THE CULTURAL STRATEGY OF THE CITY OF BUCHAREST 2016-2026
In February 2014, the General Council of the City of Bucharest mandated ARCUB – The Cultural Center of the City of Bucharest – to coordinate the city`s candidacy in the competition for the title of 2021 European Cultural Capital. This also requires the adoption of a cultural strategy for the city – a complementary, but distinct, process of identifying a set of principles and strategic directions for the development of the city through culture. Hence, ARCUB launched the development of the first long-term cultural strategy for Bucharest.
Considering the novelty of this endeavour and the chronic lack of information concerning the cultural sector and the cultural practices of the city’s residents, in the first part of this process (June 2014 – December 2015), ARCUB commissioned a series of studies and surveys, both qualitative and quantitative, in order to substantiate the strategy according to a better understanding of the city`s cultural ecosystem, and then carried out consultation meetings based on these surveys.
The first exploratory research on the dynamics of the cultural and creative sectors in Bucharest was carried out by a consortium of NGOs and completed at the beginning of 2015. This document was subject to public review in April 2015, upon which ARCUB commissioned an additional series of diagnosis reports for 24 fields and topics, relevant for the city`s cultural ecosystem, which had not been addressed in the preliminary diagnosis. ARCUB also commissioned an analysis of the cultural, religious and leisure practices of Bucharest residents, a mapping of the public and private financial resources in the cultural field over the last eight years (2007-2015), a survey on cultural consumption and the cultural practices of the city’s inhabitants, based on a sample of more than 1,000 respondents, and a mapping of the city`s infrastructure that has potential for cultural activation. These studies were accompanied by a series of consultations with public and private cultural players operating in the Capital. The commissioned studies and reports are available online, on the web page specifically created for this process: www.strategiaculturalabucuresti.ro, together with a series of additional public policy documents and studies, relevant for designing and implementing the Cultural Strategy. Its latest version is available for consultation only in Romanian at this moment, here.
In the second part of this process (February-May 2016), ARCUB organised a series of consultations and work meetings with the City Hall departments relevant for elaborating the Cultural Strategy, as well as with municipal cultural institutions, representatives of District Mayoralties and their subordinated cultural centres, and with other key players in the cultural sector, in order to develop the Strategic Document.
Throughout this process, ARCUB carried out 12 consultation meetings in various stages of the strategic document, attended by 233 key resource individuals in the cultural field – managers of public cultural institutions, cultural entrepreneurs, public administration representatives at city and district level, representatives of NGOs operating in the cultural field, and citizens interested in this process.
Based on the studies and the consultations carried out so far regarding the local cultural configuration and dynamics, we identified six major strategic themes – problem areas as well as areas of opportunity – which the city of Bucharest has to address over the next ten years:
1) The unbalanced relationship between the center and the periphery
2) Reclaiming the urban space for the city residents, as a public domain space
3) Bucharest`s heritage – an abandoned identity area
4) Bucharest as a European city
5) The untapped potential of the creative industries
6) The need for radical improvement in cultural administration and legislation.
These themes prompted the formulation of the priority strategic goals and objectives, which the city should assume and include in its overall development strategy for the short, medium and long-term, whereby allotting the resources and developing the instruments and activities required. This strategic document approaches the city as an ecosystem. The cultural system intersects with the economic system, the urban dimension, the need to provide a sustainable clean, friendly and attractive environment for Bucharest residents. To this aim, the cultural system is seen as a generator of quality of life and as a privileged connector within the city.
Starting from this premise, and in order to make cultural planning relevant as a transversal engine for development, as well as to facilitate impactful programs, the strategy development process included a review of all the public policy documents at a national, regional and local level, relevant for the cultural field – either adopted, or currently in public consultation.
The first strategic goal (Culture as an engine for sustainable urban development) aims to include the cultural dimension as a key element in the harmonious and balanced development of the city. Long-term planning must not ignore this aspect – which is why all other development plans (urban, mobility, social, economic, touristic planning, etc.) must integrate the principles of the Cultural Strategy. Thus, sustainable urban development includes the expansion and re-balancing of the city`s cultural landscape, emphasizing the identity of its districts, boosting citizen involvement and community cohesion. This leads to reinvesting the history of the city, of its various districts and communities, and to the transformation of the city into a place where high-quality public space, its built heritage and contemporary architecture blend with and complement each other, in order to improve the citizens` quality of life and boost the city`s attractiveness.
Providing access and encouraging general and balanced participation of all citizens in the cultural system is attained by boosting cultural consumption and involvement among the entire population of Bucharest, for all forms of cultural and artistic expression alive in the city. It also encourages a higher participation, particularly among citizens in peripheral areas or from culturally disadvantaged groups, as well as a better integration of minorities into city life, by developing and strengthening their own cultural discourse.
Positioning Bucharest as an Attractive Cultural Capital within the European Space – aims to engender a sustainable and natural connection of the city to European cultural practices (intellectual movements, mobility, networks, ideas, cross-disciplinarity, programming), a stronger presence of foreign artists in Bucharest and an improved exchange of artistic methods, cultural practices and professional ideas with European countries. Also, this goal assumes a higher mobility among Bucharest artists and organizations as part of European cultural events and projects, for increasing the touristic appeal of the Capital by stimulating cultural tourism, as well as for creating opportunities for international development of local artists, and retaining its creative resources.
