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Beyond cultural creativity as innovation

Matias Zarlenga criticizes the focus of the EU on the economic dimension of cultural policies.
Over the last few decades, the great number of European cities have seen heavy investment in cultural facilities and policy designed to encourage the development of companies and institutions characterised with the generation of cultural goods and service. With this strategy, fall within two clear direction groups. On the one hand, those aim to develop economic sectors linked to the production of culture and goods, by encouraging activities related to the so-called creative economy. For example, developing culture and creative industries. On the other hands, we have those aimed at generating cultural service to attract tourists and business. For instance, recovering the heritage that already exists in towns and cities, creating cultural institutions and facilities, organising events, and so on.
Both the strategies use creativity as a key concept for understanding and promoting urban regeneration processes and economic development in many European cities. The result has been the emergence of the new creativity narrative, where the creativity concept is understood within the economic framework and linked with innovation processes. Cultural creativity under the economic paradigm has rapidly become hegemonic and dominant discourse that serves as a foundation for seductive speech for many policy interventions not only in European cities, but also in the rest of the world. [BELL]
I think that cultural creativity should be distinguished from innovation and the economistic paradigm. I think it could be conceived on the contrary as an open-ended process that develops in certain historical contexts and under given conditions, one which possesses no necessary or immediate goals. We have several examples of creativity practise, which are not strictly economic, and are oriented and open to the exploration of purposes in many European cities. Some of these creative practise are permeable to the problems of the social and local environment, such as community basic art theatre in the Netherlands, for instance. Utrecht’s Stut theatre, Rotterdam’s Wijktheater theatre, or the International Community Arts Festival are some outstanding practise in this scope.
On the other hands, problem of the social and local setting can be faced from the creative processes as a raw material of performing arts. As a great number of community based organisations commitment to the social inclusion working with Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed methodology, for instance. All artistic practise raise dynamic of social and public engagement to educational proposes. Programmes like Apropa Cultura in Catalonia, the social and education programme targeting the social sector Kultura Dostepnain in Poland, or area-specific programme, as Diamond project, which brought together a group of scientific museum and research centres committed to providing learning opportunity for adult people through the use of new technology and storytelling.
I think all of those are good examples of cultural creativity practise with socially engaged and educational proposes, for instance. I think we have to take these example of creativity practise organisational programmes seem to encode to creating a common normative consensus that works as a basis to develop a new theoretical and conceptual framework of cultural creativity, and also to elaborate new culture and public policy of creativity beyond the hegemonic economic paradigm.

Matias Zarlenga explains how a narrative on creativity emerged in the EU’s political discourse, linking culture mainly with innovation and economic development.

He argues that we should refuse to assign a goal to cultural creativity, and gives examples of cultural organisations tackling social issues and promoting education through culture. He thinks that such examples can be the base to construct a new narrative for the European cultural policies, departing from actual practices.

Share your experience!

Matias Zarlenga takes the examples of street theater and forum theatre as forms of cultural productions which can represent alternatives to the economic paradigm. Can you think of other examples?

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Cultures and Identities in Europe

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