culture, education for all, and more. To find a way out of this vacuum we must take serious the end of separation, and choose for the age of universal consciousness, and to share tangible and intangible assets. We need global solutions, and we need them to grow cross-sectorial, with culture taking the lead. Culture in its broadest sense, including education, science, and the arts.

[Left] We had to split up in three working groups: Democracy, Culture & Europe. [Right] The Secretary General of CAE, Luca Bergamo, talks to Nan van Houte, IETM, Birgitta Persson, TEH, and Annette Wolfsberger, Melkweg/TEH.

CAE was making a case for culture to be accredited in all policy making decisions, programs and strategies on the EU level (Europe 2020 does not mention culture in its vision!), and we were advised by the DG Education and Culture to make sure culture is integrated in all planning in the private sector as well.

The public and private sector shows interest

Apart from the workshops all the participants had to take part in, there were many politicians, members of the EU Parliament, EU and European Commission representatives on the panel, including someone from the OECD, and the Italian Minister of Labor, making a case for culture within their specific programs.

The Executive Committee concluded the meeting under euphoric applause, while Luca was confirming the fact that so many representatives from the political level have added to this meeting meant something and must be counted as a first successful step on a long and demanding march together. He ended with the words: “I am more committed than ever to do the job!” 

We are motivated, and support Culture Action Europe with its new mission – especially since we are a newly elected member of their Executive Committee since this October!

Why is Res Artis a member of the Executive Committee of CAE?

The residency field, its experiences, challenges and worries are not adequately represented on the EU program, strategic or policy level. We hope to change that. Especially the topics of the human right to move freely, mobility in general and EU policies on work rights within Europe, and in relation to neighboring states and continents, we want to lobby for.

Read up on our advocacy work on:

About the author

Lillian Fellmann oversees the project development at Res Artis, and is in charge of our international fundraising activities. Lillian represents Res Artis at the Arts, Social Justice, Human Rights platform at the Access to Culture Platform of the European Commission, and is a member of the Executive Committee of Culture Action Europe, the political platform for Arts and Culture in Brussels.