Cultural Organisation: A 'Science' or an Art? Reaffirming the Role of the Humanities in the Discipline of Arts Management

Paola Merli
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The academic discipline of arts management emerged some decades ago as a branch of business theory, at the expense of a knowledge and understanding of how cultural organisation was practised in earlier years. However, by looking back at the work of earlier cultural organisers an interesting perspective emerges, with implications for theory and practice today.

I carry out this analysis by focusing on Italy in the 1970s, on the figure of Paolo Grassi. A militant Socialist, who held a Gramscian-Brechtian conception of culture and theatre, he was Superintendent at La Scala, a state-supported opera house where his conception of his work as 'artistic, cultural and civic commitment' found a most challenging terrain for realisation.

For the research I have used primary sources from the archives of La Scala. For the interpretation of sources I have drawn on Gramscian cultural theory, in particular on Gramsci's work on intellectuals. I conclude that the new discipline of business-informed arts management emerged not because of the failure of earlier approaches, but because of changed social values, aims and objectives. These changes were accompanied by a transformation of cultural organisers into more passive actors and unconscious bearers of new social values masked as pseudo-scientific 'objectivity'.

Therefore, a critical attitude to the assumed 'principles' of the discipline of arts management should be adopted, and the humanities should reaffirm their vital role in the definition of the knowledge required for the entire discipline.

Keywords: Role Of Intellectuals, Cultural Organisation, Arts Management, Teatro Alla Scala, Paolo Grassi, Gramscian Conception Of Culture, Gramscian-Brechtian Conception Of Theatre
Stream: Knowledge
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Organization of Culture between Bureaucracy and Technocracy, The

Paola Merli

PhD Student, Faculty of Humanities, Dept of Media and Cultural Production, Montford University, Leicester

PhD Student, Faculty of Humanities, Dept of Media and Cultural Production, DeMontfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom. MA (with Distinction), De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom. Postgraduate Diploma, Università di Ferrara, Italy. Diploma, Conservatorio di Musica, Venezia, Italy. After graduating from the Music Conservatory of Venice, she attended a master course at the Music Academy Mozarteum in Salzburg. She has worked as both a practising classical musician and a cultural manager for 12 years, holding the position of Assistant Artistic Director of Orchestra Regionale Toscana, Florence (a state-funded music institution) and of Artistic Director of the Scuola Internazionale di Perfezionamento Musicale (an international postgraduate music school funded by the EU) in Bobbio, Piacenza, Italy. She then returned to part-time higher education, gaining – while still working – a Diploma di Perfezionamento from the University of Ferrara, and an MA in European Cultural Planning (with Distinction) from De Montfort University, Leicester. In October 2002 she was awarded, by De Montfort University, a three-year bursary for a full-time PhD. During her MA she researched, among other areas, into the social and economic impact of cultural policies, and published 'Evaluating the social impact of participation in arts activities. A critical review of François Matarasso's Use or Ornament?', International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 8 (1) 2002, pp. 107-118. Subsequently she has been a member of a research team that carried out research into the economic and social impact of eleven cultural festivals in the East Midlands, research that was commissioned by the East Midlands Development Agency and East Midlands Arts from the International Cultural Policy Unit and the Cultural Management and Policy Group of De Montfort University.

Ref: H05P0277