V18 aims to improve public spaces with Cultural Mapping project

The Valletta 2018 Foundation announced the launch of a nationwide 'Cultural Mapping' project today.

The Valletta 2018 Foundation together with the University of Malta today launched the Cultural Mapping Project - a project that aims to generate information and analysis on cultural use and practice in public and publicly-accessible spaces and cultural venues in Malta and Gozo. The project was launched at the Salesians' Theare in Sliema, and is supported by the Culture and Audiovisual Unit within the Ministry for Toursim.

Jason Micallef, chairman of the Valletta 2018 Foundation, said that for Valletta as European Capital of Culture to leave a sustainable and long lasting heritage, it is important that the Foundation invest in tools that help it address the challenges in the artistic and cultural sectors. These tools, he said, would outlive the Foundation and be useful to those working in the these sectors long after 2018.

Micallef said that the Cultural Mapping Project is one such tool that would help the Foundation understand what cultural infrastructure stock the country possesses, and therefore would be able to advise government in an informed way.

Jason Micallef also referred to the success of Story Works which is another initiative by the Foundation that aims to address the challenges in another sector, that of screen writing. Story Works helped 24 directors and producers create a screenplay that would have the potential to sell internationally. The first part of the course was led by three leading lecturers from the University of Southern California.

During his address, Professor Joe Friggieri Pro-Rector of the University of Malta said that as a key player in the implementation of the Cultural Mapping Project, the University of Malta has adopted a multidisciplinary approach led and coordinated by a working group, bringing together academics from a number of relevant fields.

The aim of the project is to generate information regarding the cultural use of public spaces in various localities. The project will draw up a map of each locality in Malta and Gozo based on GIS technology that identifies the spaces, sites and venues of relevance and their basic tangible qualities.

"It will also provide an analysis of contemporary cultural activity in relation to the use of these spaces, sites and venues in connection with the communities making use of them" Professor Friggieri concluded.

Fr Savio Vella of the Salesians College expounded on the venue itself, mentioning that efforts are being made to allow for younger participants and artists to take over the venue's cultural programme. "They will be given carte blanche to express themselves," Fr Vella said.

Secretary for culture Jose Herrera said that it was a historical moment for V18. "Because we went out of Valletta. Why? Because V18 is about the whole of Malta. And we will continue to emphasise this. The project itself came about because we identified a lacuna in the way we experience culture - we are exploding with cultural activity, but it's fragmented. So we look forward to creating this road map for our cultural output," Herrera said.

V18 chairman Jason Micallef said cultural mapping was crucial to their efforts to sustain Valletta 2018's legacy. "We were in a unique position when it came to being nominated as European Capital for Culture: we got permission from 68 different localities to allow us to nominate Valletta as our candidate city," Micallef said, while adding that Cultural Mapping would in fact be crucial towards ensuring that V18 will serve as a representative cultural experience for Malta as a whole."

Joe Friggieri: "University has just set up a working group to create a map of areas in which cultural activity takes place," Friggieri said, adding that this wouldn't just be limited to traditional forms of arts and culture but also more communal activities like village feasts.  I was always around for the V18 project, albeit behind closed doors," Friggieri said, referring to how he formed part of the group that ensured Malta was up for scratch in the run up to its candidature as European Capital for Culture in 2018.

"It's not too late to start - we need to get moving so as to establish a steady rhythm," Friggieri said, while highlighting the fact that V18 should incorporate "the whole of Malta".

The Parliamentary Secretary for Culture José Herrera spoke of the importance of projects which the Foundation is undertaking in preparation for Valletta as European Capital of Culture. "The Cultural Mapping Project shows that Valletta 2018 will not only be about events in Valletta, but it will also contribute towards the regeneration of the various localities. This also means that our focus is not only on Valletta, as we are keeping a wider perspective on all of Malta and Gozo." Following the success of the mobile app during Notte Bianca, once again we are witnessing the digital era working hand in hand.

The Cultural Mapping Project takes a multidisciplinary approach, led and coordinated by a University of Malta Working Group bringing together academics from a number of relevant fields.

In the mapping exercise, the main tasks consist of data gathering and inputting relating to the identified cultural spaces and infrastructure in Maltese and Gozitan localities. All data gathered will be inputted through a GIS-based system, in collaboration with the University of Malta's Institute for Sustainable Development / GIS Lab (Director Dr Maria Attard). Data shall include spaces, streets, squares and venues used for a range of cultural activities that include public religious manifestations and festivities from all relevant denominations; fireworks; civic festivals; rural festivals and events.

In the analysis exercise the project shall assess the status of cultural activity from the following perspectives through a specially set up Working Group:

• The use and importance of the built environment;

• The way spatial use and interaction at community level reflects societal developments;

• The way cultural practices are defined and are in turn determined by the developments in the use of spaces in the locality;

• The interaction between space and education, particularly from the perspective of social and cultural access (inclusion and exclusion);

• The relation between manifestations of popular values and the uses of space at locality level;

• The way community interactions are influenced by public policies and local government practices affecting the use of culturally significant space in the community;

• The relationship and trends characterising the relation between economic and cultural activity at locality level.

The project is expected to generate two levels of outputs. The publication of findings relating to the scope of the project research areas, which will take the form of a printed and a final conference which will also highlight other similar European and/or international exercises. The Project shall also produce a series of maps, itineraries, and catalogues of public spaces and venues, together with databases of organisations which make use of such spaces, indicating basic levels of usage and cultural practices associated with such spaces.

The project will be led by the following academics:

Dr Mark Aloisio - Culture

Dr Jean-Paul Baldacchino - Anthropology

Prof Carmel Borg - Education

Colin Borg - Public Policy

Perit Ruben Paul Borg - Built Environment

Marie Briguglio - Economics

Dr Josann Cutajar - Sociology

Dr Maria Attard - Geography (GIS Mapping)

Prof. Vicki Ann Cremona - Editor

Dr George Cassar - Editorial Advisor

Prof. Greg Richards - Editorial Advisor

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