• Marleen Hartjes

  • smARTplaces panel

  • Alessandra Gariboldi

Over 130 cultural professionals visit the 2nd smARTplaces conference

02.04.2019 by Isabel Cebrián

Keywords: CONECTA, conference, recap

Over 130 professionals from the cultural sector, artists, programmers and mediators from Spain and Europe have participated in the 2nd smARTplaces conference CONECTA, held at Etopia Center for Art and Technology. The sessions included talks, symposia and workshops revolving around four core areas: connect, interact, include and participate.

Connect, interact, include and participate

The conference allowed us to share experiences in the development of audiences and cultural mediation. Over 130 cultural professionals took part in these sessions, including artists, programmers and mediators, from Spain as well as other European countries. Institutions such as the Prado Museum, the Van Abbemuseum and the Dortmunder U shared their experiences with other projects – including several from Zaragoza, such as Pares Sueltos or Harinera ZGZ – in the field of programming, co-creation and promoting diversity among their respective audiences.

The conference has had four thematic axes: the Conecta block, on developing audiences and searching for new formats; the Interact interactive block focused on the inclusion of digital technology in spaces such as ‘traditional’ museums; and the blocks dedicated to inclusion and participation.

In search of new audiences

One of the axes that has marked the development of CONECTA was the search for new audiences, a need arising from different perspectives and that presents both the ‘public’; and ‘digital’ public format – as well as the relationship that institutions, programmers and actors of culture must have with audiences to create a relationship of trust and participation.
Another reality that has been analysed has been to rethink the concept of cultural centres to better reflect the evident wealth of different interests among the public. In this sense, specialists in audience development such as Alessandra Gariboldi have insisted that “putting the focus on the public also implies involving everyone working in the cultural centres”.

In the table dedicated to participation, the people who took part highlighted the need to create communities, move away from consumerist logic and normalise community processes.

Community processes and cultural diversity

The right to culture has been one of the cross-cutting ideas of the conference. On the one hand, the importance of giving spaces to the public has been highlighted so that it is able to participate actively in programming, with the aim of normalising community processes, departing from consumerist logic. On the other hand, the growing demand to make the enjoyment of culture accessible not only as a spectator but also as a creator has been studied.

Indirectly related to this last aspect, Marleen Hartjes also introduced diversity as another of the key elements when tackling the cultural fact: “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice and accessibility is a human right” she said. In addition, she has claimed the need for cultural actors to be “active agents of the change necessary in order for cultural spaces to offer possibilities to all”.

ICT has been another key area around the discussion tables, mainly in terms of differentiating the digital tool itself from its ability to connect emotionally with the people on the other side of the devices, in order to create a memorable and positive experience.
The table of mediators, which was also organised within these sessions, has enabled this professional profile to be valued. In particular, the possibility has been launched of creating a professional association bringing together sector professionals in Aragon, which are growing in number and presence in the centres, to address issues such as specific training or working conditions among professionals who carry out this task.

In addition to attending the talks, CONECTA delegates have received practical information on various professional subjects in the workshops. Some have featured, for example, how to propose a cultural project in order to obtain funding or how to communicate it to potential audiences; or how to use plain English, among other aspects, to museum and exhibition posters.