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The National Culture Forum took place: which scenario will Lithuania choose during extreme change?

On Friday, November 25, 2022 the 7th annual National Culture Forum (Forum), organized by the National Association of Cultural and Creative Industries (NKIKIA), took place. The theme of this year’s Forum is “Culture in the Face of Extreme Changes”. The event brought together representatives of the Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI), politicians and members of the academic community for a discussion about the challenges culture faces and ways to solve them, the role of culture in this context and the role of the state in developing the long-term vision of CCI sector.

The Forum, held at the Lithuanian National Library of Martynas Mažvydas, consisted of two parts. During the first part, the importance of culture in our everyday life was reviewed. In the second part of the event, the greatest attention was paid to the vision and future scenarios of the Lithuanian CCI sector, and ways of solving current problems. The Forum was moderated by journalist, Lithuanian National Radio and TV presenter Živile Kropaitė-Basiulė.

“It is said that culture is food in good times and medicine in bad times. During the Second World War culture – theater, music – became an escape to which people fled from the horrors of everyday life. Today we are watching the war that is shaking us in Ukraine, the map of which is painted in black. But it also has light. There is a small theater in Kyiv where a small troupe gathers every Thursday. Regardless of whether there is electricity or rockets falling, they perform. In the programme of their performance, they write – the theater is our hiding place. And maybe culture in this period is really a hiding place where we preserve what is most important and prepare for the time when we can finally come out of hiding and boldly, without hiding, enjoy the fruits of culture. This requires a lot of work, and I see that today’s Forum is a part of this very important work,” Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, said at the beginning of the Forum.

NKIKIA Director Edita Sabalionytė, who welcomed the participants and guests, said that the topic of the Forum was born more than a year ago, when another crisis in Europe and around the world was hard to imagine. “Extreme changes accompany us constantly and we always have to think about how we have to adapt and proactively react to them – critically assess and become resistant to disinformation questions and deal with the psychological aspects. I have no doubt that the best international and Lithuanian experts will help to find answers to extremely important questions – what should be the role and impact of culture in the society?”, noted Edita Sabalionytė.

The General Director of the Lithuanian National Martynas Mažvydas Library, Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas: “Our library is constantly growing as a constantly functioning public forum, where essential issues of democratic society and state existence are discussed and politicians, academic and cultural community are gathered. I have no doubt that this event will encourage the search for practical solutions on how to use the available capacities for important and urgent changes in the cultural ecosystem.”

Insights into the war, culture for health, education and identities

Dr. Eglė Radvilė, Head of the volunteer association “Gedimino’s Legion” and the Head of the Lithuanian IT Managers Association, presented the artwork “Emotional Collapse” created by the Vilnius “Gedimino’s Legion” and presented during the London Design Week. She emphasized that this was an attempt to draw the attention of Western Europe to Ukraine and with the help of VR glasses view Bucha and Irpin which survived the horrors of the war.

Pier Luigi Sacco, Professor of Economic Policy, University of Chieti and Pescara, Director of Policy AP, European Institute of Innovation and Technology – KIC Culture and Creativity, Senior Advisor to the OECD, Research Associate at CNR-ISPC Naples and metaLAB at Harvard University, Cambridge MA, during the keynote speech of the Forum, drew attention to the importance of culture in the face of challenges and war, how it affects not only our health, but can also become a catalyst for innovation and change people’s habits related to environmental protection and sustainability.

“With the war going on, we have to understand the role of culture. It is a resource that helps entire communities affected by war. When I spoke with my friends from the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, I got a message that they understand how important it is to maintain a functioning cultural system at this time. It not only has a huge impact on the psychological state of the Ukrainian population, but also plays a significant role in the fight against disinformation and propaganda, and helps maintain a critical attitude.

In general, culture is increasingly assuming a leadership role in geopolitical issues. If we talk about South Korea, it has been leading the world content creation for some time now. This means that it has considerable soft power and can exert influence around the world, a platform that South Korea uses to promote sustainability, democratic values and citizenship. Even twenty years ago, its influence on the cultural sector was almost non-existent, which shows that such promotion of culture to the world stage is also possible in other countries”, said P. L. Sacco.

During next presentation, another virtual participant of the Forum from Latvia, Dace Resele, Head of the Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture (NDPC) secretariat, spoke about the implementation of the project “Culture for Health”. Based on the evidence collected during the project, D. Rasele emphasized that in order to catalyze strategic changes in the field of culture and health, it is necessary to ensure targeted financial and strategic support at the political level, increase public awareness, organize joint training for specialists in the health, social and cultural sectors, and localize culture and health policy.

Another speaker – Laurynas Žakevičius, “Low Air” Vilnius City Dance Theater  and School Director – did not stray far from this topic and spoke about the impact of culture on health. “During the pandemic period, it became especially clear that culture is not only entertainment – it also works as a means of influencing human health. If we agree that the emotional and physical welfare of the Lithuanian population is our country’s priority, culture for health should also play a more important role. Individual initiatives will not be able to continue for a long time, because there is currently too little consistent support and inter-institutional cooperation. And the need for that is great,” emphasized L. Žakevičius.

