Who chooses cultural management as a career, and why?

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Today’s Arts Management Network newsletter carries a very interesting review of the French sociologist Vincent Dubois’ new book Culture as a Vocation: Sociology of career choices in cultural management.

Based on interviews with 654 students in MA courses in cultural management in France, it yields some intriguing insights on the demographics and aspirations of those seeking to become cultural managers (emphases mine):

Dubois examines, on the basis of his survey, the social factors and characteristics of the aspirants for an occupation in cultural management. In doing so he finds that these persons are mainly female, in the majority have a comparatively secure social background, often originate from families of academics and are equipped with a high educational capital. On top of that they frequently come out of an environment in which they early had the opportunity to socialize in a cultural way, as for example by getting private teaching lessons in music instruments or by being member of a theatre group.

This resonates strongly with my experience working in UCD’s Arts Management & Cultural Policy MA for 13 years. Given that arts management is often an economically precarious and competitive career, Dubois’ research into individual motivations for pursuing this path is intriguing:

Finally, Dubois points out further reasons for a career aspiration in cultural management – resulting from a broader social context. Thus, many of his study participants understand cultural work as an expression of self-fulfillment, freedom and satisfaction, because it gives them the feeling of doing something for the public welfare and acting for a higher purpose in life. Thereby, at the same time, they distance themselves from pure economically orientated occupational fields. A career in cultural management by that becomes a personal self-realization project, all in the sense of the central concepts of neo-capitalism.

Whether or not you agree such aspirations are an expression of neo-capitalist ideologies (and I would be more doubtful of aspects of this analysis), the descriptions Dubois offers are very compelling. To date, most research on the arts labour market deals with artists’ careers, incomes and training. Given the expansion and development of arts management as a specific career path (something I am directly involved with), this type of research is very valuable in thinking through the challenges of arts management training, and consequences for the sector as a whole. The overwhelming dominance of entry-mid level arts management positions by women, for example, is often remarked upon, but we understand little about the effect this actually has on careers, progression, and the functioning of arts organisations themselves.

One of the insights I found most interesting is Dubois’ description of the relationship between the social backgrounds of arts management and audience development agendas:

Dubois’ findings make it clear that the diversification of the audience required by cultural institutions can hardly be successful if the majority of their staff originates from academic families with a (high) cultural education. They simply cannot put themselves in the position of the living conditions of socially disadvantaged people or groups of society belonging to minorities and therefore in their work they reflect – as it is also criticised again and again – especially their own expectations of culture and cultural mediation.

This is a problem further exacerbated by the prevalence of unpaid internships in the arts, which creates a significant barrier to a diverse work force — a paradox not fully acknowledged by arts organisations that may run outreach programmes, but be structurally closed off for professional entry by individuals from similarly challenged backgrounds.

There are so many questions raised by this study — I look forward to reading the full text at length — and discussing whether they apply (or not) to the Irish experience.

 

Weekly round-up: 20 January 2012

Congratulations to Raymond Keaveney on his retirement: 23 years' service to the National Gallery of Ireland!

A busy week on the arts scene with lots of news & goings-on:

My colleague Dr Maeve Houlihan (UCD School of Business & a long term lecturer in our MA Arts Management) is co-convening a session at the upcoming World Congress of the International Federation of Scholarly Associations of Management — being held this June at University of Limerick! Her session is entitled ‘Services, Events and Arts Management‘ and paper abstracts will be accepted until 31 January.

Lots of news on the Director front… long-serving Director of the National Gallery Raymond Keaveney retired on 11 January, and Sarah Glennie was announced as the new Director of IMMA.

NUIG has announced its new 4-year BA in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, in collaboration with Druid, Galway Arts Festival and Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe.

Ni hao, Dublin Chinese New Year Festival! This is a month traditionally light on festival-type activities, so the New Year Festival’s launch today will provide some cheer in January’s gloom. May be time to break out my rusty Mandarin…

Three new positions coordinating Music Generation projects in Laois, Cork and Wicklow have been announced (the first two have been posted in the Jobs section of this site; the third has yet to be advertised).

