Jorge Bernárdez Lopez is currently a Project Manager at Nartex Barcelona and a lecturer in management at EU Business School. His background in economics and business gives him a different perspective in arts and culture management. Jorge recently joined the MMIAM International Advisory Board.
What is your current professional position? What has your career trajectory been like that led you to this role?
I have always had a great passion for the arts. Even though I got my start in business, I soon realized that I would prefer to help arts make their way in the world. I was very lucky that I had the opportunity to study arts management in London and later at HEC Montréal with Francois Colbert in addition to my masters studies in Barcelona.
I have a crossover of many experiences in the arts management field such as museums and heritage, music, and performing arts from a public and private perspective, so I feel comfortable working in many different areas. In my work now as a project manager at Nartex Barcelona, I work with various public and private actors around the world to develop their cultural assets as crucial elements for local development in a sustainable and economically feasible way. Our goal is to help them develop strategies that are local, but also have an eye towards the international market as the world becomes more connected.
Why are you interested in MMIAM and what kind of expertise do you bring to the MMIAM International Advisory Council?
MMIAM is very important in this day and age. It responds to a trend in arts management of a shift to a globalizing world. In this new age of mobility and digitalization, global managers are needed more and more everywhere. Traditionally, most of arts organizations have had mainly a local impact. Today, they maintain that, but at the same time they are becoming more and more global through digitalization and people’s mobility. It helps that some arts organizations -those with a more ambitious global vision- are becoming international brands that exist beyond one city or country. This has been the case of music groups and iconic museums. Today, it is also the case of contemporary artists, performing arts companies, and others.
Digitalization and mobility are the driving factors in the shift towards a global focus. There is more information available than ever before and communication with audiences may be limitless. Just as the generations before left the countryside for the city for work, in this connected world, we move across borders not only for vacation, but more and more for business and projects.
MMIAM prepares its students for this new paradigm. International experience is key and MMIAM is the first program that does this well. It’s a unique and priceless experience for the students. Not only are they living and working in different countries around the world, but they are doing so with a very culturally diverse cohort. Plus, all the partner universities are world class!
What is sustainable development and why is it important?
Sustainable development is related to the present and future impacts in a community of a certain cultural or tourist activity. Those impacts are from three points of view: economic impact, social impact and environmental impact.
Economic impact looks at the direct, indirect, and induced amount of wealth generation from a certain activity and, specifically, at how much of the wealth produced from an activity will actually stay in that community. How will an event or activity improve the long-term growth in wealth of a city? These are the kind of questions we ask in sustainable economic development.
Socially, we are looking at things like job generation, types of jobs (i.e. part-time or full-time, seasonable or stable, high-skilled or low, etc.) or the demonstration effect caused by the activity. It is really about changes in the lifestyle or values in the hosting community as a consequence of the new activity. It’s the intangible impact on a community.
Finally, we must also look at the environmental impact of the activity. Take for instance somewhere that becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It will greatly increase the amount of tourism and will have an often overlooked impact on the area’s natural resources and landscape.
How has culture and tourism been impacted by coronavirus?
Tourism is around 12-14% of the economy in many European countries. From 2019 to 2020, tourism decreased by 77% in Spain and at similar levels throughout Europe. In euros, that’s a decrease from about €92 billion to €19.7 billion in the Spanish case.
A large percentage of museums and heritage visitors in Europe are tourists. Since the tourists aren’t there, their box-office receipts are very affected. This, combined with the reduction in public funding, has severely reduced their budgets. But, they still have to pay salaries and other fixed costs. Faced with this vicious circle, we arts managers must try to find virtuous circles with other local actors trying to design and implement common strategies, for example with corporations or social entities.
The local population is at the base of any arts organization, but now, when tourism has dried up, it is more essential than ever. It’s a shorter-term strategy, but many are in survival mode and you have to keep the lights on.
The cultural sector in Spain is taking health precautions for sending the message that “culture is safe” as a way of trying to remain open. We are following the rules strictly, respecting social distancing, and making sure we are well within capacity. In Spain, culture is classified as an essential good. Theatres and performing arts institutions have reacted to this in different ways. Some are presenting new modes of online subscription services that cater specifically to their older constituents.
The impact of the pandemic truly cannot be overstated. Luckily, because of government subsidies, many arts institutions are still able to stay afloat, but the long term impacts of this are still unknown.
How will entrepreneurship and innovation in the arts, culture, and tourism affect the recovery of Europe from the coronavirus?
While there is some innovation in the arts and culture in Europe during coronavirus, it still feels like many are just waiting for it to end.
One growing trend around the world is the consumption of culture online. This trend began long before, but Covid-19 has greatly accelerated it. Everything is instantly accessible and streamable to your home. It’s no longer just movies or music. There is opera, theatre and everything else. But is important to stress that virtual consumption will not substitute in-person enjoyment of the arts, because these are two very different products and experiences. Recorded music is not a substitute of live music, but a potentiator of it. Before, you made concerts as a way to promote, boost recorded music sales and now you make recorded music to sell concerts, which are unique, non-replicable experiences. In this case, digital content is promoting social content.
The size of the arts is increasing overall with the crossover between live and digital. You now have the ability to consume culture from all over the world from your home, but this won’t remain online. As soon as we are able to gather together again for the arts in person, we will. The virtual market is expanding both creation and the possibility of reaching a larger number of people interested in that creation. Once we are meeting in person again, they will be attracted to the things they’ve heard about online and will look to them for their future social arts experiences. I don’t think digital and social arts will be competing in the future. We are social beings and consuming culture is a social act at its core. A substantial side of cultural enjoyment is being with each other.