Venues and Value

This august I graduated from the master program Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurhsip on the Erasmus University. The past year has been inspiring. Not only because of the courses of the program, but also because of my entrepreneurial classmates and the research I did for my master thesis. I want to elaborate a little on the latter.

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I’ve been active in the cultural sector for over five years now. It is a sector in which money is always a problem. Often, artists do not really care about selling their work. They want to create it. To make something out of nothing, put meaning into it in the most unexpected ways and change our perception in doing so. Money is not important to them and is sometimes even frowned upon. Creating for money is, overall, considered marketing, not art. There is an exhaustive discussion on the necessity of creating art autonomously, in the cultural sector and the academic world, which I will not bother you with. This time. However, in order to create (autonomously), money is often pivotal. In the Netherlands an elaborate funding system came into being from the sixties onwards. The theater sector in specific is highly reliant of this system, as production costs for theater are relatively high and experimental theater turns out not to be the most popular form of culture. It is clear that there is an interesting relation going on here between money and theater (art in general, really). It is highly necessary, yet a topic to avoid.

As the financial crisis hit, the system and its subsidies were being questioned more and more. Back then, it struck met that there were hardly any people in the cultural sector that were actually able to articulate the immense value of art and culture to a society. In the end, the sector is reliant of funds, let’s say for now because of its peculiar not-on-sales-focused functioning. We háve to be able to articulate why art is important. Why, otherwise, would anybody give the sector money? This is why I decided to question this valorization in my master thesis. I wanted to research the value and function of theater venues in Dutch society. It ended up being a valuable research in which I spoke to many people anchored in the Dutch theater sector such as Henk Scholten, Marga Kroodsma, Ronald Klamer and Freek van Duijn amongst others. In short, the research argued that:

“a theater offers a platform for the realization of values and that (…) function of theater venues is highly dependent on the community that it serves. By reporting on in-depth interviews with eight actors from varying corners of the Dutch theater sector, the structure of the sector and the function of theaters in this structure are discussed. After that, the optimization of the realization of value by theater venues is discussed. Difficulties in its structure that oppose this optimization are identified. The research ends with the presentation of a context management strategy for theater venues; a strategy that can be applied to any theater and that aims to optimize the realization of value” (Roozen 2014)

I have gotten to know the theater sector from an interesting perspective during the research and have, indeed, formed some ideas on its functioning and how to optimize its valorization. If you are interested in the research, please send me an e-mail.  The thesis reports on the current situation of the Dutch theater sector, a management strategy developed for theater venues and it enables the articulation of the value and function of theater and more generally; art.

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