The ever-interesting THEATREclub at Project Arts Centre is hosting a new series of discussions and workshops to accompany its latest production ‘The Family’, reflecting on contemporary Irish family life & related social issues.

The Limerick City Gallery of Art launched its snazzy newly refurbished building this week — by all accounts it’s a fabulous space.

DCAL has announced details of a £5,000 Culture Tech grant open to organisations and individuals based in Derry, aimed at projects combining cultural endeavours and digital technology — deadline is 17 February.

The Lighthouse Cinema reopened to the public today under the new management of Element Pictures (yay!) and I’ve just been alerted to VOLTA, a new on-demand Irish indie film & video service… very tempting (and great name, by the way)!

According to a recent RTE press release, its spring schedule includes “‘Masterpiece: Ireland’s Most-Loved Painting’, a major new programme that will kick off a five-week RTÉ-wide campaign to find Ireland’s favourite painting.” Hmm….

The Irish Museums Association’s latest members’ field trip is on the 28th of January to the Little Museum of Dublin and the Freemasons’ Hall… bound to be a popular one! Book in by emailing Gina at office@irishmuseums.org.

The Irish Times Theatre Awards nominee list was announced on Saturday; here’s the full list and some reflections of the jury.

Unfortunately news came this week of the untimely death of the wonderful artist Paddy Jolley, who died unexpectedly in India. A fund has been set up to assist his family in the immediate aftermath; please contribute if you can.

Weekly round-up: 6 April 2011

Photo from the Irish Times, 5 April 2011: Rob Dunne and Antoinette Emoe prepare Diego Rivera's Landscape with Cacti for hanging at Imma. Photograph: Alan Betson

A sooper-dooper bumper round-up for today, to make up for my absence over the past 2 weeks (travelling for conferences & wrapping up MA course for 2010-11!) I’ve made a few sub-headings to make navigating this update easier; I promise not to stay away so long next time!

Jobs / internships

Want to work for the Arts Council? Now’s your chance… currently hiring a new Director and 15 (!) new arts advisors across all disciplines, so dust off the CV….

I’ve been following news on changing practices around internships/work placements in the UK (see previous post): just yesterday the Guardian reported on Nick Clegg’s admission of the advantage conferred to him via a placement in his youth arranged by his father.  There’s been a recent push in government (as part of a ‘social mobility’ campaign) to increase application transparency, fair remuneration, and access to internships in desirable professions — an issue of importance here in Ireland as well, though this has yet to be addressed in any substantial way. Groups/blogs like Intern Aware and Interns Anonymous have formed in the UK to push for reform and improve access (although I would disagree with their distinctions drawn between ‘interning’ for a company and ‘volunteering’ with a charity as neglecting/mis-characterising the non-profit sector); is it time for similar action here in Ireland?

Awards Season

Congratulations to the Science Gallery for its recent Shorty Award (for the best Cultural Organisation) at the ‘Oscars of Twitter’, and to Vulgo.ie for its triumph as best Arts & Culture blog at the Irish Blog Awards in late March!

Budget woes & money matters

The Lighthouse Cinema is embroiled in a rent dispute with its landlord, who recently doubled the rent from 100k to 200k. The future of the cinema is of great concern to its patrons, local residents in Smithfield and taxpayers (especially since the government invested €1.75 million in its development). The petition by the landlord to wind up the lease has been adjourned to allow for board discussions; it’s also been suggested that the Cultural Cinema Consortium (formed by the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board) who initially invested in the project might take it over as a going concern… Certainly I’d be of the view it’s the best arthouse cinema in Dublin (sorry IFI!), although the decline of the Smithfield development and its failure to secure lasting tenants is obvious to anyone visiting, and a clear obstacle the cinema’s struggled to deal with. Will keep you posted…

