Arts Council set for major overhaul

New structural changes to the national arts body will seek to redirect resources from festivals to a long-term cultural strategy for the island.

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici and Malta Council for Culture and the Arts Chairman Albert Marshall
Culture Minister Owen Bonnici and Malta Council for Culture and the Arts Chairman Albert Marshall

Now renamed Arts Council Malta from Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, with its premises moving from Casa Gaspe in Republic Street to Casa Scaglia in South Street, Valletta, the national arts body is set to undergo some major changes, as was announced during a press conference held this morning.

Shifting from just a single body managing the entire council’s artistic programme, into three specific directorates, Arts Council Malta will seek to redirect resources traditionally allocated to the major state-funded annual cultural festivals – like the Malta Arts Festival and Notte Bianca – in favour of a long-term strategy for Malta’s cultural development.

“Arts Council Malta will be working to get more art and culture to more people in more places. The council will develop and promote arts and culture across Malta and Gozo, acting as a body at arm’s length from government,” said Malta Council for Culture and the Arts chair Albert Marshall. “We believe that arts and culture have the power to change lives and communities and to create opportunities for people throughout the country.”

“Gradually it became clear that the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts was being weighed down by its festivals arm – the Council organises national festivals such as the Malta Arts Festival and Notte Bianca – which absorbed most of its resources, leaving its broader strategic role with a leaner flow,” a representative of the Council said.

It is hoped that the creation of a larger entity will enable the separation of the organisation of festivals from the strategic development of the cultural and creative sectors, enabling a distinct focus on both. The implementation of this structure will subsequently impact the improved performance of the Council and will consolidate a stronger agenda for the creative economy.

The creation and development of strategies for the sector will fall under the Strategy Directorate. The Directorate will be built on five strategic focal points which include internationalisation and business development but also research, education and training and diversity and communities, making this an official remit for the first time.

The directorate will also focus on the management and development of the funding portfolio, which currently includes six national funding programmes amounting to around one million euro. A brokerage team will be engaged to assist operators in the cultural and creative sectors to maximise their potential.

In short, the directorate will work on the creation of a one-stop shop for culture, a service hub for those working in the sector, mainly characterised by micro-enterprises and individual operators. This will also include the services offered by the Creative Europe desk in Malta, the new funding programme for the cultural and creative sectors.

Festivals will now fall under their own distinct directorate, whose role will be to focus on the management and development of the diverse festivals portfolio of the Council. With a brief which ranges from ensuring that festivals’ development is built on solid ground to issues such as audience development and cultural participation, it will also create a partnership with existing festivals, with the view of eventually increasing the number of festivals in the calendar.

The restructuring has its eyes set firmly on Valletta 2018 and Malta’s legacy of the European Capital of Culture (ECOC). In the end, in 2019, it will be up to the various cultural entities to ensure that the projects legacy created by Valletta 2018 is absorbed into a permanent structure with lasting benefits.

The third directorate – Corporate Affairs – will provide all the support services for the effective and efficient functioning of the other two distinctive directorates.

Such an extensive reorganization will involve a process of realignment of the current staff; all the current staff will be absorbed into the three directorates while the necessary public calls will be issued for the filling of new posts.

Such a large-scale reorganisation, in the end, points towards an acknowledgement of the value of the arts to society. As Culture Minister Owen Bonnici points out, the restructuring reflects the implementation of the government electoral programme that calls for more coordination and synergy between public entities and increased support for artists and creatives. It will also encourage cultural entrepreneurship and will reduce bureaucracy.

The change comes at a propitious time. Internationally, culture and creativity have generated a wave of economic development. GDP generated by the cultural and creative sectors in 2010 amounted to approximately five per cent of GDP, an increase of one per cent from 2007. This is equivalent to the financial and insurance services industry.

The cultural and creative sectors are also some of the more dynamic industries in Malta and their direct contribution has been growing in recent years. Total tourist expenditure for 2012 in the cultural and creative sectors amounted to around €77 million, almost eight per cent of total tourist expenditure.

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