By Paulo Pires do Vale
Comissário do Plano Nacional das Artes
National Plan for the Arts: a strategy, a manifesto
este é o dia, esta é a hora
According to the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, one may read in article 73, after stating that “everyone has the right to education and culture”: “The State promotes the democratization of culture, encouraging and ensuring the access of all citizens to enjoyment and cultural creation (…)”.
In its attempt to accomplish this goal, convinced that access to culture, arts and heritage – both from the perspective of enjoyment and cultural production – is essential for the sustainable development of a community and its constituents, the National Arts Plan was established in February 2019 by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education for the time horizon 2019-2029, and its strategy-manifesto for the first 5 years was publicly presented on 18 June 2019.
The mission of the PNA is to promote social transformation by mobilizing the educational power of arts and heritage in the lives of citizens: for each and every one. These are the principles and values that guide its action – its Manifesto:
- Rather than claiming an immediate self-knowledge or the knowledge of the community one is willing to build, we assume that cultural manifestations are the necessary mediation for the personal recognition of each individual and the community we are and project: we build ourselves in dialogue with this repository of humanity that lies in heritage and works of art.
- We understand culture in its multiple dimensions, considering the diversity of its manifestations and community differences, overcoming the separations between the popular and the erudite, the traditional and the contemporary, and giving consideration to the new languages created by young peoples.
- «Culture does not exist to embellish life, but to transform it – so that humanity can build and rise itself in consciousness, in truth and freedom and in justice (…)», claimed Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. In this sense, art is part of life. Aesthetics is neither far from ethics nor from politics.
- We aim, rather than holding events, to establish structural, political and legislative conditions to facilitate citizens’ access to arts, to frame the many existing high-quality projects and to support the creation of new ones. Reducing social and regional asymmetries in access to culture, arts and heritage is one of the priorities addressed by the Plan.
- We believe that this National Plan should give a voice to people, organizations and communities, giving them responsibility for their cultural Km2, should contribute to the enhancement and cohesion of the territory and promote co-creation projects between artists and communities, particularly with the most vulnerable populations. In order to execute this commitment in a sustainable way, we count on the collaboration of all promoters and users. The strategy is meant to be appropriated by the communities so as to be sustainable. A true cultural democracy – more than cultural democratization.
- We regard culture/heritage/arts as a part of the curriculum rather than as an extra-curricular luxury. And we consider schools to be part of a complex system – thus we need to address this social, administrative and economic context in a systemic way to achieve sustainable changes in our educational institutions: the PNA proposes specific actions addressed to municipalities, schools and universities, cultural institutions, businesses… Involving everyone in the responsibility for the world cultural horizon, in particular the educational community. And overturning the wall between the school and its cultural environment.
- An inclusive school shall promote access to heritage diversity and the appropriation of different languages and artistic expressions – enhancing openness to the community and to the world, promoting inclusion and participation. There are numerous languages and diverse forms of personal expression and understandings of the world, which we should help to develop.
- Education will not be complete unless it integrates the cultural and artistic dimension. The development of aesthetic/artistic sensitivity and critical and creative thinking will foster a greater citizen autonomy: a deeper knowledge of oneself, one’s feelings and possibilities.
- The interaction with different cultures and their arts and heritage also allows us to respect other experiences, and to be more receptive to their worldview.
- Arts can show us the invaluable lesson of gratuity and selfless pleasure. In an era marked by utilitarianism and a productivity desire, this subversion is decisive.
- If educating means preparing for the future (which does not exist and which we do not already know), education needs to prepare for the unknown, not merely for what is already known as certain. In this context, arts are a way of nourishing imagination and creativity.
- In a society which is facing challenges due to globalization and a fast-paced technological development, the emotional, social, creative and critical skills provided by the arts may be an essential tool of adaption to the world ahead.
- The fragmented and enclosed disciplines do not provide an understanding of the world complexity. Proximity and familiarity with arts and creative processes may stimulate transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary dynamics, by combining and integrating the knowledge acquired within the different disciplines.
- Understanding heritage and arts enables us to have a historical awareness, provides roots and horizons, and enrolls us as a part of an endless mission – which we have received as a legacy and must renovate for the future.
The PNA Strategy is organized in three axes of intervention – Cultural Policy, Capacity Building and Education and Accessibility – which articulate, complement and leverage each other. Different actions emerge as pieces of the same puzzle, distinct blocks that fit together and contribute to the construction of the same building.