As the Arts Council England finally sent out funding notifications to organisations,  the scale of cuts was wide enough to warrant massive coverage in all the UK dailies (I follow the Guardian mainly) and even feature on a Newsnight segment. 206 organisations had their funding cut completely, and supporters of various organisations and artforms fumed. The Arts Council itself recently came in for strongly worded criticism and an order to sell off big chunks of its collection, whilst the CEO of ACE answered tough online questions about funding decisions. It’s almost too much to digest, especially at a distance, but my impression is that ACE was in an impossible situation, with nearly every commentator convinced of his/her view that decision X or decision Y was a travesty of judgment — I would have more sympathy with Charlotte Higgins’ view that

… ACE’s behaviour is only a sideshow. The real story here is the gradually corrosive effect of a government that, while paying lip-service to the importance of the arts, seems intent on sleepwalking the nation towards cultural impoverishment. The cuts to ACE cannot be seen in isolation from the removal of public funding for humanities tuition in higher education; the absence of arts subjects from the English baccalaureate; the unstable situation among local authorities, some of which are bravely protecting cultural provision while all too many are cutting it off; the starvation of libraries.

Northern Ireland news

An Arts Hustings for Northern Ireland will be hosted by Arts Audiences NI, Arts & Business, and Voluntary Arts on 19 April at the Grand Opera House in Belfast; representatives from the various political parties will be in attendance, and Declan McGonagle will also be speaking.

Have to give a shout-out to all the fab folks who hosted our MA class recently during our visit to Belfast… thanks to Stephen Douds from BBC NI / Lyric Theatre, Ciara Hickey at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, Kabosh Theatre Company & Paula McKetridge, and Trevor Parkhill at the Ulster Museum for their fabulous hospitality — we had a marvellous time!

New research resources

I was recently alerted to the DHO:Discovery portal, one of the outcomes of the Digital Humanities Observatory project. It provides online access to digitised images, text, and sound recordings from a range of Irish cultural institutions, including the Chester Beatty Library, Irish Traditional Music Archive, and lots of material from TCD’s archives. The interface is clunky, but it’s wonderful to be able to access all of this material so easily, and will prove very useful for researchers.

I heart Ciaran Benson and his lovely writing, and I don’t care who knows it. The Irish Review of Books recently published his review of recent texts on Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland — would that more Irish art criticism (including my own) flowed so beautifully!

The much-anticipated book Ireland, Design and Visual Culture : Negotiating Modernity 1922-1992, edited by Linda King and Elaine Sisson, has just been published. With The Moderns catalogue from IMMA also finally available, I’m looking forward to an imminent immersion in new Irish visual culture research  🙂

If new Irish art historical research is your bag (as it’s certainly mine), check out the annual Irish Association of Art Historians’ Study Day, taking place this Saturday (9 April) at IMMA from 10-5. It will be showcasing new research (spanning all periods/geographies of art history) by folks working on this island, and we’re delighted to have three PhD students from our own School presenting as well: Louis Funder, Jessica Fahy and Silvia Guglielmini (download the full programme).

Launches / event announcements / calls for participation

After lots of hard work and enthusiasm Business to Arts formally launched Fundit.ie, a new crowdsourcing platform for funding Irish arts and cultural initiatives. Crowdfunding as a phemomenon recently received a nice write-up in the Irish Times, and already there’s a great clutch of projects seeking funding on Fundit.ie: so far I’ve helped fund Monster Truck’s new digital screen in Temple Bar, IMMA’s efforts to purchase new Bea McMahon drawings, the publication by Conor & David for Open House Dublin, and an Irish/Polish Film Project. One of the caveats of crowdfunding is that organisations don’t receive funds unless their target is reached — so get over there, register, and contribute what you can to what catches your fancy!!

I am gutted I missed last night’s opening at IMMA for the Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera exhibition (complete with tequila and mariachis! In Dublin!! More exclamation marks necessary!!!!) Looking forward to seeing the show in any case (although as an Angelena I’ve seen my fair share of Kahlo & Rivera — and Siquieros and Orozco, who make up the holy trinity of Mexican muralistas). Sure to be a massive crowd-pleaser… (p.s. Aidan Dunne’s reflections on 20 years of IMMA’s history last week made for a nice recap!)

The second meeting of the Visual Arts Workers Forum (WORK IT) is taking place in Project on April 20th — the discussions and planned presentations look great, and are aimed at folks across Ireland working in the visual arts.

