What are the Arts and Management common fields?

Academic | 14.07.2013. 00:00

At the invitation of Professor Vesna Djukic, I was engaged as a teaching assistant of Arts Management at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade during the previous school year 2012/ 2013. It is known that the Department of Management and Production at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts has existed for more than 50 years, but only a few years ago, the Faculty of Fine Arts became the first Faculty of University of Arts, besides the FDA, that included Management in the curriculum. The subject is taught as compulsory in the third year, V and VI semester at all departments - painting, sculpture and graphics. Since I graduated from the FDA in the field of Management of Visual Arts, published a book Key notions of gallery management and enrolled in doctoral studies Theory of Art and Media at the University of Arts, under which I am doing research in the field of contemporary visual arts in Serbia – I was very interested and exited to work with students of Fine Arts. Professor Djukic was giving lectures in the field of cultural policy, institutional and project management, marketing, public relations and fundraising, and my assignment was to discuss these topics on practical examples with students, as well as to mentor their exam papers.

Knowing that students normally spend many hours in their studios, I decided to dedicate a corpus of lectures to debate programs. Thus we held discussions on the topics of the relationship between the project and institutional management (by Maida Gruden, Art Editor at the Cultural Center "Studentski grad" and Ljudmila Stratimirović, Artistic Director of the European Centre for Culture and Debate "Grad"), contemporary trends in art and curatorial practices (by Maja Ciric, an independent curator), public relations and museum management (by  Alexandra Savic, PR at the Museum of Natural History), cultural policy and project evaluation (by Dimitrije Tadic, advisor for contemporary visual art and multimedia at the Ministry of Culture Serbia). Students could gain a better insight into the real situation in the field of contemporary visual arts during these debates.

Other part of my lectures was dedicated to the study and analysis of various segments of the functioning of the visual arts in Serbia. For example, we have analysed contemporary exhibitions that students visited during the year from several standpoints – from display and catalogue, to the ideological discourse represented. We critically addressed the issue of key trends in the design of cultural projects and discussed their function, significance and relation to wider local and international socio-political and economic environment. The lectures when I brought catalogues of many visual arts projects, which were implemented during the 2011 and 2012, were particularly useful to students. They were asked to name the project leader organization, to identify which sector this organization belongs to, to recognize the problem that the project responds to, and then to define the target groups and project goal and objectives, to put a brief project description, determine the funders and sponsors, and, at the end, to give their expert opinion on the presented project. In addition, based on the cultural policy criteria, and by simulating the project evaluation commission's work in groups of three, students were evaluating these projects and granting them (fictitious) funds. In this way, students became acquainted with the key notions of arts management, with different models of cultural projects, way of functioning of the three sectors, current artistic production, active art organizations and funders. Finally, they got ideas for the realization of their own projects, became acquainted with the work of the project evaluation expert commissions and learned to evaluate different projects based on the guidelines of cultural policy.

A practical purpose of the exercises was to teach students to design and describe their projects in writing, and in this way, to get acquainted with the terminology of public administration. Students had the opportunity to choose whether they will take an oral exam at the end of the semester or prepare the project assignment, which involved conceptualizing and writing their projects in a group by filling in a contest form provided by Belgrade Secretariat for Culture or by the Ministry for Culture of the Republic of Serbia, as well as presenting the projects to colleagues. Continuous consultations, modifications of initial project conceptions and text corrections have enabled students to develop the skills of designing and writing project descriptions, but other than that, some student groups announced the implementation of projects which they had prepared. Furthermore, students practiced public appearance and presentation of their ideas. Almost all students of the III year participated in fulfilling this assignment, so that 14 projects were presented, among which it is possible to identify several topics: projects that deal with education development in the field of contemporary visual arts, projects that contribute to decentralization and local community development through contemporary visual arts (and those are mostly art colonies), socially engaged projects (minority groups and ecology), and, to a lesser extent, projects addressing contemporary visual art scene and artists issues. 

The selection of student projects topics is very indicative and important for the analysis and diagnosis of the situation in Serbian contemporary visual arts, especially given that in the arts management lectures, we obtained an answer to the question what future artists and activists identified as key challenges of our society, culture and the arts, and, nevertheless, how they see the possibility of their resolving. Lectures in Arts management of Arts Faculty of Fine Arts were used primarily for discussion and reflection on key strengths and threats of visual arts scene in Serbia, and to reflect on desired directions of development of contemporary visual arts scene. Finally, it was important to discover the key similarity between the artistic work and management practices, and that is the desire for creative intervention and engagement in the field of art, culture and society.