Not expecting the wonderful and familiar faces we work with in the arts, I arrived dot on the hour at Day 1 for CultureCon. Going into this was a last moment manoeuvre in an already overwhelming workload schedule for me. However, I had the foreboding that this will be of value to my work back in Goa. My first impression was that it was seamlessly organised, at par with other conferences I had previously attended in other parts of the country and world. Yet I was to be pleasantly surprised with what followed.
The first day was of course meeting and greeting the old and new, catching up; much welcomed by me because of the isolated nature of my organisation’s work. I was forced to pull myself away from the intellectual overload and microcosm of my own matters at CultureClan and delve into the sector, country and world at large. I became instantly conscientious of my peers and their tireless efforts to redefine the arts and culture in the country, how they traverse the issues we all face and how they navigate challenges. I was very pleased to see pioneering figures young and established take the stand and perhaps the most encouraging for me was to see Nirupama Kotru, The Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Culture present and participating through the day. I felt it was important that our work and initiatives be known and heard by public officers and representatives. The break-out sessions were short, insightful and well-planned breathers between the heavier topics of discourse.
Day 2 was truly productive for me. It was where the real life context, conversations and collaborations took place. I felt it was vital not only to see the spaces in person and understand their visions but also, it gave us a chance to know each individual on a more personal level. I think that this human minutia is crucial in our work in the arts, and yet it makes our cultural fabric resilient. To me the real question is the human one. Isn’t that why we work in the arts and in culture? Is it not to be more human, humane, companionate and sharing in all that we do… to celebrate and further the history of being human?
Not being from Mumbai, the walks in the city on Day 3 were also a refreshing delight for me. As I lay in bed after the conference, I wondered of the efforts of the teams and what it took to put this in action and I wondered when the chance would come again to be a part of something larger than myself. The organisation question, the people question and the money question? Did I feel I had the answers at the end of CultureCon? Perhaps not entirely, have I gained clarity and solidarity? A definite yes!
What could we look forward to next year? So much! Cultural audit, validation and benchmark, creating social and cultural impact markers, environmental consciousness in our practice, cultural loss due to political duress and migration of people, how culture and arts can and should become safe, inclusive and non-elitist, what is democratic programming, how to create sustained partnerships in the sector, digital trends and emerging technologies…, these are just a few of the many questions we should address.
Tanya Dutt is the founder of CultureClan, an initiative for sustainable community development through creative exchange and cultural endeavour. As an arts and culture manager, researcher and curator for creative industries, she has lived and worked in Japan, Italy, Cambodia, Australia, UK and remote parts of India. She focuses on the research of socio-economic issues of communities which she translates into cultural enterprises that transgress conventional strategy, thus advocating holistic policy-making and regeneration. This earned her the 2017 ATSA Fellowship.