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Magazine

11 October 2021
“When we speak of cultural industries, we must add the economic element so that cultural agents can make a living.” An interview with Carmen Paez

Montse Badia

Carmen Páez has a degree in Law and in Business Administration and Management from the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas (ICADE), and is a member of the High Council of the Spanish Government Civil Administrators since 2012. Until a few days ago she was holding the position of Deputy Director General for the Promotion of Cultural Industries in the Culture Ministry and since last week she is General Secretary of EOI. We spoke with Carmen, via zoom, about the idea of cultural industries, the economic management of creative activity, the support system of the Promotion of Cultural Industries, as well as the need for collaboration between the public and private spheres, among other topics.

Montse Badia – Given that approximately 3% of the GDP is produced by culture, why hasn’t the importance of culture in society been recognized?

Carmen Paez – From the experience I have (before working in Cultural Industries, I was the General Deputy Director of International Promotion of Culture), it is a question that depends on the idiosyncrasy of each country, their traditions and also the prior work that has been done by the institutions. In the Anglo-Saxon model, for example, it is unconceivable to not pay for culture, but in our country it is an issue. In the French model, society itself puts a value, from an economic point of view, on the role of the creative and cultural industries. In the case of Spain, the level of talent and creativity is extremely high, but not enough attention has been paid to its economic development. It is a commitment and an obligation that we all have, both in cultural institutions and the cultural world itself, to promote this work, to make it understood that we are, from an economic perspective, as important as others sectors. Agriculture or petrochemicals contribute a smaller percentage, depending on the region. The primary sector itself has less weight than the cultural sector and it is very difficult to make citizens aware of this importance. I never tire of repeating the role of culture, similar to the role of tourism, which is defined in the Culture Ministry and which clearly reflects the repercussion and economic impact of our sector.

MB – Evaluating the economic aspect brings us to the subject of the concept of cultural industries. What are we talking about when we talk about cultural industries? Is all cultural production a cultural industry?

CP – The concept of cultural industries is complicated and many attempts have been made to define it. UNESCO produced a guide, the European Commission published a green book about creative and cultural industries. It is clear what it is in some of the traditional arts, such as cinema, but now we have other forms of creation and innovation. We work a lot with the video game sector, another cultural sector that 20 years ago was not considered as such. Another example would be television, which has a very important role in audiovisual production in cultural terms. Obviously, not all television is culture, but within television there is a lot of culture and, above all, an important means of promotion.

For the Culture Ministry, all the traditional arts are part of the cultural industry, as are the subsectors that are emerging, encompassing all those processes that link creativity and innovation and production. This can include design, fashion, architecture, television, and video games, because all the processes related to intellectual property are the ones that will also ultimately lead to cultural production. Is all cultural production a cultural industry? It depends. Here the very concept of ‘industry’ comes into play when you remove the term cultural or creative. Industry is linked to job creation and wealth generation. The economic element must be added so that cultural agents can make a living.

MB- In the economic system in which we live, in addition to developing creative work, artists must financially manage their own work and communication, they have to act as a company.

CP – This happens the moment the monetization variable enters the equation. It happens in culture and it happens in sport. Athletes manage their own brand. Many times the artists or the creators themselves only focus on their creativity, arguing that if they dedicate themselves to other issues they lose time for the more creative, more cultural part. Outsourcing must also be considered as an option. The great Spanish chefs have companies and I am sure that many of them don’t administer their own restaurant in order to dedicate themselves to the most creative processes.

We also see that there is no specialization on the part of accounting managers or financial agents. It is difficult for the business world to look at culture and see it as a phenomenon of wealth generation. The connection between the business world and creators/artists is essential for the growth of the industry which is why we promote it.

MB – You help creators to have a business vision and to reach a stage that allows them to outsource by offering them lines of action and aid.

CP – Right now we are in a process, with the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, to expand the lines of aid that are traditional for cultural industries, and we are going to generate new lines of action. There are two traditional lines in our institution: Cultural Action and Promotion, and Modernization and Innovation of Creative and Cultural Industries.

Action and Promotion is aimed at non-profit organizations. It is responsible for supporting those activities that serve to promote culture, from visual arts, audiovisuals, music, theater, architecture, and design, a very wide spectrum under the concept of Cultural and Creative Industries. This year, this line of aid is endowed with almost 2 million euros (€ 1,990,000). It is a line that finances different types of activities. It seeks to incentivize certain projects and give them greater financing capacity. It is not intended for the operation costs of foundations, associations or federations, however. We understand that, in ordinary operations, institutions must seek their own financing, so we support projects that serve to give visibility and influence the structuring of the sector. This kind of financing requires a co-financing of 20%, (until last year it was 30%). We have reduced the percentage of participation of other types of financing, which can be from their own funds to other types of both public and private aid. In fact, there are projects that are supported by the autonomous communities, city councils and ourselves. In projects of higher quality, everyone’s figures are always higher by.

We also support the Modernization and Innovation of the Creative and Cultural Industries. This aid is designed for companies and freelancers. Modernization and Innovation has a direct impact on business agents, both self-employed and small companies. The target of this support is not big cultural corporations. This aid has greater financing, € 2,990,000, also with a co-financing of 80-20%, and the operating expenses of the applicants are not financed, either. It is about financing projects to be developed. Not only is the creative part of the project important, but so is its innovative character, and it must be accompanied by a business plan.

The idea is for cultural companies to grow and to be as competitive as other economic sectors.

On the other hand, there is the Audiovisual Hub that is part of the Government’s 2025 Digital Strategy. This year we have created a video game support pilot program of a million euros. The idea is to strengthen, above all, the development of video games of a cultural nature. It is one of the sectors that is being strengthened due to its capacity for growth potential.

