Summarizing the discussions that took place over three days in Salzburg is no easy task. Acknowledging every theme and comment runs the risk of diluting the outcome of the conference. Reducing all that was said into a few pithy bullet points threatens to blunt the diversity of opinions expressed over three days of discussion in the Schloss Leopoldskron.
Even so, some encompassing themes did emerge. The final sessions of the Seminar sought to generate consensus about the conference’s conclusions, which are gathered here by way of a conclusion. Additional observations and recommendations are included in the White Papers commissioned for each thematic block, which were updated by their respective authors to absorb impressions gained during the Seminar, and are attached to this summary.
Areas of Need and Opportunity
The Salzburg Seminar discussions identified the following areas of need and opportunity, where concerted action and coordination are deemed possible among stakeholders in the field of international cultural engagement:
– Providing Better Education and Training: The conference diagnosed pressing needs in education—of both general populations and professionals in the field of international exchange and diplomacy. Conference speakers called attention repeatedly to the need for educational investments to promote curiosity, creativity, and openness to foreign cultures, all of which also assume improved cultural and linguistic literacy levels. Cultural engagement cannot thrive in the absence of curiosity and communicational competence—and Salzburg conference participants called repeatedly for investments in these areas. In terms of expert skill-building, cultural engagement demands better-informed, better- prepared, better-rewarded artists, arts managers, and arts journalists. Training in information, fundraising, cultural sensitivity, and technologically advanced arts-management practices, as they apply to transnational cultural practices in a changing global environment, remains in exceedingly short supply.
– Meeting the Needs of Artists: The direct engagement of artists continues to lie at the heart of international cultural exchange–based diplomacy, the conference participants affirmed. While much attention is devoted to delivery systems, regulations, the role of governments, and presenting institutions, international cultural engagement will always ultimately hinge on the work of artists and artist groups “on the ground.” Resources and policy in the field need to focus on means of supporting, connecting, and empowering artists in direct creative collaborations. This includes a greater commitment to funding of individual artists, more attention to residency programs, the creation of programs that encourage and reward collaboration, and the design of new mechanisms, in particular digital tools, to connect and facilitate the interactions of artists seeking to undertake exchange-based collaborations.
– Rethinking the Relationships of Arts Organizations: The conference called attention to the distinctive and complementary contributions of small and large organizations. Small organizations are uniquely suited to maintain close links to artists from a wide variety of regions and population groups. They need access to funding, expertise, marketing, commissioning, and presenting opportunities. Large organizations, by contrast, have the clout to generate support and significant audiences, but they are often locked into brand-name productions and may be less daring in their programming choices. Large institutions need to be incentivized to collaborate with smaller groups. The combination of the sensitivity and access of smaller groups with the resources and visibility of the larger ones can be highly effective.
– Developing New Funding Approaches for Cultural Engagement: From the decline in government support in the industrial nations of the West, to the emerging funding capabilities of economically ascendant regions, the Seminar discussions called attention repeatedly to the need for a thorough reassessment of funding models in the field of international cultural exchange. The participants affirmed, “One size does not fit all.” Opportunities and obstacles differ from country to country, sector to sector, and organization to organization. No “magic bullet” solution was found for the inconsistent and chronic undersourcing of trans- national cultural exchanges. The conference called attention to the untapped potential of public-private collaborations and digital crowd-sourcing, and the need to innovate and set priorities in each particular sphere of funding and to explore new joint mechanisms to connect and scale disparate funding streams.
– Implementing Strategic Leadership: The field of international cultural engagement needs more focused leadership and a stronger infrastructure of professional management. This includes sources of consistent and reliable data, and the elaboration of new systems of interaction and communication across the field. International working groups, data sharing, and regional networks of collaboration remain underdeveloped in comparison to other realms, such as science, education, and international relief work. The field operates as a patchwork of national and private initiatives. It would benefit from a systemic investigation of the global ecology for cultural engagement and new mechanisms to meet the needs of the system. National funding bodies and philanthropic and international organizations should assist the field in identifying and promoting better infrastructure and strategic leadership. Advocates need to develop and employ new, up-to-date, effective rhetorical strategies to make the case for cultural engagement to funders and policymakers.
– Realizing the Potential of New Technology: Digital media comprise a vital area of opportunity and need for international cultural engagement. The trans- formative power of digital media permeated every discussion of the conference. Technology changes power relationships. It alters the workings of public and private actors. It changes the meaning of cultural diversity. An emerging supranational technological infrastructure for conducting cultural exchanges promises to supersede borders and circumvent state controls on cultural activity and free expression. Technology can provide tools to aggregate information, map cultural resources, connect players, facilitate dialogue, and provide feed- back and evaluation for exchange programs. As such, technology represents the greatest opportunity for cultural exchange-based diplomacy but also, arguably, the greatest challenge. The field’s approach to technology, conference participants concluded, should be agile, dynamic, and fluid—as befits the values and aspirations of international cultural engagement.
In addition to the these general conclusions and the recommendations listed in earlier thematic sections of this report, the participants of Salzburg Global Seminar 490 suggested several specific action steps to promote cultural engagement and to strengthen professional activity in the field.
– Synthesize and communicate the values of cultural engagement consistently.
– Work with institutions of higher learning and cultural organizations to offer
training, professional development, and capacity improvement for profession
als in the field.
– Map the contributions of cultural-exchange programs worldwide.
– Compile and disseminate case studies of successful programs that have achieved
impact in the field.
– Develop a joint plan to talk to governments and foundations about the values of
arts investments in general and cultural-exchange programs in particular.
– Use a variety of means and develop unique methodologies suited to cultural exchange to measure the impact of exchange programs, and apply them consistently (while maintaining “a healthy skepticism about the veracity of
– Update and reconfigure the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity.
– Advocate for the streamlining of visa requirements to arts and cultural
– Expand social-media resources to benefit the field of international cultural
– Integrate youth into the leadership and decision-making process underlying
international cultural exchanges.
– Buildmorerobustalliancesamongnetworksrepresentingvariouscultures, gender groups, and human rights and civil governance advocacy.
– Create working groups to assess needs in specific regions and to continue
research and development of new policy and program approaches.
– Link up with upcoming conferences on cultural diplomacy and cultural relations, including the January 2014 World Summit of Arts and Culture in Chile, to relay the themes of the Salzburg Seminar and bring more consistency and connection to professional interactions in the field.
– Translate the conference proceedings and reconvene participants of the
Salzburg Seminar, along with other international guests, in three years to assess progress toward the goals identified in the Seminar.
Above all, as one participant observed at the end of the conference, “what we need is a simple process that takes what comes out of this seminar and turns it into concrete pro- gram ideas.”