7. Art and culture

For The Alternative, a diverse, vibrant artistic and cultural life is crucial so that we as individuals and communities can develop our human self-awareness, our intellectual vision, and our historical memory. Self-awareness, intellectual vision and historical memory are the fundamental building blocks for what we somewhat unclearly define as our common cultural identity – the cultural position from where we meet the world in all of its complex cultural diversity. This is not least the case today. We currently stand in the midst of change, where values, attitudes and traditions are shifting, and we are in need of an artistic and cultural life that can both challenge us to put question marks on the established, and help to put words and pictures to values other than material and economic growth. Because it is not a question of more or less growth. It is a question of defining completely other forms for growth: personal growth, intellectual growth, emotional growth.

The Alternative will prioritize the artistic and cultural dimension in all areas of society. Cultural policy should be gone from being an area of marginal political interest and be lifted to the center of all policy development.

We want a non-hierarchical cultural policy, where there is room and respect for both underground art and popular culture. Both have value for our society.

We want a cultural life and an art scene with a strong, vibrant and talented base, where there is room to experiment and make mistakes, but where there is also a solid bridge between the base and the professional cultural institutions – a bridge between innovation and experience.

We want a society where we not only meet art and culture at our cultural institutions, but also in the public domain, in our workplaces, in the daycare, primary and lower secondary school and in upper secondary education. And of course also in the hospital and the nursing home.

We want Danish artists and Danish culture to be out in the world, and the world’s art to enter into Denmark. That type of exchange enables us to better handle cultural encounters and strengthen our ability to exploit the opportunities that globalization opens for us economically, socially, intellectually, and culturally.

We want cultural policy to reflect that Denmark today has a variety of social and cultural communities and realities. This cultural and social diversity should be visible in the artistic productions at our theatres, at the cinema, at the museums, on the television and the radio, and it is important that it is clearly expressed in the Ministry of Culture’s support as well as in arts educations.

Not least we dream that a society’s wealth is not defined by material and economic growth, but to a much higher degree by cultural, intellectual and personal growth. It is not least through culture and art that we can have the courage and inspiration to imagine a radically different sustainable future.

The Alternative’s two leading issues in art and culture are based on the above visions and attitudes, and read as follows:

  1. More art, less brick and more free zones
  2. Art and culture should be at the center of policy development

More art, less brick and more free zones

It is essential for art and culture that there are good opportunities to become and be a practicing creative artist. Art and culture are not created by brick, but of people. Therefore, we want to have a cultural policy that brings the focus back on the people who create, practice and disseminate art and culture, be it on a professional level or as promising artistic talent.

More creative free zones

There should be easier access to good physical surroundings for artistic creation and better opportunities to be and become a practicing artist. There are already several private and public initiatives that work to create better surroundings and The Alternative will increase support for them.

In many cities in Denmark, there are currently experiments involving the use of public spaces for cultural “playgrounds”. Inspiring initiatives such as GivRum.NU in Copenhagen and Detours in Aarhus have already shown the way here at home, and in Canada, the project Artscape has brilliantly shown how to create good environments for creative and artistic expression through an ambitious urban policy.

The Alternative believes that we must increase support for this development through the creation of several creative free zones with room for art and cultural production.

We will support the idea of the free zone by creating better opportunities for artists to use empty buildings for project work and artistic expression. In addition, The Alternative will work to incorporate art and culture into the planning of new buildings to a much greater degree than is the case today.

Reallocation of funds from bricks to artistic production

Too much of the state, regional and municipal cultural budget is tied up in buildings and operations. Although several of the major construction projects in cultural life are partly financed by private funds, the operating costs alone for the new buildings are so striking that much of the money that could go to artistic production, ends up in bricks and administration instead. We will change that.

The Alternative proposes a reallocation of funds so that a larger part of the state’s budget is spent on actual artistic production and cultural development. This can partly be achieved through a general cap on how much of the state’s culture budget can be spent on operations related to production, and partly through a critical assessment of the current institutional structure in the culture area. This applies not only to the distribution of funds between the capital and the rest of the country, but also in relation to the number of state-supported theaters, museums, orchestras, etc.

Art and culture at the center of policy development

The Alternative wants cultural policy to be integrated to a much higher degree with other policy areas. This means that the cultural perspective should not only inspire, but also challenge other policy areas, and thereby the way we think about, among other things, urban development, industrial policy, education policy, social policy, environmental policy and foreign policy. In other words: The cultural perspective should permeate the way in which we understand our society.

Below we give four proposals on how to connect the area of culture with other important areas of society – namely, education, foreign policy/public diplomacy and health – to a much higher degree.

