Adapt, We Must

Key points from the international Creativity 4 Sustainability Forum (Ljubljana, 28 September 2022).

In the context of international cultural cooperation and climate change, we’re talking less nowadays about how to “limit” or “be smart” about mobility than we were at the international conference Mobility for Creativity in April 2019. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic strongly influenced all our mobility practices and forced artists and cultural workers to quickly adapt to new ways of producing, presenting and disseminating arts and culture.

In these post-pandemic times, we now face new challenges – drastically affected supply chains, rising inflation and looming energy shortages on the one side, and tempestuous, unpredictable and extreme weather patterns and devastating natural disasters on the other. Climate change isn’t out there, on the horizon, it’s here now and there’s an urgent need to adapt. But how? And what role do arts and culture play in adapting?

Setting the context – Slovenia: Small, sustainable, connected

The international Creativity 4 Sustainability Forum, hosted by Motovila on 28 September 2022, joined cultural managers, experts, producers, artists from various art and cultural organisations from across Europe and representatives from local policymaker and public funding bodies to discuss just that.

Mateja Lazar (Motovila/CED Slovenia) set the forum’s aims: to avoid the vague, blurry concepts, provide concrete examples and solutions and put them into perspective internationally, nationally, regionally, locally. The wish was to highlight the power of the culture and creative sectors to deal with global challenges and changes, both as an example as well as a communicator. She also acknowledged the event would not be possible without the substantial and trusted cooperation of partners from various levels and sectors and expressed her hope the forum will be a step further into dealing with and thinking the change together.

Peter Baroš (Ministry of Culture) spoke of Slovenia’s advantages concerning sustainability and climate change because its small size allows for connectivity and quick implementation of innovations and Slovenia is a geographic and ideological bridge between current EU member countries and candidate ones. Through successful projects and practices, Slovenia has become a cultural centre of Europe and can help lead the way with the daring ideas needed to solve the challenges we currently face and those ahead. 

Mateja Demšič (City of Ljubljana) highlighted Ljubljana’s long-term tradition of sustainability policies, noting its title as European Green Capital 2016 as an important event that fostered innovative practices. She affirmed the city hasn’t stopped there. Even the forum venue Cukrarna Gallery testifies to creativity for sustainability – contemporary arts have breathed new life into the building after years of being an abandoned sugar factory.

Read FULL REPORT (.pdf) for Motovila prepared by Jana Renée Wilcoxen.

The report includes:
* what we can concretely do in our cultural institutions,
* messages for policymakers and funders,
* what we can do to work more sustainably.

Creativity for Sustainability Forum recording available here.

In his pre-recorded keynote, Ben Twist (Creative Carbon Scotland, UK) shelved the focus on carbon literacy and reminded us why arts and culture are crucial when it comes to adapting to climate change. “The age of abundance is over”, it’s time to change our metaphorical climate!
He assured us that arts and artists are crucial because they can make people think collectively and build community in the process.
Ben also talked about what we can concretely do in our cultural institutions regarding how we manage our physical spaces and our production and presentation practices.

The forum’s first panel addressed policymakers by talking to cultural managers about their projects in which funders took a different approach: Matthieu Gillieron’s sustainability tools and online guide for ECoC 2022 Esch (LU), funded by Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development; Vânia Rodrigues’s data-gathering academic research project “Green Production – Performing Arts in Transition”, funded by the University of Coimbra (PT); and Zala Velkavrh’s work in Slovenia with Prostorož’s grassroots interdisciplinary projects addressing environmental and social challenges, funded by numerous local funders. Moderator Yohann Floch (On the Move) began by quoting the bold and “almost visionary” European Parliament Resolution of 15 September 2020, which “Calls on the Commission and on national agencies and desks to establish criteria to enable the environmental aspects of projects to be factored into project evaluation, thus promoting greener practices. Trusting artists is key!

In the forum’s second panel, focused on bottom-up practices, Motovila’s Ines Kežman moderated a discussion with producers/consultants from the field of new media and web-based art (in Slovenia known as intermedia art), music and film who have been involved in projects that have been creatively and effectively raising awareness and pushing the need to act. Uroš Veber (Projekt Atol, SI) spoke about his 20 years building a culture of green thinking in international cooperation projects looking at the human in relationship to nature and the environment. Karolina Juzwa (Wytwornia Foundation, PL) gave an overview of the project Footprints, which aimed to support emerging artists to develop their international and professional careers through sustainable tours utilising green mobility (if/when possible), paying artists fair fees, at venues that include the community. And Katja Schwarz (International Screen Institute, AT) told of how she introduced green practices into the film industry in Munich, which led to the first green-produced films in Germany in the 2010s. It’s about more than eliminating plastic straws!

In her closing keynote, Katja Sreš (Ecologists without Borders, SI) asserts that the environment is a concern not only for environmentalists: “Climate action needs culture, decision makers from different sectors and, obviously, a functioning public transportation network.” It’s not about highlighting the climate in your artwork. Cultural organisations can act by setting an example:
* Prepare green productions, maintain buildings, travel sustainably.
* Check that your brandprint (brand identity) portrays a sustainable organisation in all activities.
* Start small, start even if you don’t have any funding for green projects.

The Forum was organized by Motovila in cooperation with the City of Ljubljana, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the European Commission, Ecologists without Borders, Creative Europe Desks Portugal and Austria, On the Move, Museum & Galleries of Ljubljana (Cukrarna gallery), Ljubljanski potniški promet (Ljubljana Passenger Transport). Special thanks to the European Capital of Culture Nova Gorica 2025.

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