Daniela Urem is the president of the newly formed Croatian Cultural Alliance (CCA). Since 2012 she is the initiator and head of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Office at the University of Rijeka. She created Unicult2020, the International Arts & Cultural Management and Cultural Policy Programme at the University of Rijeka, an intensive summer course, designed for cultural producers, workers and researchers from Europe and beyond. She has been living and working in New York for many years, where she founded the “Doors Art Foundation” and created more than 70 programs in New York City as an artistic director, working with prominent venues while promoting Croatian culture and art scene to the international audience. As a cultural manager and producer, cultural policy advocate and passionate networker, Daniela believes in the power of arts and artists to influence the societies in a positive way. She was very kind to answer my questions below:
1. What was behind your motivation to start The International Arts & Cultural Management and Cultural Policy Programme Unicult2020?
When designing Unicult2020 program I was guided by the motivation to mediate and facilitate access to innovative education and professional training at the highest level. However, the starting point of Unicult2020 was the conclusion, after a research that was made through the University of Rijeka, that what the cultural scene in Rijeka was missing was a capacity building programme, required for Rijeka’s nomination to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020, and as an international collaboration platform inside which the most creative and exceptional faculty could be invited, a education that should be academic but also designed to be practical and dynamic.
As any true development requires the whole person – cognitive, emotional, aesthetic and behavioral, the same applies to learning processes. It is advancement of the society through education which does not stop at knowledge nor at developing competence, but proceeds towards understanding and gaining insights required to increase the ability to choose freely and to value, to make decisions and to translate knowledge with values into action. These are all necessary components of a future education that could be applied to any subject, practice and place. We, in the cultural sector, simply cannot afford incompetence today. We need active and collective efforts to advance communication with trust and to share for the sake of human solidarity and togetherness.
Unicult2020 program inits past two editions (2015-2016)trained more than 70 participants, through our curriculum, partners, sub-programmes and topics that we approached. Each edition is all about learning in a collaborative manner, networking, career development and long lasting relationships.Indeed, this is a serious number of benefits for the participants of the programme. Together with my international team of trainers and mentors, we put a lot of passion and determination in creating each edition. It is important for us to guide our participants and to develop their sense of freedom and responsibility in making the right professional choices.
2. How would you describe the uniqueness of Unicult2020 3rd edition in Rijeka and Venice, 3-16 July, 2017?
We, at Unicult2020, when talking about “education”we do not refer to“teaching”. For us education means learning how to value and bring knowledge into a deeper level of understanding; how to gain more insights into the realm of our feelings and emotions, into loving and appreciating, and into ways to internalize and translate all these into our professional behavior and priorities. We cultivate our relationships and invest into a continuing support towards the professional evolution of each participant. We stay connected, we meet in different cities and apart from our professional relationships, We develop long-lasting friendship. This is why Unicult2020 education is a holistic process, a living-learning experience. Each year comes with at least one new activity and should be a unique experience to our lecturers, grantees and participants. First of all, our focus is always on our students’ career development. In our third edition we offer our usual program with morning lectures, individual mentoring and “Let’s talk about” activities, supplemented by two weekends with panel discussions and educational tours to Venice with a special curatorial side, production activities and workshops, mapping exercises, for example Singing Tunnels project by HakanLidbo, and research – through our original sub-program“European Capitals of Culture in Focus” in partnership with the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO) and Local Operators’ Platform (LOCOP).
“Let’s Talk About” is our popular educational format which came to life from my acknowledgment that I, myself,
have learned plenty in my own professional career from having the privilege to be present on many different informal occasions, accompanied by exceptional people, listening and participating in various conversations on different topics. I wanted to create the same for our participants. So, we invite two of our lecturers to start a conversation, while all others are placed in a circle, somewhere outside of classroom. In this informal setting, our lecturers and students are more relaxed. We hear stories which could be personal and practical. It is an interesting time where students join the conversation and the feeling of connection and belonging to the same group starts to develop sooner.
Mentoring process is also an important focus of the methodology, as it helps to work on the participants’ specific needs, projects, vision and objectives. Some participants come to the mentoring sessions with already established projects and others with fresh ideas. Our faculty approaches each of these from different angles, experiences and expertise. I also use this opportunity to being “mentored” myself by our faculty, and to use my own program to exchange information, discuss and get updated with current knowledge while being very much awake by paying close attention to details, monitor students’ needs in order to provide what is needed on the spot and to advance the program for the following years. I think these are key reasons to understand that Unicult2020 is very much about peer learning and suitable to all professional levels.
