Professor Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez is Associate Professor of the Faculty of Administration at the Universidad de los Andes, where he teaches Culture Management. He has a PhD in Mathematics applied to Social Sciences and has conducted extensive research of arts and culture organizations using a rigorous approach based on numbers, indexes and indicators. Professor Ruiz-Gutiérrez is the coordinator of the campus abroad programme in Bogotá, Colombia. Laura Adlers interviewed him to learn more about the cultural sector in Bogotá and what MMIAM students experience during their visit.
The MMIAM students visit Bogotá at the end of their term in Montréal before starting the final phase of study in Milan. You are the architect of the Bogotá programme, which has evolved over the last five years. What do the students experience during their visit?
First of all, I try to show the students experiences which demonstrate the high impact that arts management has on our society in terms of the creation of social and cultural values, as opposed to focussing on economic impact. Most of the cultural activities in our communities demonstrate a change of priorities: first, how arts management generates social value and then, how it generates economic value. In the case of Colombia, our communities and our arts managers have learned a lot from concrete experiences which have taken place in our country over many years, and these experiences determine management priorities.
Another element that I share with the students is the importance of the social environment and its impact on management processes. In Colombia, the majority of initiatives and management processes developed by arts and culture organizations have mostly been led by the private sector or individual efforts. The Colombian state, despite having developed a cultural policy with the objective of promoting the cultural sector, has scarce resources and therefore culture is not considered a priority compared with other social sectors such as health, education, or security.
These individuals and the communities leading cultural initiatives develop strategies that are sometimes quite creative, to maintain and strengthen their artistic and cultural activities. In Colombia, for example, there are many popular festivals in many different communities, some of which have existed since as far back as the 19th century. These festivals have grown – in size, budget and quality of programming – with minimal support from the state. These artistic and cultural experiences are very interesting as research subjects. It’s valuable to know the types of strategies that helped develop these communities and the sustainibility of these popular festivals to the point that they have become well known in their regions, with some of them developing into real enterprises.
Another experiential element that speaks to Colombian character is the importance of social relationships in daily life. This element makes it very easy for the students to have spontaneous conversations with the many people the students meet during their visit.
There have been several students from Colombia in the MMIAM program. Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector in your country?
In Colombia and in Latin America in general, the management of arts and cultural projects and organizations has traditionally been managed in an intuitive way, by artists or people close to the sector. However, cultural activity has been gaining considerable importance in many qualitative and quantitative dimensions, requiring a professionalization of the sector and its management processes.
Additionally, the Colombian Constitution was changed in 1991; the previous one was written in 1886. In this new constitution, Colombia is defined as a multicultural and multiethnic society. This important change made the concept of culture a central element of the definition of the Colombian nationality. This led to the implementation of the Culture Law in 1997 and gave birth to the Ministry of Culture, the National System of Culture and the proposition of a good number of cultural policies. Under this new constitution, culture is conceived not only as a right, but as a resource requiring rigorous management processes.
I believe that the international perspective of MMIAM is fundamental. The programme provides the knowledge of other arts management practices in different countries. These different perspectives contribute to the restructuring and strengthening of the cultural sector in Colombia. This international vision also allows students to compare the development of our arts organizations to a globalized world. At the same time, our own cultural expression contributes to enrich the cultural sector on an international level.
What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Colombia which are leading the new wave in arts management?
Arts management has been led and developed by countries with advanced economies. Their educational and research institutions have established the principles of what we know as arts management. However, arts management activities have always been happening in Colombia, just intuitively, and they have only recently become academic topics, at the university level.
I believe the experience of arts management in Latin America can make contributions to the field in the following ways: the first one is, as I mentioned earlier, the exploration of arts management as a source of value creation from various non-economical perspectives. These are valuable perspectives of dual societies, as with most of the Latin American countries. The second one is related to the concept of “cultural responsibility”, corresponding with the establishment of cultural or artistic projects organized in and for vulnerable communities.
An example of this would be the development of a project for a vulnerable community in Bogotá which would create economic value and help provide for the community’s basic needs. In some cases, these projects generate conflict with the cultural structure of the community. For example, a change of traditional roles in the families, or some form of non-traditional work. In general, if projects do not take into account the cultural elements of the community, they will often not succeed.
François Colbert, Philip Grant and I have published an article “Arts Management in Developing Countries: A Latin American Perspective,” International Journal of Arts Management, Special Edition Latin America, Printemps 2016, p. 6-17, in which we address these issues.
Many alumni of the MMIAM program say that their time in Bogotá left the most profound impression about the relationship between culture and politics and the power of culture to heal a nation. Can you comment on this?
The historical evolution of Colombia and the present-day situation have reaffirmed the enormous importance that art and culture have in the country, as a strategy for the cohesion and integration of society, after a good number of years of conflict and violence. There are many projects and experiences, some more successful than others, which have been developed from this perspective. Experiences in terms of music, visual, scenic, and plastic arts, etc. have been managed in a creative way with the communities most affected by the conflict, and with the population in general. In this sense, academia has a very important mission in terms of collecting, analyzing and understanding these experiences in order to achieve a greater impact on our society.