Generally no one will raise eyebrows if one were to make a public statement that arts, heritage and culture sectors do not fall under hardcore academic programmes. In other words, unlike in the science and technology field, anyone can enjoy huge success in heritage, arts and culture industries without having undergone and achieved an academic qualification. The argument to advance this point would be that talent matters most in the fields of arts and culture.
Arts and culture industry is mostly associated with entertainment. By its very nature, the entertainment industry is perceived as God given talent. Those involved in this industry would only be concerned about ensuring that performances entertain people. Such attitudes and perceptions would destroy the arts and culture industry if left unchallenged.
In a country like South Africa where arts and culture industries are a huge business, relevant knowledge and skills advancement programmes are a must to strengthen leadership and management in the arts and culture sectors. In fact the (arts and culture) industry had such programmes in abundance since the demand is too huge. Aspiring artists, be they in drama and performing arts, music, dance, visual arts, etc. are always on a lookout for skills development programmes in order to enhance their artistic wizardry.
The point about improving artistic skills, especially at business management level, pursuing structured education and training programmes is a must cannot be over emphasised. Arts and culture structures at local community levels always collapse due to leadership and management failures. Leadership and management approaches in these structures are driven more by intuition than by necessary expertise. It’s only big structures like the National Arts Council (NAC), the national galleries, Arts and Culture Trust, etc. that seems to have sound leadership and management systems.
There are a number of leadership and management programmes for heritage, arts and culture sectors. These programmes range from formal undergraduate and postgraduate courses, as well as professional and short skills programmes. The trick is to trickle these programmes down to local community arts and culture organisations.
Big cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban are mainly the only places where resourced centre for arts and culture knowledge and kills development are located. Rural folks who want to pursue career in arts and culture fields, and eventually open up business opportunities in this field often have to migrate to these cities in order to realise their dreams.
Government should be commended for decentralising arts and culture opportunities from Johannesburg to other parts of the country. Yes, other cities like Durban, Cape Town and Pretoria used to have centres in this regard, but opportunities used to be mainly in Johannesburg. Hence there would be an overconcentration of artists in Johannesburg that in other cities. As mentioned, things have changed now and opportunities are in other cities too.
Effective management across the sub-sectors of heritage, arts and culture sector is part of the Department of Arts and Culture’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan Framework. Skills development, through formal academic programmes as well as workplace-based capacity building and training interventions are also spelt out very clearly as key in strengthening the arts and culture industry. All interventions in this regard have been packaged under the Sub-programme: Human Resource Development of the DAC Strategy, and institutions of higher learning as well as relevant Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) programmes are identified as drivers of such skills development intervention. Core leadership and management programmes to advance the heritage, arts and culture sector are inherently key in the interventions.
Academic and non academic programmes, with focus on leadership and management are driven through the following:
The African Centre for Arts, Culture and Heritage Studies, the initiative established as a centre to reinforce heritage projects with sound leadership and management programme. These studies are based at UNISA – http://www.unisa.ac.za/Default.asp?Cmd=ViewContent&ContentID=1061
There’s also a Wits University-based part-time or full-time Arts and Culture Management course for practising and aspiring arts managers. This is another very good education and training initiative to strengthen leadership and management in the arts and culture industry.
The Arts and Culture Management programme includes Policy Research and Leadership, Fundraising and Marketing, Operational Skills. These components are key in strengthening leadership and management in the heritage, arts and culture industry. More information is available on http://www.wits.ac.za/wsoa/heritagestudies/8816/heritagestudies.html.
Challenge is how this programme can benefit practicing and aspiring managers in local community-based arts and culture CBOs. Maybe the institutions should consider specialised centres, rural community-based, to trickle such academic programmes down to rural communities.
Bringing local heritage, arts and culture artistic and cultural leaders with international players to share knowledge and skills in arts leadership and management is a noble programme. This helps with analysis of complexities of histories and policies, amongst others, and it also helps in expanding leadership and management knowledge and skills.
The Swallows Cultural Leadership and Management programme combines local and international experiences to empower heritage, arts and culture leaders with leadership and management. This is another programme that should be cascaded down to practitioners at local community levels.
This Cultural Leadership and Management programme is an initiative of the UK-based Swallows Foundation in association with South African cultural institutions.
One of the major concerns about heritage, arts and culture leadership and management education and training programmes has been that they are not benefiting practitioners at local community levels. It is interesting to note that the Swallows Cultural Leadership and Management programme runs sessions in different locations of South Africa: uMthatha town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Johannesburg and Grahamstown. Coordinators of this programme should consider inviting rural-based heritage, arts and culture players to be part of the programme. This will go a long way in strengthening cultural leadership and management in rural community-based structures. Further information on this is available on http://www.swallowsfoundation.co.uk/resources/CLAM%20full%20info%20June%202012.pdf
The heritage, arts and culture industry deserves to be taken seriously in terms of leadership and management education and training interventions. Entrepreneurial leadership and management should be integrated in capacity building and training programmes across the heritage, arts and culture sectors. Emphasis should be in rural community-based organisations.