Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cultural Management vs Cultural Leadership

The charming Slovenian has supplied an answer to the cultural management question. Actually, he supplied it some time ago but I seem to have generated both a series of interesting blog-type materials and so much alternative activity that I haven't had time to put them up. Recipe for backlog. (Bacalhau is more tasty though.)

Meanwhile, another medusa-like tentacle has reared. The friend that lives in Tooting and sees David Tennant around (clearly another person in need of a better descriptor) is now charged with looking after cultural leadership for her organisation. She acknowledged that the term is new and still being clarified, but it had her very excited.

How does it relate to my discussion of cultural management? I was first worried that this might be another conflation of management and leadership as so often happens in industry. After all, people who run things are supposed to lead and manage and so the lines are regularly blurred. Leading culture vs managing culture… charisma vs efficiency… no room to do it justice here, but have a look at Changing Minds, building on the old proverb: leadership is doing the right thing; management is doing things right. Meanwhile, culture just goes on doing its own thing no matter how much Tessa Jowell's Department for Culture, Media and Sport is implicated in directing it.

Anyway, The Swimmer (as she will now be called, for reasons never to be divulged here) informed me that cultural leadership is about supporting leaders in the cultural sectors to make them more effective. This sector is badly served by traditional forms of support and people arrive in leadership positions without engaging with other leaders or learning how to lead. (And maybe management will be subsumed in that, but it all sounds very worthwhile.)

So it's not about leading culture at all, it's about leading leaders. That makes me very happy. I can return to the thorny issue of managing culture and that definition of cultural management:

It's a knowledge of economy, marketing and leadership (= management), applied in cultural sector with special consideration to special needs and aims of artists, arts and cultural organizations.

How does it differ from Arts Management? It seems that there is no common definition, but basic differences appear in the description of both words:

"Culture" as the way of life for entire society (or group of people), and as such including "codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of behaviour and systems of belief" and "Arts" as a broad subdivision of culture, composed of many expressive disciplines. In modern usage, it is a term broader than "art", which usually means the visual arts (comprising both fine art and crafts).

See the difference in taught programmes at City University: PG Diploma in Cultural
vs MA Arts Management.

And that would, basically, be the answer.


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