If we are to enhance the presence of the arts in schools, we need to address in a systemic way what involves and determines them: families, municipalities, cultural institutions, higher education institutions, businesses… In this sense, within the list of actions aimed to promote structural conditions and foster sustainable development (Cultural Policy axis), we highlight:
- The creation of a Cultural Impact of Organizations Index, a monitoring instrument that will be developed in partnership with ISCTE-IUL’s Center for Research and Sociology Studies, and other foreign research centers. Following the example of the environmental impact indicators, which have provided sustained responsibility for the attention and concern for ecology, the goals of this Index are to parameterize and quantify the cultural impact of organizations (from municipalities to private companies), by promoting and giving visibility to the cultural commitment of each organization – and to the impact of arts and heritage on the quality of life of the communities. We have noted that there is no index created for this purpose, despite the relevance of the topic and the fact that organizations have expressed an interest in applying the instrument. If we assume that arts are part of life and that culture, in its diverse manifestations, contributes to the feeling of belonging, with a significant impact on the well-being and quality of life of people and institutions, we can easily observe the need to attribute a certain value to this “asset”, which cannot be alienated from the systems in which it is integrated and the resources it mobilizes. Just as the other Sustainable Development pillars can be measured, it could as well, considering its specificity – some indicators and an instrument which measures, compares and improves the commitment to cultural production and enjoyment, to heritage protection and enhancement, i.e., the “cultural footprint”, are needed.
- Also, under the cultural policy axis, the PNA invites local authorities to elaborate Local Strategic Plans for Culture-Education. We noted that there are gaps in the definition of local strategies for culture, which integrate the areas of culture and education, even though they share resources and projects. We found that there is a lack of an overall vision to enable medium/long term planning and a lack of coordination between local and national policies. With the support of the Regional Directorates for Culture and the Center for Communication and Society Studies of the University of Minho, after a sample strategic plan will be ready, training and monitoring will be offered to local technicians who wish to develop the Local Strategic Plans for Culture-Education in their municipalities. This instrument will certainly be very useful in terms of increasing access to culture, linking cultural and artistic structures and educational communities in the area, and highlighting the strategic role of culture in the daily lives of citizens and communities.
- We also suggest, first of all to the Ministry of Culture, but also to other institutions in charge of museums, theatres, heritage, the Social Commitment of Cultural Organizations initiative: we hope that the authorities (the MC or the local governments) and the cultural institutions directorates (theatres, museums, art centers, heritage areas…) will establish agreements/commitments whereby they identify the audiences to be reached through their actions in the following years, the strategies to achieve a particular social impact and to define the goals to be reached – so this may be analyzed and evaluated, corrected or continued based on the evidence of the results. In order to meet the goals to be defined by the institutions, the authorities must be committed to provide the necessary resources to reach them. This joint responsibility, embodied in a document, will enable the social and educational impact of cultural institutions to be assumed as a priority and to be measured within these organizations.
- We have also submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Culture to implement, with DGARTES and the ICA, funding lines for Art-Education-Community and Heritage and Education, respectively, for artistic projects to be undertaken together with schools, specific or socially excluded communities – participative proposals that involve professional and non-professional artists – and with the aim of bringing art and heritage closer to citizens through cinema.
- The remaining actions of the Cultural Policy axis are the proposal to create citizens Cultural ID, particularly in school age, a cultural CV to go along with the academic CV; and the advocacy for a corporate responsibility for the culture of the territory where they are part of, starting within the Km2.
For the second strategic action axis, entitled Capacity Building, we highlight:
- The Porto Santo School, which will host in Porto Santo, in the Autonomous Region of Madeira, in a former 1st cycle school, a programme of activities focused on research and critical analysis of Culture and Education: it will be the headquarters of an international think tank on cultural and educational policies and a residency programme for artists and researchers working in the area of art-community-education. In the periphery (Porto Santo), it will create a new centralization, thus also the promotion of that local community’s development. It will be implemented in partnership with the Regional Government of Madeira, the Porto Santo City Council and the Porta33 Association.
