Lyudmila Petrova is a co-founder and organiser of the CREARE Summer School of cultural Economics .  She holds a MA in cultural economics and cultural entrepreneurship and is an active member of the cultural economics community. Recently, she pursues her PhD thesis on factors of artistic creativity and innovation at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC), Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She is also graduated in marketing and management studies at University of Economics Varna, Bulgaria and in cultural studies at New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria. Being passionate for arts, she is teaching and worked on various international researches in the areas of creativity and economy, financing of the arts and international cultural policy. She has publications in related to her research topics in various books and international journals; among the others, Journal of Cultural Economics, The  Journal of Art Management, Law and Society, Japanese Journal of Cultural Economics, as well as regularly presenting at international seminars and conferences (of the Association of Cultural Economics International, of Cultural Policy Research, of Arts and Cultural Management, to name some). 

1. Lyudmila, you currently work on your PhD on factors of creativity and innovation in the arts at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication. Could you please share with us what is your main hypothesis and methods of research?The broader purpose of my thesis is to provide better understanding of the relationship between art, creativity, innovation and changes in the environment within which they operate, while examining the peculiar nature and origins of the artistic creativity and innovation and the specific conditions within which they emerge and establish. Thus, I study creativity not simply as a characteristic of process, individual and product, but also in relation to its context.

Often, it is suggested that artistic creativity promote economic benefits and often associated with the cultural & creative sectors and their contributions to the overall economy. Instead, I argue that capturing artistic creativity only in instrumental benefits does not do justice to what the phenomena of creativity is about. With my research I suggest that creativity and innovation are characteristics we cannot take as granted for all art, instead they show themselves only when they yields qualitative changes within the existing art domain, succeed to transform an old one in a new one or to create a new one. Or only when artistic creativity can trigger outstanding artistic achievements, we can talk about its positive spill over effects to the entire economy and society. I study this when I examine how artistic creativity emerge, establish and leave a trace and how it turns into innovations, while distinguishing various types and levels of creativity.

The second proposition in my thesis is that creativity which is so crucial for changes to take place requires a supportive environment that is constructed from both overall environmental factors such as social, economic and political and structural factors of the art domain where artists, intermediaries, peers and cultural organizations interact. More specifically, I analyse the consequences for the artistic creativity and innovation processes of the any shifts in the environment, when focusing on the case of the Bulgarian visual arts during the transition period (1989-2000). The purpose in this part is that of analysing the specific institutional factors that may or may not influence the emergence and establishment of new artistic expressions, genres, movements, and even changes of paradigms and examine the role of the government when those qualitative changes take place.

Building on very interdisciplinary approach, adopting psychology, economics and sociology theories, I use qualitative analysis based on archive data and semi-structured interviews, as well as analysis on various case studies. 

2. You work as a researcher in the field of cultural economics since years. Which is your favorite piece of research or academic work on the topic – an article, viewpoint, book, or a publication? Why?

From the very beginning I am inspired from the work of Klamer, Throsby, Frey, Ginsburg, who not simply introduced the economic logic to the art and culture world, but very persuasively intertwine economic and cultural perspectives. Actually, my personal journey in the field of cultural economics has started when I first read Arjo Klamer’s (1996) book Value of Culture. Next to it, books like Not just for the money: an economic theory of personal motivation by Frey (1997), Economics and culture by Throsby (2001), Beyond prices: value in culture, economics and the arts edited by Hutter and Throsby (2008) shape my understanding of the dynamic relationship between art, culture and economics. Despite all the methodological difficulties, these authors enhance the conversation on economics of art and culture, while engaging various disciplinary approaches of psychology, economics, sociology, philosophy, anthropology and as such extend the discussion beyond the usual economic questions. They do not only challenge the traditional economic approach, but also introduce new viewpoints, that art and economic logics can coexist and complement each other. As such, they also invite non-economists to join the cultural economics conversation.

