Herwig Pöschl started his career as a creator in the field of music for film and media in the 70s. He is curator for regional and urban cultural development and creative industries, as well as an innovative educational cultural producer. He has initiated and run prominent cultural management programs and courses, such as: MA Cultural Management (in cooperation with the University Linz), MBA International Arts Management (in cooperation with the University Of Salzburg Business School, Columbia College Chicago and Fudan University Shanghai), MA Music for Film & Media (with the Danube University Krems). He consults the  arts management capacity training in South Asia, Goethe Institute New Delhi. He brings new innovative projects into reality, shows international competence in field of arts and media, and likes to build professional and appreciative atmosphere in the projects he undertakes.

Mr.Poschl, you work in the cultural management field since more than 20 years in your different roles as an educator, lecturer, senior manager, project manager, musician, etc. How could you define the term “effective management” when applied to the cultural sector?

Let us first understand the priorities of arts managers. The question is how much worth are ideas for artistic products or cultural services? Are arts managers responsible to realize artistic dreams, to enable crazy projects, to bring catharsis for the community? Are they ready to bring dreams into reality and do they have the knowledge and skills to do this?

In my experience, it is clear that artists, artistic director and cultural leaders feel obliged to bring a kind of utopia into the realities of our societies. They feel committed to artistic work and its results, to the discussion about the values and the effects of the arts on the society. They work on the right things. Cultural leadership is about doing the right things and the task of the staff is to do things right – which refers to efficiency. Peter Drucker made this distinction early in the 1940ies and he told us the priority is effective management. Let say that “efficiency is more the job of lower charges”.

Sad to say but it is true that many arts managers cannot realize the dreams because of a lack of knowledge of the actual, the real side of arts and cultural production. The big misunderstanding that happened often is that arts managers forget the wisdom of the impresario work and they follow the need to bring arts and cultural productions to the market, to create “events” instead of “holy masses” and to organize streamlined organisations and cost saving budgets.

I would like to also add that an efficient arts management from my perspective modifies an “art center” into a “shopping center”. What we really need is a “thinking arts manager”, who is more a reflective person than a cultural engineer.

Is there any difference between “managing a project” and “project management”? If yes, could you give an example?

When we speak about the work in the cultural field, we find out that in the last twenty years every activity became a “project”, incidentally much to the annoyance of artistic leaders which feel responsible for realizing programs of sustainable cultural organisations. Of course a program is built by several projects.

Cultural policy in many countries put more or less spectacular projects in the foreground, instead of sustainable structures and infrastructures. It seems that thinking in a “projects framework” meets better the short-term interests of policy, especially if they do not know how they would finance cultural institutions.

Project management is a powerful tool to manage large and long-term projects in the business field.  Project management has very clear and precise methods and tools. This attenuates of course the creativity and innovation of projects and furthers uniformity.  The use of the professional project management techniques as described by the Project Management Institute is much too large. Instead, we should evaluate project management techniques with the viewpoint on what really works in the cultural sector, what is inspiring, energizing, facitating the performance, learning and development of the protagonists, stakeholders and the audience.

You mention in one of your recent writings the term “collaborative project management”. Could you elaborate on that?

Years ago it was very difficult to do projects with people who are spread all over the world. Online technologies today ( wikis, social networks, blogging, etc.) enable us to work on complex international projects with partners. The exchange of knowledge and the documentation of working steps seem to be one of the most important things, and easy to realize in a “wiki” space. On the other hand, there is a chance of tailoring project management methods out of practice and working experiences, in case they go only online.

We apply many business methods and approaches in the cultural field (e.g. planning, strategy, marketing, organisational behaviour, managing changes, etc.). Cultural and artistic sectors always need innovative ideas and “thinking beyond the box”. Don’t we have a situation where new artistic ideas are squeezed under old or inappropriate format to manage them? If yes, how could we avoid such a situation?