During the next presentation, lecturer of Kaunas University of Technology Dr. Arvydas Grišinas and Milda Laužikaitė, Head of the Association “Creative Connections”, spoke about the importance of a creative approach to education and the need to transform the Lithuanian education system, change educational practices, and develop effective cooperation between the cultural and education sectors.

During the Forum, Dominykas Karpovič, partner of “Critical+Xwhy” agency, shared his thoughts on the phenomenon of trust, the identity crisis experienced by the state and business sectors, and the dialogue-based process that would help solve these challenges. According to him, the CCI sector and non-government organizations would play a very important role in this process.

The first part of the Forum was concluded by a conversation between the Forum moderator Živilė Kropaitė-Basiulė and music producer Lauras Lučiūnas about culture as a moral act, chance for Ukrainian culture to spread due to the war, and how in extreme situations artists and CCI representatives are the first to carry a moral message.

Potential future scenarios of culture

Dr. Erika Godlevska, Director of the Future Society Institute, presented at the Forum future scenarios of Lithuanian culture. She reviewed four models compiled by the Government Center for Strategic Analysis, looking at potential scenarios of Lithuanian culture in the future.

The first scenario – “A Great New World” tells how Lithuanian culture would be run by the state in case of war in Lithuania. The second scenario – “Eternal Frost” predicts what would happen if China’s influence in the world increases. In this situation, culture would also be constrained. The third scenario – “Floundering” – envisages a permanent state of deficit and minimal investment in culture should the war drag on. The last and only positive scenario – “North Star” explores the situation at the end of the war and marks the prosperity of the CCI sector.

Dr. Erika Godlevska also shared important personal suggestions for Lithuania: “There should be another model – cultural education. Responding to “burning” issues is important, but we need to step back and look to the future. Let’s invest in cultural education in families, kindergartens, and schools, and in fifteen or twenty years we would have a generation of a different quality – with cultural and aesthetic needs,” said Dr. E. Godlevska.

The culmination of the Forum was a discussion between the Chairman of the Seimas Committee on Culture, Vytautas Juozapaitis, Chairman of the Seimas Committee on Budget and Finance, Mykolas Majauskas, Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys and representatives of the CCI sector – member of NKIKIA Board, Chairman of the Lithuanian Design Association Algirdas Orantas, and member of the Board of the Baltic Film & Creative Tech Cluster, founder of “Inspirations”, Agnesta Filatovė.

Participants in the discussion touched on a wide range of important topics – from the impact of the pandemic on the CCI sector, the boom in film production in Lithuania catalyzed by tax policy, to the VAT relief for art and cultural events provided by the Government, the role of Lithuanian culture in the global context or its policies within the framework of the country.

Speaking about potential state investments in the CCI sector, Orantas emphasized many ways to do it, “Investments in the CCI sector are often understood as grants, but there are many more ways to invest: tax benefits, investments in infrastructure, support of exhibitions traveling abroad – i.e., help with resources. Good examples can also be found abroad – how did South Korea become a bastion of pop culture in the last twenty years? Because investment funds with returns appeared in the country the state began to cover a small part of the risk that it shared with the private sector. In this way everyone won.”

During the discussion, Kairys drew attention to the role of culture and Lithuania in the context of the war in Ukraine, “The war in Ukraine increases the importance of culture. It definitely shows the importance of culture and how, despite terrible things, the spread of culture is happening, its importance is growing. And since Lithuania’s position is specific, it also opens the way for culture. So much for China, Taiwan, Russia and other things. Many more doors are opening, I feel that, too.”

Speaking about the comprehensiveness and importance of culture in the context of the state, Juozapaitis singled out the need for inter-institutional cooperation. “It is impossible to describe the essence of culture in three words, so that it can be fully understood. We often understand culture as a form of leisure, but it is also an issue affecting national security, soft power, and a means of informing the public. All ministries must realize this – that they are part of the cultural process. If we distinguish that this is only a matter of the Ministry of Culture, we will not achieve anything,” said the member of the Seimas.

The vision of synergy and dialogue between sectors

Speaking about the State tax policy in relation to the CCI sector, Majauskas named the film industry as a good example at the end of the discussion. “From the tax side, stability is the most important thing, since taxes affect many people, we have to be careful with them. But looking at the film industry, where the corporate tax break has opened the door to a major breakthrough, we could apply the same tactic to include more players in the cultural sector. This creates an environment for the arrival of the private sector with its own investments and for the consistent development of the sector,” said the Chairman of Seimas Committee on Budget and Finance.

Meanwhile, both Orantas and Filatovė, speaking about the future and vision of the country’s culture, emphasized the importance of dialogue and synergy between the public and private sectors. It is necessary to create a favorable competitive environment for all participants in the cultural field. The non-government sector creates significant added value in Lithuanian society, so it is important to create conditions for its development.

“It is clear that the CCI sector is prone to talk. I am glad that today it is tangible and I hope that more and more representatives of the sector will be able to sit at the same table, share their experiences with dignity, look for solutions and find them. My vision is a round table with leading forward conversation”, said Filatovė.

The Forum broadcast can be viewed on the NKIKIA Facebook account >>>

The Forum photo gallery here >>> and below.

Photos @Vygaudas Juozaitis