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ELIA's comments on the Green Paper

30 July 2010

Comments from the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA) on the Green Paper 'Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries' Brussels COM (2010) 183

On 27 April, the European Commission launched its Green Paper Unlocking the Potential of Cultural and Creative Industries for public consultation. For the first time ever a European Policy Paper on the cultural and creative industries has been published. It is also for the first time that it mentions the role of the art schools. You can read more about it in a previous post. Below, you can read ELIA's comments. You can also download them as a pdf.

Comments from the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA) on the Green Paper 'Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries' Brussels COM (2010) 183


ELIA would like to share some concerns and comments with the European Commission and with other organisations and partners in the cultural and creative industries. For ELIA, which brings together more than 300 art schools in Europe, this first ever Green Paper on the Cultural and Creative industries signposts the increasing importance and growth of the creative sector in Europe. We appreciate that the Green Paper recognises the role of higher arts education in the development of ´a truly stimulating creative environment' for the CCIs within the EU. The Green Paper's identification of skills shortages, mismatches and gaps between what the sector needs and what graduated artists have to offer, challenges the art schools in Europe to review the skills they deliver, and to assess the complex relationship between education and the cultural and creative industries. A challenge the art schools in Europe are willing to take up.

1. Arts graduates are main drivers for expansion and innovation of the CCIs. European innovation policies in the cultural and creative sphere should recognize and build more strongly on the emergence of a new generation of skilful artists and creative practitioners with the capacity of tackling complex problems, providing creative solutions and original thinking.

In our view the artistic drive, skills, imagination and inventiveness of the artist forms the starting point for any production or 'value' chain. The value of 'creative play' in incubating skills for innovation should not be under-estimated.

A higher investment in artistic creation as well as in creative research would be beneficial for the innovation of the sector, both technical and creative. Increasingly, artists acquire a broad set of skills that are both academic and rooted in creative and artistic practices. Artists and artist-researchers build a shared practice with the innovative parts of the creative industries, for instance developing user-oriented environments. A recent conference organised by DG Enterprise and Industry 'Towards a pan-European initiative in support of the creative industries in Europe', recognised that R&D is changing because of these shared practices between artists and innovative creative industries and called for a 'higher investment in research and in skills for the creative industries as a prospectus investment in our future'. Such investment should also recognise that the outcome of experimental creativity or its application is not always immediately apparent.

2. In ELIA's view a European Sectoral Skills Council for the Cultural and Creative Industries is an key tool to strengthen an emerging and existing skills base and to initiate new strategies to boost innovation. Education should become a key factor in such a Skills Council. If it is true - and we believe, it is - that Europe's prosperity increasingly builds on the input of creativity and innovation, the European Skills Council for the CCIs should develop as an essential European instrument to support excellent ideas and projects with innovative potential, interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration.

ELIA agrees with the Green Paper that the sector-specific needs are changing quickly and is in favour of mapping new skills as developing within the sector, both quantitative and qualitative, building on new approaches already developing within the art schools and between art schools and the CCIs. A Sectoral Council for employment and skills for the Cultural and Creative Industries would be extremely useful to provide an accurate view of the complexity and diversity of the sectors and to develop innovative support measures. In our view, a 'tripartite' model in which employers, employees and higher arts educators collaborate is the preferred way forward. In order to prevent a more or less static picture, already outdated before its publication, we find it important to develop a constant monitoring as well as to focus on qualitative trends. It should also include other ways of exploring skills issues such as interviews / clustering with stakeholders from the sector and from education. National differences regarding the development of the creative sector and of education should not be underestimated.

3. We agree with the Green Paper that entrepreneurial and business skills are important for arts graduates in a sector mainly consisting of small businesses and freelance professionals, although creative people may not have as their main priority creating wealth but creativity itself. Business skills are best acquired as part of an integrated approach, live projects, and partnerships with business and other societal partners and in particular dedicated arts educators with a background in professional practice. New concepts of 'creative entrepreneurship' such as collaborative and non-hierarchical business models need to be given much wider visibility and flexible financial support measures, comparable to microfinance, for creative sme's, freelance and collaborative models of practice would be very supportive for the sector. Artists only need a relatively small investment, with great results.

Increasingly, art schools place more emphasis on fully realising their responsibility in the field of business skills and employment opportunities and they have developed different approaches over the years. Specific courses focusing on business skills often prove not to be effective, particularly in periods where students' focus is on acquiring their artistic skills. Practice-based learning and experimentation, individual and collective projects, internal and external assignments, work placements, incubator units and partnerships making it easier for graduates to gain the skills and experience required to enter their chosen field of practice. Increasingly the curriculum provides ´natural´ opportunities for transfer of the artistic process into different contexts in which students apply their learning. Findings indicate that students continue to adopt this model after graduation in their portfolio careers and arts graduates often have well-developed strategies for coping with unstable employment conditions. A sector in which small businesses and freelance professionals work in fluid, collaborative and non-hierarchical models of practice requires the support of differentiated models of employer engagement.

4. In the Green Paper and in the CCI sector generally we miss a solid reflection on the employment situation of artists and on support initiatives for young artists in their early career paths. Though artists are well situated to be creative entrepreneurs the current financial crisis may lead to a 'lost generation' of artists because of the severe cuts in national and local budgets for education and for culture.