Friday is Love : Live Music / National Music Day, coordinated by Music Network — get thee down to one of the many events happening nationwide (the hubs will be hitting the town with junior in tow, seeing how much music he can take til he pops!)

Cinemagic Dublin is currently seeking kids and teenagers 10-18 years in age to sit on its film review jury — if you have any budding film critics knocking about the house, here’s your chance!

The Heritage Council is hosting an  EU Funding Information Event for Heritage Organisations on 13 April at its offices in Kilkenny, which will provide information for individuals and organisations on how to access EU pots o’cash — an underutilised source of funding in Ireland!

Miscellany

Aosdána recently added John Arden, Joseph O’Connor, John Tuomey, Corban Walker and Daphne Wright to their midst… @RositaBoland ‘s twitter reporting of their annual general meeting on April 4th was particularly entertaining (gardening wha?)

The Irish Times debuted its first Culture Podcast yesterday, featuring Fintan O’Toole, Jim Carroll, Rosita Boland and Shane Hegarty.

Puh-lease: 6 hours a week? Explaining what Irish academics do (and justifying the weirdness of our working patterns / heaviness of workload) continues to be the bane of my existence, especially as we’re now meant to conform to the Crazy Croke Park Agreement that’s arbitrarily imposed a demand of an extra hour spent teaching every week, across all levels of education (although I pause in my rant to spare a thought for Queen’s University in Belfast, where colleagues are facing drastic budget measures that will have a terrible impact on working conditions and consequently student experience). Much of the interesting debate on this subject has taken place over on ex-DCU president Ferdinand von Prondzynski’s University Blog (who’s since moved over to Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen). The folks over at DublinIntellectual (particularly Dr Marisa Ronan) are taking matters into their own hands, making efforts to broaden awareness of research conducted by third level academics, by hosting a series of accessible ‘salons’ — the first takes place tonight at 8.30 at the Shebeen on South Great Georges Street.

 

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something… but gotta get back to the day job! 🙂

 

 

 

Weekly round-up: 8 December 2010

Woe is us– budget, snow, and Jackie Healy Rae. Sigh.

Here’s what been buzzing on the wire:

* edit: Laurence Mackin had CI’s budget down by 2%; I asked him on his blog about the discrepancy in his figures versus the 71% increase cited elsewhere, and here’s his response:

According to the Government estimates (available at http://www.budget.gov.ie/budgets/2011/Documents/Estimates%20Budget%202011.pdf) Culture Ireland got €4.083 million in 2010 and will get €3.997 million in 2011 – a decrease of 2 per cent. According to the Minister for the Arts Mary Hanafin “a carry-over of €3m from 2010 will be used towards the funding of Culture Ireland’s major year-long season of contemporary Irish culture, Imagine Ireland, across the US in 2011” – hence the figure of €6,997 at Theatre Forum and elsewhere.

Basically, Culture Ireland’s budget is the €3.997 and the €3 million is a once-off payment to fund this once-off programme. You could argue that their budget has gone up by that much, but my understanding, following a phonecall to the Department, is that the €3 million must go on the US programme and isn’t transferable to other projects under CI’s aegis. Hope that clears it up.

It does… sort of. Certainly it clears up the discrepancy, and the earmarked €3 million can’t really be considered a true budgetary increase… nevertheless it’s a clear vote of confidence/investment in favour of CI’s work in a difficult climate.

Upcoming seminar – Whose Culture is it? Social Inclusion and Diversity in Ireland’s Cultural Spaces

The Council of National Cultural Institutions is hosting an upcoming seminar on the subject of social inclusion and diversity at the Chester Beatty Library in November. There’s an interesting line-up of speakers from IMMA, the Crawford Gallery, the CBL and the Arts Council, amongst others.

Keynote for the day is Mark O’Neill, from Glasgow City Council, who should be especially interesting given Glasgow’s renown for its progressive policies in the area (especially at its fantastic public museums, including the newly reopened Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum). Email mail@heritagecouncil.ie to book!

Here’s a pdf of the programme, by the way.