- At the PNA Academy, we offer certified Training Courses (for educators, teachers, cultural mediators and artists, technicians of the city councils), which intersect arts, heritage, culture with different disciplines and themes – to train teachers, technicians and mediators, in a sustained and continuous way, by modifying practices with the support of artistic processes. The primary beneficiaries of the Academy‘s portfolio are the Training Centres spread throughout the country, the City Councils and the cultural institutions that wish to carry them out in their territory. The list of these training actions is available on the PNA’s website.
- Also, in the second axis (Capacity Building), to promote the production and knowledge distribution in the Plan’s areas of intervention and based on its action, support to research (Scholarship), the publication of a series of books in partnership with the Portuguese Mint and Official Printing Office (Collections) and the professional work with Universities and Higher Education Institutions are projected, in order to make the cultural enjoyment and production a common and curricular practice in all courses, but especially in those related to education.
In the third axis, Education and Accessibility, the Plan anticipates an integrated intervention in schools (Interdisciplinary School Programme), creating permanent structures therein. Raising awareness of projects, of the intersection between different disciplines and the arts, of collaborative processes, of relations with the community and the territory, we propose the School Cultural Project (PCE): by creating the role of Coordinator of the PCE in each School Group, designated by the board, responsible for designing a cultural programme suitable for the schools context, in partnership with the local authorities, the artistic and cultural bodies, the local heritage and the educational community, with its different scientific areas. The Coordinator will not be the only person to carry out this function: in tandem with the PNA team, there will be an Advisory Council, including members of the educational community and the local cultural community, in order to integrate the community and the territory in which it operates into the School. The inclusion of members of the City Council in this Advisory Council is crucial for the success of the project. To establish a relationship with a School Group and develop the PCE, it is enough to send a message to the PNA by the Director of the School Group, showing their interest.
In the sense of a true cultural democracy, we do not impose cultural issues/projects, but we invite each Group to identify a desire, a problem, an issue that culture can either address or help to clarify – and to develop cultural programmes based on it. The PNA team will support and monitor the development of these PCEs in the field. For it to be effective, it is necessary to be aware of the weekly schedule and the school calendar, while leaving time for its development.
A further step for schools, which would be appropriate to develop once the PCE is in place, is the Resident Artist Project – in clusters and schools that consider it feasible. This artist, cultural association or resident theatre company, will also have the responsibility to assist the educational community during the months they are in school (minimum of 3, maximum of 9), while introducing more artistic processes and practices there. They will not be a teacher, but a consultant, proposer and player of change in the school, being available to focus on the context and react to it in the most efficient way – they may assume different degrees of participation, depending on the situations.
In addition to the Academy of the PNA, which seeks to stimulate the educational community’s training for cultural enjoyment and the use of cultural events as educational resources, the PNA also collects and commissions the creation of Digital learning resources, which can be used to support teachers of different curricular disciplines. These resources are available, free of charge, on the PNA’s website. We would like to involve the arts in schools as a resource for the different subjects, emphasising the interdisciplinary dynamics of the arts, in such a way that their presence in schools would not be limited to artistic subjects: art is, after all, part of life rather than a separate dimension.
Along this third axis, Education and Accessibility, embracing education as a lifelong process, there shall also be incentives for cultural and artistic projects with both formative and intergenerational components, which counteract the exclusion and isolation of some populations and involve senior citizens in artistic enjoyment and creation.
Through these actions, we intend to engage the school in dialogue with museums, showrooms, heritage, artists, craftspeople, streets; to underline how they are educational environments crucial to fulfilling the mission of the Schools. It is therefore imperative to enable arts to play an important role in the school and to bring them out, promoting access to heritage and different artistic languages, ensuring that everyone has their own way to interact with the world. At present, we may favour disciplinary intersections, making the school interdisciplinary; value the proximity of local heritage and demonstrate how arts and culture can be a tool for the curriculum of the different disciplines, the fundamental skills and both citizenship and development topics; trust artists and acquire from them other teaching, learning and transmission methods.
The PNA’s mission and actions may only be implemented with the support and partnership of different areas of government, local administration, cultural institutions, schools, higher education institutions, companies, private bodies and civil society… It needs from each individual, what each one can offer, with their own voices, assuming responsibility for the cultural horizon of everybody. The pedagogy of desire should be the way: to help each one to understand the need of this mission and to wish to be involved in it. There is a unique and irreplaceable role for each person in this strategy, which seeks to bring culture closer to all. For all, with each and every one.
The PNA’s strategy is available at:
And more information, educational resources, training actions and other proposals on the site: www.pna.gov.pt