Under the current harsh economic conditions, graduates are confronted even more with the difficulty of finding fulfilling, creative work, even though arts students are devising alternative approaches to gaining vital work experience and using their creative practice in new ways that benefit the community as well as their own career goals. A recent UK longitudinal study[1], involving graduates in design, craft and media up to six years after graduation, showed that 3 out of 4 graduates worked in their field of expertise since graduating; 4 out of 5 graduates were in paid work, the majority in creative jobs achieving their career goals. Compared with ten years ago a larger proportion of arts graduates work in their field of expertise and in the creative and cultural sector. This is in itself consistent with the recent and gradual growth of the cultural and creative sector and is an indication that arts graduates continue to contribute substantially to the creative economy. Across Europe, these relatively positive figures show a downwards trend and it should be a major concern that so many graduates do not find their way into the sector. In addition, artistic professionals are being paid less than other professional with a similar educational background, except for the ´stars´, which is a position most artists never reach. Even though arts graduates have their own strategies for coping with unstable employment conditions, differentiated models for support, for instance similar to microfinance, would be supportive in a sector in which small businesses and freelance professionals work in fluid, collaborative and non-hierarchical models of practice. More national longitudinal data and comparison is needed to accurately assess the situation. This maybe also present an appropriate subject for the member states to compare national approaches, and find common solutions since national policies vary considerably.

5. Creative innovation and an expanding cultural and creative sector in Europe need independent and strong higher arts education institutes. Rather than seeing higher arts education purely as an enabler for the cultural and creative sector, as the Green Paper suggests, ELIA and its member schools value broadly based higher arts education with room for experimentation. Art schools are a key factor in innovation and the development and maintenance of vibrant cultures and in Europe.

Artistic talent needs nurturing and training and the art schools in Europe perform this function with high quality standards, passion, rigor, excellence, often on a world-class level. In cities and regions where arts institutions are located, art schools and art students perform a lively cultural role. Arts education forms an integral part of the European knowledge society. Never before was arts education so attractive, both to European future artists and to talented young artists from other continents. The Bologna Process, now largely implemented in higher arts education, brought about more transparency, mobility, and new specializations in the Master's phase, often with a focus on new professional practices. Increasingly, research and 3rd cycle education in the artistic and creative domain, sometimes in interaction with other sciences and practices add new dimensions to the qualifications of artists. It is important to recognise and secure the independence of higher arts education as the seedbed for creative innovation.

6. The art schools consider IT skills crucially important but from an educational point of view, they remain a means to an end. Technology and creativity reinforce each other and the right combination of skills is essential. ELIA would welcome specific national and/or European opportunities that allow higher arts education and other innovative institutions to develop high-level programmes in arts education-technology partnerships preparing students even better for user-friendly technology environments, provided the specificity of the artist's approach is respected.

Most art schools are fully aware that mediatised and predominantly digital environments demand new and complex skills requirements from artists. As a result, art schools aim to invest in qualified staff, equipment, additional capacities, and develop new approaches to realise a strong emphasis on IT skills provision. But original creative content, ways of thinking and generating ideas comes first and this remains the case even in strongly information technology driven fields as games development and design. Being good at Photoshop or Illustrator does not mean you are also a good designer. It is only fair to state that not all art schools are sufficiently equipped yet to meet current IT demands. New technology requests a constant investment in equipment not always possible for arts institutions in European countries that are less well off economically.

7. ELIA fully welcomes new national and European initiatives for experimentation and innovation, incubator units and business-school partnerships. These should be built on the experience of already existing partnerships, initiated either by the sector or by art schools. This form of knowledge transfer is a two-way process impacting both the sector and education.

It is the experience of the ELIA member schools that these collaborations have considerable impact on all parties involved: it creates innovative outcomes and new approaches in business as well as in education, it develops knowledge transfer and it changes methods of teaching and learning in art schools. Partnerships challenge art schools, as well as the other partners to think along new lines and to become flexible enough to conduct a process together. Current connections between art schools and society range from large companies to micro enterprises, from museums and theatres to schools, hospitals and prisons. Many partnerships include local authorities as well as civil society. In partnerships students gain necessary skills, such as networking, communication, planning and dealing with deadlines. In doing so, students learn to develop their own specialisms and often start their own businesses. Increasingly art schools realise research and innovation in creative partnership with external agents, including PHD research. It is particularly important that next to Art & Design, disciplines such as Theatre and Dance, and Music also get the opportunity to form part of such a programme. Some examples of Business – School partnerships, initiated by the art schools, or set up in collaboration with partners from other domains are attached as an appendix to this document.

8. The Green Paper does not sufficiently distinguish between 'artistic/creative' profiles and other professional profiles in the creative domain, which are not predominantly artistic. ELIA recommends that the diversity of professional profiles across the CCIs is taken into account, as part of a better understanding of current and new needs.

It is our experience that as the CCI sector further develops the need for qualified people becomes more diverse as well as more specific. Examples of these types of professionals include for instance media professionals, cultural managers, cross-disciplinary curators, technicians in different fields and event organizers/managers. In some areas specialized professional education is already developing, provided either by art schools or by other educational institutions. New ways of working with art or artistic methods, for instance in social domains, creates new specialisms that need to be taken into account in education.


[1] Creative Graduates Creative Futures, largest ever survey of creative graduates' career paths http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/press/1001.php


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