The fourth goal – Placing cultural entrepreneurship in from the margins – starts from the premise that the field of the cultural and creative industries (sectors) is solid and sustainable, an engine for the city`s economic growth, which must be better reflected in the public space and in the cultural offer. Encouraging the development of these sectors implies an entrepreneurial approach to cultural activities and may lead to a multiplication of collaborative practices within public cultural institutions, as well as to better absorption of European and private funds in both the public and the private cultural sectors.
The fifth strategic goal, Bucharest – A ”Connective” City, addresses the active role of the Capital as an engine for regional and national development, as well as its development into a center of innovation, well-connected to the new technologies. Bucharest is already tightly connected to the Ilfov County. Connecting and integrating these two regions into a common cultural offer must be encouraged and assumed at the political and administrative levels. These measures must not ignore the latest developments concerning the digitization of cultural resources, the smart city approach, the emergent technologies and digital practices. To this aim, Bucharest can capitalise on its strong points by strengthening its ongoing activities and by increasing its efforts in order to become a center of innovation with a radiating effect throughout the region.
Finally, the transversal goal of Increasing the Capacity and Sustainability of the Cultural Sector is fundamental to the implementation of all the other objectives.
Each goal is articulated in a series of strategic objectives, accompanied by an array of proposed instruments and mechanisms, either already available or which can be put in place in the implementation of the strategy. The strategic framework is summarized in the table below:
CULTURAL STRATEGY OF THE CITY OF BUCHAREST 2016-2026
- CULTURE AS AN ENGINE FOR SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT
1) Activate neighbourhoods and support culture in proximity
2) Revitalise and enhance both the built and the intangible heritage
3) Enhance the cultural significance of the public space and the built environment
- PROVIDE ACCESS AND ENCOURAGE A GENERALISED AND BALANCED PARTICIPATION OF ALL INHABITANTS IN THE CULTURAL SYSTEM
4) Diversify and increase the attractiveness and accessibility of the cultural offer, and encourage the participation of citizens not addressed by the current offer
4.1. Diversify the cultural offer, including by integrating marginal or minority cultural discourses and practices
4.2. Diversify and increase the attractiveness and accessibility of cultural infrastructure and resources
4.3. Ensure access and non-discriminatory participation of culturally disadvantaged groups
5) Encourage the development and augmentation of a culturally competent public
5.1. Support culture in education
5.2. Encourage audience development programs and amateur practices
III. POSITION BUCHAREST AS AN ATTRACTIVE CULTURAL CAPITAL WITHIN THE EUROPEAN SPACE
6) Encourage cultural exchanges and partnerships between Bucharest and the European space
7) Develop a network of attractive cultural infrastructure for a culturally competitive European city
8) Develop a concerted and strategic promotion for culture and tourism
8.1. Undertake a concerted and sustained cultural promotion
8.2. Integrate and promote the creative offer of Bucharest into the city`s touristic offer
- PLACE CULTURAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN FROM THE MARGINS
9) Encourage an entrepreneurial approach in the cultural field
10) Support the economic development in Bucharest by supporting and developing the cultural and creative sectors
- BUCHAREST – A ”CONNECTIVE” CITY
11) Bucharest as a regional engine (in relation to Ilfov County) and an engine for other regions in the country
12) Expand the digitization of the city`s cultural resources and encourage the use of new technologies
- INCREASE THE CAPACITY AND SUSTAINABILITY OF THE CULTURAL SECTOR
13) Encourage collaboration between cultural stakeholders and the coordination of the cultural offer
14) Increase the capacity of cultural organizations and administration
15) Promote changes in cultural legislation
16) Encourage the production and use of statistics, studies and research in the development, implementation and evaluation of cultural activities
Upon their adoption by the General Council of Bucharest, the strategic goals and objectives will be implemented based on a plan that will detail the proposed actions and mechanisms, and their timeframe, estimated budget, the actors in charge with their implementation, as well as the cross-departmental and cross-institutional coordination mechanisms required for their implementation and monitoring. This action plan must also include performance indicators assessing strategy implementation impact, as well as the mechanism for monitoring the progress of the implementation. We recommend creating a Work Group / Steering Committee to commission this plan.
The operationalization and implementation of the cultural strategy will be carried out under the authority and supervision of the Cultural, Sport and Tourism Direction of the Bucharest Mayoralty, and will be reported to the General Mayor of the Bucharest Municipality.
 The 24 reports approached the following fields and topics: Physical built space – a field analyzed from the perspective of Heritage, Architecture and the Public space -, Museums, Libraries, Intangible Cultural Heritage, Dramatic Theater and Circus, Opera and Operetta, Classical Dance, Contemporary Dance, Jazz, ”Manele”, Indie Music, Traditional Music, Pop and Euro-pop, Contemporary Art, Editorial Activity, Cinema, Design, Art and Culture for Children, Minorities’ Culture, New Independent Organizational Models in Cultural Life, Digital Culture, Environment.