3. One of the courses which you teach is on the topic of relations between artistic creativity and economy. What are the practical aspects of these relations in light of managing of cultural organizations and projects?The relationship of artistic creativity and economy is very complex and dynamic and maybe because of that often simplified or misinterpreted. If economy requires rules, efficiency and efficacy, what matters for the artistic creativity are values of novelty and authenticity, values that inspire us. It also requires its own space, time and dynamics.

In line with this, on the organizational level, we can identify the relationship between both, for example, when processes of creating new content and transmitting artistic values converge with the processes of audience development, efficiency of business models, monitoring outcomes, motivating creative workers and etc. Another aspect of this relationship can be expressed when cultural institutions have to balance between working environment that foster artistically innovative practices and strategies to generate more income and engage diverse audience and supporters.

Research and practice bring evidences that to achieve the balance between artistic creativity and economic aspects, it is a task that requires change in the mindset of the existing cultural organizations (especially those in the non profit sector). Inevitably, there is a need of the figure of cultural entrepreneur – the one, who understand the dynamic relationship between such a distinct logics, can operate between and among both logics and is aware of the spill over effects when marginalize one or another of them.

4. In your opinion, can policy instruments motivate and facilitate artistic creativity? Give an example.It is very difficult to draw a direct causality between policy instruments in terms of regulations, public expenditures and tax incentives and motivation for artistic creativity. However, some suggestions can be made. Public instruments that directly and excessively interfere with creativity motivation might give a rise of crowding out of the creative motivation. What plays a critical role here is the fact that on one side, policy instruments are constrained by clear objectives and norms, derived from specific institutional settings including administrative procedures. And on the other, artistic creativity is driven by values of freedom, nonconformity and authenticity.

Creativity also requires supportive environment, which can be facilitated by the government, when implementing public instruments which indirectly can support the development of an independent art sector. In respect with the recent subsidy cuts, governments can remain responsible for cultural basis infrastructure and promote mechanisms that favour the development of mecenat, encourage more private involvement in the cultural sector and cultural entrepreneurship as well as boost the demand for art and culture production.  For example, according to a study, in the Netherlands, the implementation of favourable provision for tax incentives generate contribution to the art and culture as much as the annual budget of the Ministry of Culture and invite greater diversity of stakeholder when individuals, companies, foundations donate and invest in the arts and culture. Another good example in the Netherlands, is the establishment of cultural funds with the support of specially designed tax. This scheme on one side aimed to encourage private individuals to invest through cultural funds in cultural projects and on the other to improve the access of cultural entrepreneurs to capital/loan with low interest rate when investing in cultural project or buying contemporary art works. The use of cultural investment funds by cultural entrepreneurs and/or cultural organizations shows that since 2006, 42 projects were accepted and granted a total of 382 million euro. The outcome of this measure supported by the government, foster risk-taking, while promoting stronger partnership between the subsidised art sector, creative industries and other areas of Dutch private sector, a collaboration which beckon new artistic experiments, too.

5. Fundraising for artistic projects and events is becoming more and more frustrating nowadays because of the global financial difficulties we face. Are there any “back-up strategies” for organizations in the cultural sector in such a situation of squeezed government funding and limited or decreased business support for the arts?It is true that the financial crisis prove to be a great challenge for the art and culture sectors.  In one way it creates barriers and difficult situations, but on the other it opens different possibilities that we might neglect in the period of abundance. Or as Jon Elster puts it – less could be more.

Practically speaking, with the decrease of the government subsidies and business support, cultural organizations need to focus on how to increase their own earn incomes. There are a few alternatives to consider:  to rethink their marketing strategies to attract new audience and extended the old one; to reassess their price formation; to discover possibilities for additional support from donation, sponsorship and income from merchandising of products and services.