Last year edition focused on Funding Arts and Culture was a great success! Amazing energy, students and lecturers! The theme will remain in focus for the 2017 edition as a continuation, but with a more specific approach on “Cultural Leadership and Decision-making processes”. I am proud to have with us this year some of the most acknowledged leaders, specialists and professionals in the field who will deal with the topic from so many interesting various perspectives in order to offer as much knowledge and understanding possible.
We are honored to have you, Lidia, with us again,with a lecture on “Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Creative Industries in an International Context: Strategies, Tools and Practices”, next to prominent colleagues such as: Milena Dragicevic – Sesic, Airan Berg, Bruno Juricic, Horst Hortner, DarkoLukic, Robert Manchin, Davor Miskovic, Aleksandra Uzelac and Szilvy Nagy. Our curatorial part in Venice with contribution from Rosa Lux, Michele Drascek, JAŠA and Giorgio Andreotta Calò. Two of our previous students will come back this year to hold a lecture on Transformational Leadership: Mattias Desak and Arna Mackic becoming part of the faculty. Our guest lecturers will be Fritzie Zie Brown – director of CEC Arts Link New York, Sandra Gajic – director of the Vancouver Civic Theaters and Ivan Talijancic – founding director of the Wax Factory New York.
I could find so many more reasons why I believe in Unicult2020 and why this edition is unique, but I invite everyone interested to take a look on our brand new website: www.unicult2020.com to find out more about what we offer and to contact us for any question.
3. You are a passionate networker, collaborator and connector in the arts, culture and creative industries. In your opinion, how collaboration models and tools have changed in the 21st century?
If we are going to build a long-term sustainable value, the most successful collaborations are those that collaborate to achieve common goals, but very often any real collaboration involves constructive confrontation as well. I believe that despite the most obvious and serious political and social problems we experience in our world today we should firstly create innovation ecosystems at the local levels which will allow us to adopt in our working practices a more holistic view on collaboration. The importance of intercultural competence, cultural diversity and cultural dialogue raises a high level of tolerance, understanding and acceptance. In order to fully participate in today’s global community, we need interactions which could apply our creativity and critical thinking as a tool to create efficient, accessible ecosystems in education. Building open platforms will truly provide a variety of communication tools allowing countless partners to connect and work together, to make decisions, improve processes and develop additional value in our communities.
We live in 21st century where some organizational structures are obsolete and they fight hard to keep their current shape. In this time of an almost inevitable transition their leaders without vision still believe that short success is secure and it provides sustainable future. It is therefore required that the decision makers, educators and practitioners lead the process of designing and implementing new and more applicable solutions, in order to foster and communicate the transformation of some of the present burning issues such as violence, corruption and greed into a common culture of equality and peaceful non-violence society. It is maybe a solution to start first at local level by addressing organisational and personal conflicts and applying problem-solving communication. Next should be about governments collaborating across agencies and departments, with citizens and with other governments. It is about changing education and people working together to create value in our own communities. Any form of internal competition is unaffordable – only true collaboration drives the recovery and building of long-term sustainable future.
4. How do you see the newly formed Croatian Cultural Alliance (CCA) developing in the next 5 years? What are the priority areas?
Croatian Cultural Alliance (CCA)is the first professional association of cultural workers with the mission to develop capacity in cultural management and cultural policy. It was created as an educational, artistic and networking umbrella for Unicult2020 and many other programs and activities start this year. Most collaboration activities for the upcoming educational programs are developing fast. Unicult2020 will be soon joined by the trans-disciplinary Art Education as Practice programs involving film and new media, contemporary dance and theatre, visual arts and music. Regarding the priority at the cultural policy level, we are presently developing the Lawyers for Arts and Fundraising for Arts and Culture in Croatia through a Matching program together with the SOS project.
The role of CCA is to establish close connections and interdependence between teaching, research, international collaboration, public projects and large-scale events. In addition to this, CCA aims to promote critical thinking and new forms of cultural policy and management, artistic and intellectual engagement at the intersections of art, culture, science and society. I am happy to say that we are truly a European Alliance with a broad spectrum of close international partners and advisers.
5. Finally, what advice would you give to cultural professionals like yourself who have spent so many years living and working abroad, and at a certain stage of their life they wish to return to their country of origin? What could be the things to avoid, “lessons learned”, or success factors?
My New York experience thought me that great achievements do not come overnight, especially in such a competitive environment. I received my higher education in the US and the most important part of my professional experience was there. I also founded Doors Art Foundation in New York. Coming back to your country of origin is always a personal decision and can be a challenge to adapt your knowledge and competences in your hometown or home country. The moment will come, upon your return, when you’ll have to choose between adapting fully to the environment, or continue to gather with your closest team to envision change. My advice is: know your values and principles at all times. To be back home, working for and practicing fully your own culture, sharing with your friends and family, is peacefully amazing. There is nothing to be afraid of – it could be only the enormity of the possible.