Tourism, culture and environment minister Mario De Marco.
Can art be a strong economic driving force, and what needs to be done to make art and culture less of an amateur endeavour in Malta?
These were some of the questions addressed during a presentation organised by the Culture and Finance Ministries and the Creative Economy Group at St James Cavalier this afternoon.
The presentation came in the wake of initiatives promoting Malta's bid as European Capital for Culture, as well as a more recent announcement by Culture Minister Mario de Marco that steps are being taken to ensure freedom of artistic expression in Malta.
Speaking at the presentation, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech spoke of the need to "strengthen" the cultural sector, as, according to Fenech, culture is a key driving force within the economy, making up 4% of Malta's GDP.
"We need to strengthen cultural life and ensure that artists are not hindered by any bureaucracy," Fenech said, adding that steps are being taken towards implementing a "cultural strategy" which would group key institutions of Maltese culture into "creative clusters".
"The creative economy is crucial to Malta, particularly given the fraught international economic scenario. We need to make cultural life a priority, and ensure that local talent is given the adequate tools to grow and flourish," Fenech added.
These include the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, the Malta Film Commission, the Malta Crafts Council and the National Book Council, which the strategy suggests should be grouped under a single organisation in an attempt to curb excessive bureacuracy, especially in light of the fact that cultural sectors have become more and more diverse in the past few years.
The report on Malta's Creative Economy - also launched this afternoon - states one key strategy is to strengthen these institutions by "responding to the needs of the industry and capitalising on the new global developments of the creative economy".
Toni Attard, a member of the Creative Economy Working Group, said that the working group represented a unique meeting point between two entities: seeing how it marks a collaboration between the Finance and Cultural Ministries. This, Attard said, is another indication of how the culture is being treated as an integral part of the economy and how "Malta is making culture into an economic priority".
"The fact is that culture is also resilient to the recession, partly because it can incorporate several different media and work across the board - the prevalence of transmedia and multiple-platform projects is a testament to this," Attard said.
Attard also pointed out however that according to surveys, Malta has a low rate of "public participation" from the general public when it comes to traditional platforms like theatre and visual arts, and said that a priority is being made of all initiatives which would help involve the Maltese public in these activities.
Attard's colleague within the Creative Economy Group Caldon Mercieca mentioned education as one of the key "pillars" of culture, and flagged up initiatives like Kreattiv and the Culture Card - which provides discounts to cultural events to young people - as examples of how steps are being taken to ensure that "the next generation will have a cultural foundation to work from in years to come."
Mercieca also pointed to the importance of ensuring that cultural courses - such as dance, craft and any other kind of teaching initiatives - become accredited, and professionally recognised courses.
The strategy is up for public consultation until September 14, 2012 and can be viewed on creativemalta.gov.mt.