Some of the these strategies might be more effective in short run and others can be realized in  a long run. For example, applying some marketing techniques to attract greater numbers of traditional visitors, to intensify the engagement with the existing audience and attracting new group of audience can be effective to generate income in short run. Let’s face it, many art and cultural organization still do not apply effectively marketing tools to segment better their audience. Next to this, cultural organizations still invest more in publicity than in well-motivated communication strategies, especially exploring the potential of the new media tools. For example, fundraising for concrete projects through so-called crowdfunding, i.e. contributions are derived by the audience via internet donations, proves to be a good alternative to the cuts in the subsidies to the arts and a very effective way to use the social media. Further, borrowing new methods for price formation from other businesses such as auction for tickets, dynamic price formation (easy Jet way) and air miles program can also generate more than one can expect.

In a long run, instead of focusing only on fundraising among big private foundations and companies, cultural institutions will need to invest in more qualitative relationships based on loyalty with small donors (individuals and small foundations). There are enough evidences to suggest that private wealth and generosity have increased in the last decades, at least here in the western world, but it is not proportionally distributed among different social sectors or “good causes”. For example, private giving to culture still lacking far behind the other social sectors in the Netherlands – only 8% of the total private giving in 2007 is allocated to the arts and culture. It is often the case that cultural organizations do not have enough experience and knowledge to develop and explore the “culture of asking” on which depends the development of “culture of giving”. However, beside the money and willingness of small donors to contribute to the arts, one can argue that considerably efforts and time will be needed to build different relationship between those who give and those who receive, especially after such a long period of predominant public support to the arts and culture.

6. You are in the core team for initiating and conducting the annual CREARE Summer school in cultural economics. What are the main outcomes of its latest edition in 2011? Did you achieve what you were expecting for?In 2009, together with Arjo Klamer and Anna Mignosa, we established the summer school with the idea to convey knowledge of the cultural economic perspectives among professionals, policy makers and (graduate) students. Next to this, it aims to bridge theoretical and practical knowledge, while participants are engaged in conversations with well-known scholars (Arjo Klamer, Kazuko Goto, Francoise Benhamou, Ilde Rizzo, Izidoro Mazza, Olav Velthuis, to name some) as well as successful cultural entrepreneurs.

What we have achieve this year is the fact that great variety of graduate students, academics and cultural operators from a wide diversity of institutions (government, non profit and private) and cultures join us at the summer school in Amsterdam. Together with participants from all over the world (Austria, China, France, Fiji, Island, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Mali, Mauritius, Russia, Trinidad & Tobago, Spain, Sweden, UK) we shared private experience and build up a common understanding about the concepts of culture, value, valuation of the arts, the creative economy, and cultural policy and their relevance to specific national contexts. We are also very glad that this year, we managed to launch our first course in Uganda in collaboration with Bayimba cultural foundation. To add the African perspective, was invaluable experience to us.

This year, we also welcome two new members of the team  – Priyatej Kotipalli from India and Carmen Artenie from Romania – which add great deal of multi-cultural experience also on the organizational level.

Being a pioneer in providing this intensive education on cultural economic perspectives to such culturally and professionally diverse audience is the greatest challenge that we have faced. Our expectation was to draw in and engage the participants into the conversation of cultural economics – to trigger their expectations, to inspire them to take look out of their own perspective, to make them understand the perspective of the others. And yes, I think we have succeeded in this.

7. Do you have any personal affiliation to the arts: hobby-related, family-related, or volunteering?  Living in the Netherlands, do you have a nostalgia for participating at Bulgarian cultural and artistic events?I like the experiment in the arts without differences between sectors. Exploring galleries, museums, performances, cultural districts, underground places became very inspirational for me. What else intrigues me since years is the crossing edge between art and design. Sometimes when attending some design fair, exhibitions or events, I get so inspired that I often come back home and start experimenting with my own design forms and compositions.

Yes, indeed, the most difficult part of leaving abroad, turned to be the fact that I cannot participate in Bulgarian cultural scene as I used to. The most I miss is the theater; also because of the language barriers I do not attend so much theater performances here. And I used to love it.


Read the interview also on Young Cultural Policy Researchers Forum on LabforCulture:

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