Art should be a subject in primary and secondary education

When children start school, most want to sing, dance, draw, do theater and play instruments. Much of this desire perishes in music lessons or visual arts, when the whole class must deal with something that is only of interest to a minority of students.

The creative subjects in primary and secondary education must be based on a broad and general approach to the arts, where each student can learn about and try out the different artistic disciplines. By testing and experimenting with different artistic expressions already from day one, students in primary and secondary education will experience the freedom and pleasure that are some of the cornerstones of artistic expression. In the context of art, it should and has to be the desire that drives the work. Only when this is the case, will the children find that they can get really good at what they are dealing with.

The purpose here is not to make all children into artists. The aim is to allow all students to have the opportunity to maintain the creative streak that the majority of children make significant use of before they start school.

Such a shift in focus in the education system will fundamentally give children a stronger connection to art, which will broaden their horizons as future arts and cultural users in Danish society – the kind of enlightened and creative people we need.

Education in culture and culture in education

The Ministry of Culture, together with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, should formulate a common strategy on how all educational institutions in Denmark, from primary schools, vocational training to higher education, can formulate a networking strategy for their cooperation with relevant local cultural institutions and environments.

Relevant local cultural institutions and environments here cover both established cultural institutions, such as theaters, music venues, museums, art cinemas and libraries, as well as cultural centers and youth cultural environments. They also include sports life – both organized and unorganized, such as street sports.

Such a cultural networking strategy should be supported by development funds from the three ministries concerned, in order to make it possible for educational institutions to seek out art on art’s own institutional home ground. Art and culture should also be invited into the educational institutions, not only in the form of guest visits, but also in the form of actual binding cooperative projects.

There are already several inspiring examples from which we can learn. In cooperation with VUC Odense, the artist collective, Sister’s Academy, has run an experiment where, in collaboration with the permanent staff, they have developed new learning spaces for students. The aim of the project was to integrate the artistic process and methods in the normal teaching of subjects. In Vejle, all children in the municipality’s primary and lower secondary schools can go out and experience professional art and culture as part of the project Kulturrygsækken. Both projects are good examples of the kind of effective collaboration across societal institutions and actors that The Alternative means to promote.

Denmark out into the world, the world into Denmark

The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should formulate a new ambitious internationalization strategy for Danish art and culture.

The Alternative wants a strategy and an action plan that stands on the shoulders of the current internationalization strategy, but that is able to take this work to the next level. It is important that the strategy involves real and long-term economic cooperation between ministries, the Danish embassies and cultural life in Denmark.

The internationalization strategy should be driven by a desire to bridge the gap between relevant cultural environments in the countries concerned and their comparable cultural environments in Denmark.

That is to say that there is talk of a collaborative project based on a real artistic or cultural co-production between Danish artists and their international colleagues.

The aim is not just professional artistic exchange, but also the construction of intercultural relations at the grassroots level.

The latter is particularly important for the Foreign Ministry, which, through such an initiative, would build up local relationships that are not supported by official diplomatic channels or local institutional structures. There would instead be talk of fruitful relations of trust between people who have worked closely together on concrete cultural and artistic productions, and it is precisely these types of connections that Denmark needs much more of in the world.

A new internationalization strategy will require development money for the concrete artistic and cultural cooperative projects. Similarly, there will also be a need to invest in upgrading the staff at the Danish embassies so that the staff come to include more employees with artistic and cultural backgrounds.

Here Denmark and the Danish Cultural Institute should take inspiration from the experiences of, among others, the British Council, the Goethe institutes, and China’s significant global cultural focus through its Confucius Institutes.

Culture on prescription

The Alternative wants to experiment with giving culture on prescription to people who are in a particularly vulnerable situation in life. Various locations in Denmark and Sweden have already successfully piloted projects with culture on prescription, and The Alternative will support similar initiatives so that in the longer term, the phenomenon can flourish in the whole of the country, if the positive effects still can be demonstrated. The Ministry of Culture, together with the Ministry of Health, should conduct a pilot project in three selected municipalities in Denmark. Respectively, in one large, one medium and one small municipality. The aim is to test the experiment’s potential in a more focused collaboration between cultural life and the health sector.

The inspiration comes from the project “culture on prescription”, which has previously been successfully implemented in, among other places, Helsingborg Municipality, Scania and Bornholm. The pilot project will investigate the effects of prescribing art and culture to people that are, for example, affected by life-threatening illness, loneliness, depression or dementia. The thesis is that culture on prescription enhances quality of life significantly, and all the results so far indicate that it works.