Cultural evolution: Strategic shift from CCI to wellbeing concept of culture by Igor Mavrin

European Union and the whole world are approaching the third decade in the new millennium. The beginning of the decade coincides with the beginning of the new EU policy cycle (2021-2027). Culture, now relatively safely anchored within Creative Europe programme, approaches new challenges. National cultural budgets are decreasing, leaving EU funding the main source for implementing cultural projects. The question is: what will be the role of culture in the upcoming seven-year budgetary timetable? The potential answer to this question was presented at ‘Perspectives of national cultural policies development in the EU context: Critical dialogues’ Conference. Culture, as presented by Pier Luigi Sacco, is heading towards new partnership, coalition or, if you prefer this expression, cohabitation with – wellbeing concept. After the relatively successful marriage of Culture and Economy, resulting with Creative Economy and CCI concepts, a new Supercouple is emerging. Some creatives and cultural sector employees, still outraged with pairing the words ‘culture’ and ‘industry’ are facing the new red flag.

But this time, in my opinion, culture and arts are heading closer towards their origin. Linking cultural content to health, both mental and physical, is undoubtedly saner and healthier approach than pure economical. With post-industrial era transforming into post-work era, people across Europe have more free time than ever. National governments and supranational institutions are facing new set of problems, with unemployed youth on one side, long-living active pensioners on the other, and shrinking working class in between. Part-time jobs, zero-hour-contracts, precarious workers and other economic problems of the new era won’t be solved with full employment of the generation in cultural sector. Culture (and arts) couldn’t deal with the cause of the problem, but they could try to cushion the hard consequences for the society and individuals as well. And, like it or not, this is the best chance for more money and more attention for culture at EU level. Linking cultural to other developments policies creates an opportunity for better place for culture and arts at the table. This strategic shift could also become a superior tactical move that leads to more resources for both culture and, well, wellbeing.

Evolution of European Capital of Culture initiative throughout more than three decades gave us a preview to this inevitable shift. Linking cultural content first to economy and lately to digitalization, ecology, peace-making and mediation, community development and other forms of cross-sectoral collaboration, ECoC has shown us the omen of the new relationship European culture is heading to. Will this be a happier marriage for culture, or at least a lucrative one, is yet to be seen.