Within the recovery plan, Cultural Industries works to develop a Line of Action for Business Skills Training for Cultural Agents, to directly support workers in the cultural sector, to help strengthen their own management skills. We have seen that less attention is paid to the business part and that is one of the great challenges of the sector, to be able to compete with other economic sectors.

We are also working on Acceleration of Creative and Cultural Industries support, in collaboration with the autonomous communities. It will be channeled through them and seeks to overcome atomization in the sector, to accelerate projects so that they grow and contribute to broader middle-class business activity.

The third is the Promotion and Internationalization of Creative and Cultural Industries, including the improvement of the website Spain is Culture, which is a very valuable element in terms of international promotion, consultation and visitor traffic, and also the development of other promotional activities, such as fairs. This is our roadmap right now.

MB – When you talk about accelerating projects, do you also value the social impact of the projects?

CP – Yes. In the open call, an explicit reference has been included in the evaluation criteria of the project’s contribution to the objectives of the 2030 agenda, how it affects those objectives, and also to environmental criteria and the promotion of gender equality in the sector. These are the government’s cross-cultural guidelines for all public policies. It is essential projects have this social conscience. This does not mean that social projects are financed, as these are the responsibility of other Ministries, such as Equality and Education, but that they should be promoted through culture, as well.

MB -Talking about cross-cultural programs, is there any hybridization of disciplines in the proposals that come to you?

CP – Within the Culture Ministry, Cultural Industries is a very cross-cultural unit. In the Ministry there are specific sector units, such as the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts, the Institute of Music and Performing Arts, but in Cultural Industries we are also supporting hybrid projects. We are convinced that the future is about multi-skills. Many creators do not fit into a single format, but rather vary depending on their inspiration. There are more and more multidisciplinary artists and arts. Video games need a scriptwriter, a specialist in special effects, sound for the soundtrack. These projects require more cross-cultural aspects, because it is also what the public is demanding. The innovative part sometimes consists of bringing together things that already exist. In theater, there are more and more audiovisual elements, more music. Putting together different types of creators has very interesting and very enriching results on a social and cultural level.

MB – Is it right to say that you work within an international model, such as the Anglo-Saxon? How do you take into account the differences of contexts?

CP

We are aware that the Anglo-Saxon fiscal framework is different from our fiscal and legal frameworks. In Spain, the tax incentive framework is improving. In the 2021 General Government Budget Law, the incentive framework for the audiovisual sector has improved. In May of last year, the deduction percentages for donations made by individuals were raised by 5% (deduction of 80% of the donation for donations of up to 150 euros and 35% for remaining donations).

Our way of working follows two routes: on the one hand, normative and improving the legal framework. On the other hand, we believe that it is essential to take advantage of the legal framework that already exists and that not all it allows is used.

Returning to other models, it is true that France has a patronage law in which different types of patronage, such as patronage of competency, are recognized, something we do not have at the state level, although similar figures are included in some autonomous communities, such as Navarra. In the Anglo-Saxon model, people invest in culture. Government-owned museums in the UK are largely funded by voluntary contributions made by visitors themselves. The same thing happens in American museums. It is a question of idiosyncrasy. The figure of cultural patrons is a highly admired figure in the Anglo-Saxon model. It is essential that the institutions work to disseminate the advantages and benefits of contributing to cultural patronage, as private contributions can lead to interesting cultural projects that ultimately benefit society. In the case of Spain, tax incentives for more social issues are well established. There is a very high level of participation in social issues, so why not for the cultural sector if it has the same tax regime? We see that there is room for improvement in the legal regime and we are working towards it, but we also believe that it is essential to raise awareness and sensitize citizens regarding the benefits of cultural patronage.

MB – Sometimes offering culture for free means that it is not valued as much or that people feel no need to assume any responsibility.

CP – Free culture can have certain problems because in certain cases the message becomes distorted. It should be emphasized that the work of artists, creators and all other agents involved in a cultural project is work.

MB – Perhaps the artists themselves contribute to this, when they see it as a more personal, more disruptive, more idiosyncratic activity.

CP -In regards to the disruptive part, monetization doesn’t look good. For example, there was an exhibition of urban art called From the Street to the Gallery. To some artists it seemed all wrong because they said it was selling out to the market. In the end, the model we live in requires income, for even if you work on the street you still have to be able to buy the spray paint. Artists have to pay for food, rent and supplies. The Cultural Ministry also supports the most disruptive part, but this is the responsibility of other Units. In Cultural Industries we focus more on the economic aspect of culture.

MB – How can a person make a living from culture? Do you think the solution is a greater public-private collaboration?

CP -I think the future is collaboration, in general. Public-private collaboration, private-private collaboration, public-public collaboration. We need to listen to each other more, and work together more. That is what we have to learn. Institutions must keep their ears open wide to be able to listen to the demands. Our role is to be by and for society, and in the specific case of the Culture Ministry, for the cultural sector. It is essential that we collaborate with them and that the sector itself be aware of everything that is done in the Culture Ministry and in the Culture Councils of the different autonomous communities, but it is also necessary that there be more collaboration between private agents. This is one of the great challenges. In the cultural sector, we often only think about our own project, probably because it takes us so long to develop, but we stop seeing that there are other partners within the cultural sector and potential partners in other economic sectors. Culture, where creativity is so important, allows us to approach realities from different perspectives. This way of seeing things helps other economic sectors that are more tight-laced and which always pose the same solution to the same problem. Creativity helps to find different solutions.

 

Montse Badia has never liked standing still, so she has always thought about travelling, entering into relation with other contexts, distancing herself, to be able to think more clearly about the world. The critique of art and curating have been a way of putting into practice her conviction about the need for critical thought, for idiosyncrasies and individual stances. How, if not, can we question the standardisation to which we are being subjected?
www.montsebadia.net

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