If you put someone into a uniform, you’ll find someone into a uniform. The idea that industrial management has to be transferred f to the arts sector is an error. In many cases the big museums, theatres and opera houses are led like preindustrial manufactories. Other branches, like film and music production definitely need a new management design that fits into their reality of creative business much better than the old fashioned industrial management.

On your opinion, are there any errors or weaknesses in the way we teach cultural management across Europe since more than 20 years? Do you see any changes and new trends in our methodological approaches?

When most European arts management were developed 20 years ago, the general idea was to use different management techniques and methods. My observation is that cultural management programmes didn’t develop their own managerial methods and strategies.  It is bitter that the well designed academic programmes therefore were also reflecting cultural policy and cultural theory in combination with cultural studies, but on my opinion they didn’t evaluate the management subjects in a critical way.

Many cultural management programmes have accepted the usual business management concepts of the 70s and 80s.  Although the management theories went further – for example they rely on exclusivity and may charge covering prices on the market – the arts managers still believe in management theories of the time when their profession was invented – in the 80ies.

Today we find a new generation of leaders of arts management programmes who try to put the old questions in a new way, who search for arts management curricula more based on scientific basis. Unfortunately many of them have only performed an academic career and have never been managing an art organisation, or have been part of a backstage process. I think also that the gap between young cultural producers and young arts managers is becoming bigger and is not reflecting in the arts management programmes.

Do you think that new innovative approaches and original conceptual frameworks are required in the cultural management training and education field?

Absolutely and arts managers should listen to artists and young cultural producers. They should try to understand the paradigms of the art, they should do research on the big narratives of Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol or John Cage, just to mention some.

What on your opinion are the future challenges for art managers and cultural producers? Are the key one the scarcity of financing for culture and the rapid technological development which we are experiencing in the last few years, or something else?

The biggest challenge is how we could realize the dreams, the artistic production and frames of reference for our thinking. We have to develop “community arts”, also known as “dialogical art” or “community-based art,” which refers to artistic activity based in a community. We need to develop new partnerships of the people who are interested in new dreams, discovering new territories. This includes of course virtual communities, stakeholders in the Internet, new swarms of creativity.

Many experts rely on “digital strategies and tools” as a new dimension to develop organisations and projects in the cultural field in the future. Is there any hope that the new technologies can bring us new inspirations in the cultural sector?

It is for sure that we enter a new dimension with the use of the new digital information and communication technologies. The new opportunities enable us to create real international projects with a team whose members are spread all over the world. There are some tools interesting for collaborative management of projects, even such simple like wikispaces. More complex like tikiwiki offer also good knowledge management instruments.

Finally, what is your opinion on “cultural marketing”? Does it really help cultural organisations to promote their creative work, to find new audiences, to improve their image, to find supporters?

Another example for not accurate work or not thinking in art systems is Cultural Marketing. Marketing for the arts mean a cultural adaption of the marketing rules for industries (even when they call it non-profit-marketing) to the specific action areas  of art and culture. When some authors transfer “marketing for dummies” in the cultural fields they tell us that marketing is the art of achieving those market segments and target groups by the appropriate exchange properties (e.g. price, advertising, sales, service, etc.) This marketing mix should be optimally adjusted to the artistic product or cultural service by corresponding to a number of potential customers successfully.

Often marketing managers in the arts simply deny the fact that smallest organisations do not have marketing budget, or that very often we find in the traditional cultural institutions the artistic director and his own attitude instead of marketing program – and this must not be a bad solution.

I think the task of marketing arts and culture must be seen more as a form of social and even political marketing with the aim to make culture, to communicate ideas and to content on arts work to as many people as possible, also – to change cultural behaviour, etc. Marketing has to give artists the space which they need for their concerns.

Understanding cultural marketing as social marketing opens a new space for arts managers to use successfully the new technologies and web 2.0 tools. This certainly gives endless opportynities to build communities around an artistic project.

Read the interview also on LabforCulture: http://www.labforculture.org/en/moderators/lidia-varbanova/51495/76056

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