The Asian and European Cultural Mobility Funders Platform met in Prague on the 5-6 June 2013. The event was co-organised by the Arts and Theatre Institute in Prague, the Kelola Foundation (Indonesia) and On-the-Move with support from the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), Arts Network Asia (ANA) and Trans Europe Halles (TEH) as part of the programme Creative Encounters: Cultural Partnerships between Asia and Europe.

ART-idea’s Director of Programmes, Diane Dodd, attended the meeting on behalf of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA). The meeting brought together 23 European institutions and 16 Asian institutions engaged in either funding or supporting artists’ mobility.

Many issues related to artists’ mobility were discussed including:

Visa Support
While On-The-Move’s Artists’ mobility and Schengen visas: recommendations to the EC/DG Home and concerned EU Member States  are timely and important, there is still much to be done. One participant suggested educating and supporting embassies so that they can understand that artists’ are often unable to produce the required documents due to their special circumstances. Maybe we need a system within the sector to help validate the legitimacy of artists?

Fair Culture
Just as the Fair Trade movement has provided greater visibility for economically poorer countries and wider support for fair trade so, it was suggested by Dr. Shahidul Alam (Bangladesh), we need a movement to support the principles of Fair Culture. While the International Fund for Cultural Diversity tries its’ hardest to support diversity, its’ budget of just 3.9 million US dollars (spread over at least 40 developing countries) is crazily small, especially if you consider that this budget is just a fraction of the operating costs for the Royal Opera House, London (roughly calculated at 171 million US dollars!). Clearly, more needs to be done for artists and arts organisations working in lesser visible and economically poorer countries.

Encouraging Sensitivity
The importance of the role of the host country in cultural exchanges was highlighted. Developing cultural empathy and sensitivity would help build stronger intercultural dialogue. Handbooks, tips or training might be useful to guide hosts in how to support international artists: from collecting artists’ at the airport; to guiding them around the territory; to helping them make contact with appropriate partners on the ground. Building infrastructural capacity through the host would improve the quality of cultural exchange.

On the same note, visiting artists’ need more training, again in empathy and sensitivity to the local context. Arundhati Ghosh called for quality relationships, based on mutual respect and learning, to avoid leaving a negative footprint.

Improving evaluation of mobility programmes
Evaluation and impact studies should value ‘process’ over ‘product’ so that more risk-taking can take place. It was observed that while artists have the pressure to produce something they might be unwilling to experiment. Mobility should be therefore seen as a process whereby artists have the opportunity to explore possibilities fully. Evaluation should therefore focus more on who they met, how they collaborated, what did they learn – rather than what they produced. There were calls for further discussions on evaluations.

The meeting was incredibly valuable and provided the opportunity to consider much more profoundly the mobility needs of artists, with people that really care. For more information on artists’ mobility visit On-The-Move.