INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION IN THE ARTS - WHY BOTHER?

First published onLinkedIn, March 2017



My view of Culture and Art in both national and international context is straightforward. I passionately believe that Art and Culture in its broadest sense are an essential part of the public values underpinning any civilised nation, and should be equally visible in the relationship between nations.


Travelling around the world I have over the years observed that the Arts, in all their diverse manifestations and when properly organised and supported, promote social cohesion and up-liftment, tangible educational and economic benefit, and a measurable positive effect on the general physical health of a society. When part of an international dialogue they also, critically in these volatile and combative times, contribute to increased understanding and appreciation of other cultures and peoples outside our natural constituencies. This can only be a stabilising force in an unstable world.


I can put it no better than Robert Madelin, former Director General of DG Connect in the European Commission: " 'Art' knows no bounds and its benefits are many and deeply enriching on every level. Honouring Culture and Art in the national identity is not a prestige add-on. Art pays for itself many times over; it shapes parts of society that government cannot. It is a strategic economic asset. "


Robert Madelin refers to the national context. His point is equally and inextricably part of the international context too. This inter-connected world, with its ubiquitous digital economy, requires a society not only to develop and protect its individual 'National' concept of Culture, recognising the 'Value' of its Art, but to develop a new understanding of the intrinsic worth of the Arts within its Culture and simultaneously within its relationships with other nation states. This I believe is as important for economic reasons as for cultural, whether we are considering goods and services, intellectual copyright, legal processes or the material and performing Arts.


Across the world we are witnessing individuals, communities and traditional industries alike struggle to find, and keep, their place in the contemporary global economy with its border-less, online 'sharing economy'. Amidst the turmoil of geo-political events we artists have to lead in re-imagining our role, within both National and International society - to find and justify our relevance in the unpredictable economic and social structures of our time. Our greatest task perhaps is to help change our world for the better. This is what artists are good at, and one of their great gifts to society beyond their actual art.


It is not therefore sufficient to believe Art can exist independently of societal and political events ...if it ever was. As Artists we must not only set out to contribute to the creative wealth of Nations but play a central role in the process of renewal, international reconciliation and regeneration. Collaboration and increasing mutual understanding between Nations and Cultures must be part of the Artist's business.


I passionately believe this, as I believe that our individual National Cultures assist us not only to identify and define ourselves but, equally important, to share the best of ourselves with other nations.


Robert Madelin again: "To succeed in this new world, we need every single citizen to be a resourceful, creative contributor. Only a bigger, life-long dose of Art in its broadest sense and in every facet of life can deliver that."


To which I would add that we need every citizen of this new world to imagine and to dream .. to believe that the smallest creative gesture can contribute to the benefit of all - and that they too are part of the great artistic legacy of our species.


Then humanity might glimpse its true potential.


© Graham Lea-Cox 2017


With thanks to Robert Madelin for provoking these thoughts: Robert is Former Director General, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology ( "DG Connect). DG Connect is responsible for managing the Digital Agenda of the European Commission.