Culture for all, a distant challenge: what's wrong with it?


The 2018 report on the state of culture issued by the National Council of Culture and the Arts (CoNCA), centered on its social impact, alerted the cultural sector: half of the Catalans do not participate in culture. While the vast majority believe that culture is very important (94%), the figure does not correspond to their use. Most citizens know that they have a library, theater or civic center nearby, but only 20% to 40% use it regularly – cinemas and bookshops are the most visited spaces. Access to culture and cultural participation therefore appear as two unresolved challenges. "There is access to basic cultural dimensions that many people do not have, and when I say that cultural I do not think about museums, I think about spaces to listen to music, "says Barcelona City Council's Culture Commissioner Joan Subirats, a professor of public policy.

The figures, uncertain

The prejudices on which culture determines the analysis

Experts note at the outset that there is a shift between what citizens consider culture and what administration and surveys take into account – according to studies, people mention knowledge, traditions, education and family before literature, art and museums. Furthermore, the surveys have not been adapted to social changes, because not even online cultural consumption can be quantified (Spotify, Netflix or Amazon are opaque platforms). The experts also state that the idea of ​​culture must be expanded. "Knowing all the players in the history of Barça is also a form of culture, even if the cultural sector does not like when we open the fan, because the industry wants to know whether or not it will come," says Lluís Bonet, director of specialization in cultural management of UB. The cultural manager Xavier Fina stands between the two extremes: "We can not limit ourselves to a type of concrete cultural manifestation, officialbut we must maintain the capacity for transformation and the emancipation of culture. If we think about this culture, I'm pessimistic because it does not reach 50% ".

Analyzing data from ticket officeAs Tecnecultura does in a dozen cultural spaces, we can know with certainty that the public has a more sporadic and less faithful consumption than was commonly believed. "Most of the Catalans no longer go to the theater, who goes there, he does it every now and then, 1, 3 or 5 years, and there is a small group that goes to more than one year's work, but they are important because they give meaning and space to the space ", says Ferran López, data expert. Estimates that 10% of viewers can generate more than 50% of revenue. The positive result, therefore, is that the public would be more than 300,000 people who are said to often consume culture. "Culture (theaters, museums, public, festivals) moves more people every week than football," says López.

All this would invite you to make some cultural consumption figures too rational. "We should be worried, they have to be traditional business models because billing is close to them," says Lluís Bonet. In fact, Spain is in the European average: 20% of citizens have a high cultural consumption, 40% are average and the other 40% have low consumption. But the aspiration to bring the culture closer to everyone must be inalienable. "Public policies must transform and generate demand," says Xavier Fina.

Focus policies well

Public authorities do not take the cost of modifying inertia

As it has not changed the way of polling, even cultural policies have not evolved. Lluís Bonet states that public authorities do not dare to assume the political cost of changing "strategies taken historically and influenced by pressure groups". He believes that "it must be strategic and stop doing things we did 25 years ago, and make others that are more important today". Xavier Fina and Joan Subirats agree that the focus must be changed: public policies should not have the goal of meeting the cultural union, but the citizen.

In assessing culture there are some models that are repeated: according to the studies done by the sociologist of the University of Valencia Antonio Ariño, the most educational level and the most purchasing power of the citizen, the most involved in culture. So, from the industry, we insist on the need to connect culture with education from an early age. The price of assets is also often cited as a handicap (62%), which poses it as the main problem, as well as the lack of time (44%) and interest (22%), but the specialists do so. "A priori, I do not think the price is a lever to reach a new audience: those who make sporadic consumption do not come from here, it is the usual public that spends more and, therefore, can be more sensitive to price. barrier is the lack of interest, it is not even the product, "says the director of Teknecultura.

Elite vs. popular culture

Becoming more public does not mean lowering the level

"There is a false dichotomy between the elite and popular culture, museums must respond to the investment that we all make in culture: the public money we invest must be returned to the best people, does this mean lowering the level? It means improving access channels, they need mediators between their traditional cultural dimensions and the new public, "explains Subirats, who exemplifies the Biennial of Thought. "We have to worry about the culture of the elites, no doubt, and also for the popular culture.In the cultural consumption of elite, it expresses the homemade production, which speaks of a reality based on some references and roots that are ours and in dialogue with the world, but a big head with a small body is not healthy, and vice versa, "says Bonet. For him "there is a lot of access to the cultural product but adopted". The problem is not consumption, but making people actively participate in culture and open to new sensibilities. In Catalonia, reaching the general public is particularly difficult "because of cultural and linguistic heterogeneity and because we have a Spanish-dependent communication system," says Bonet.

"There is a sacralization of culture, which sometimes seems to expel people," Fina says. I think that the cultural offer should be much more flexible, in terms of time, duration, in family reconciliation … And this does not mean trivializing culture, but adapting to the user's habits "." The world of culture is overly closed in him, in his loyal audience, "adds Bonet.What happens is that, when there are few resources – because culture is still underfunded – it is more efficient to do the usual public repetition than to make policies of integration of a society more and more plural. "Managers can not give up any of their audience. Now, the loyalty of a community depends on the cultural space while the capture of new audiences depends on all the coordinated agents, "says López.

"A public space must make sure that everyone who pays the party feels invited," says Ferran López graphically. And he cites the library as a space with few barriers. Even so, Lluís Bonet objects that the library today is "the same for the son of the doctor for the adolescent Maghreb". There is a mediation capacity to really democratize culture. "In this the leadership must be public but it has to do with the private sector, or it's a collective project or we will not be able to leave it," says UB professor. "People who do not consume culture is because they do not have real access because they do not feel called to participate in. There are some ideological and cultural barriers that have to be broken, and this is a public function," Fina says. For this reason, it is necessary that the administrations do not ask the public centers only for quantitative income for the collection and the public, but which include accessibility parameters, links with the territory, mediation and so on. "We are already changing the assessment indicators of the manufacturing factories," says Subirats. "The sector and policies are always behind people," concludes Lluís Bonet.


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