It is useless to wait for the development of the city’s culture if the city itself does not have a common vision of how this culture should develop. Culture Strategy, a document that works as a road map and/or instruction for all cultural actors, could help with this.
A little about plans and strategies
For successful development, every city needs a long-term plan—the City Development Strategy. It is this document that describes how and for whom the city will change. Effective, multifaceted and coordinated development of the city’s culture depends on whether there is a Cultural Strategy in this plan (and what it is). Usually, it is formed by involving the experience of various people: artists, cultural managers, activists, employees of cultural and educational institutions, managers, and simply concerned citizens.
For example, in 2017, the Lviv City Council approved the Lviv City Culture Development Strategy until 2025. The body responsible for its monitoring and implementation is the Cultural Strategy Institute. The Institute defined the main cultural goals for Lviv:
— decentralization of culture: developed modern cultural infrastructure in all areas of the city, creation of active cultural public spaces
— responsible attitude to cultural heritage
— innovative interdisciplinary cultural education, integrated at all educational levels, targeted at all population groups
— culture as a space of dialogue
— effective funding and management in the cultural sphere
What did this strategy bring the city? At the very least, it brought the emergence of new projects (for example, the Congress of Culture, the development of city media libraries, the study of organizations and communities that shape the cultural landscape of the city) and the improvement of the funding system of the cultural sector (such as the emergence of the city’s Culture Fund). But apart from that, it made the city understand that the strategy is not a static thing and needs to be constantly updated.
In 2021, the Head of the Lviv Cultural Strategy Institute, Yuliia Khomchyn, explained it as follows: “(…) the strategy is not inviolable: we should synchronize with the dynamics of time, change it if there is such a need or call. (…) The successful implementation of the strategy is a common cause for both the authorities, relevant institutions, specific cultural agents, and, of course, the city’s residents. Because everyone is a co-creator of the city as a space, community, and cultural unit.”
A city with no strategy
In 2020, the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Council approved the Development Strategy of the Ivano-Frankivsk Region until 2027. According to it, the city council recorded the Comprehensive Program for the Support and Development of Culture of the Ivano-Frankivsk City Territorial Community in 2021-2025 “aiming to preserve and revitalize the cultural, historical, and spiritual heritage of the city, develop folk amateur creativity, folk art, organize cultural leisure for the city residents and create appropriate conditions to meet the cultural needs of the population and guests of the city.”
This program provides that the community will hold cultural and artistic events (festivals, anniversaries, concerts, etc.), repair cultural institutions, buy art tools and materials, and also pay for the work and training of cultural institutions’ employees using budget money.
It is worth noting the main thing: although the program was developed due to the need to have a plan for the further cultural development of the community, Ivano-Frankivsk still has no clear Culture Strategy.
Ivano-Frankivsk took the first steps towards its development in 2021 when the City Development Strategy was presented. To work on the program, representatives of civil society, cultural institutions, educational and scientific circles, local government and businesses were involved. In particular, the Executive Committee of the City Council, Warm City platform, MORIS Law Firm, Ivano-Frankivsk Drama Theater, King Danylo University, pro.mova company, etc. were among them.
“Two years ago, the Ivano-Frankivsk Drama Theater NGO was created, and one of its tasks was the formation of a multidisciplinary cultural hub based in the drama theater, where different genres of art should intersect: theatrical, visual, musical and literary. The hub aims to become a cultural center of Ivano-Frankivsk with many artists from the city and across Ukraine already gathered around it. And they are ready to take responsibility for the development of the city’s Culture Strategy involving all those willing to help. We also hope for the support of the Ministry of Culture, because there is an understanding that this is important and necessary,” Rostyslav Derzypilskyi, the Director of the Ivano-Frankivsk Drama Theater, says.
Currently, the Strategy team is collecting data for research on how to further build a vision for the future of the city. To understand where and how the culture of Ivano-Frankivsk should move, Yevhen Hlibovytskyi, the managing partner at the pro.mova expert company, suggests talking to local artists.
People of culture on Culture Strategy
“The development of the Culture Strategy in the city and its further effective implementation require reforms at both the state and local levels. The municipality of the community must break the rule according to which ‘culture is financed on the residual principle of the budgeting’ relying on the effective proposals of people who are outside the state structures, but who are interested in the progressive and modern development of culture, and who can and willing to take responsibility for the formation of the cultural environment of the city,” Ostap Ukrainets, a writer and translator, founder and author of the Your Underground Humanitarian YouTube channel, emphasizes.
Ostap says he is ready to join the formation of the Culture Development Strategy of Ivano-Frankivsk. And here is what, in his opinion, can be changed right now:
“The wrong approach lies in the strategy of working with culture in general.
The city’s department of culture should deal with management and not culture. They should determine the direction: what would they like to see in the city?
For example, more street art or more art spaces? Accordingly, officials should turn to people who can and know how to do it, and then finance them, instead of maintaining a network of cultural institutions founded in the Soviet Union and regularly holding concerts on the ‘main stages of the city’. Because they need to ‘impressively’ show that they don’t spend the given money in vain. As a result, these concerts and festivals dedicated to the holidays become the only result of the work of the department of culture. With this method of management, it is basically impossible to build a culture development strategy because it is not designed for the city’s independent cultural institutions, but for people who ‘sit’ in the state offices and hierarchically decide what that culture should look like.”
How could this situation be changed? For example, Ostap Ukrainets suggests creating a competition of cultural projects for all cultural figures, both state and independent. It is the committee that should make a decision on what the city needs. The advantage of this plan is that no additional money should be searched in the budget. It is enough to transfer to an independent competition the money allocated for ‘celebrating events, holding festivals, etc’.
Valerii Tverdokhlib, a restorer and museum worker, expects that the Culture Strategy of the city should also affect museum life:
“Not a single modern museum complex was built in Ivano-Frankivsk during all the years of the independence of Ukraine. From the perspective of development, we should consider the creation of such a complex with new, large storages made according to European norms, where the exhibits would be digitized and open to anyone. The storages must be securely protected from war because what we have now is a disaster. In addition, new museum collections have not been purchased for 30 years already. We are losing priceless samples of Ukrainian art which are often taken abroad forever.
Of course, while the war is going on, we can only put it in the strategy, as well as the creation of modern multimedia exhibitions in the existing museums of the city. After all, our museums are tourist hallmarks of the city, which are often bypassed by its guests because of their Soviet look.”
In the current wartime conditions, the artist Mykola Dzhychka offers ideas that would popularize Ukrainian culture, in particular, the culture of the Prykarpattia region, abroad:
“Culture needs investment.
Currently, the state is unable to pump large amounts of money into art but it can be done precisely at the local level.
For example, by inviting world-class artists to our region and creating art residencies for them. This is important for popularizing the Ukrainian multifaceted cultural world abroad. Once or twice a year, the city can set a theme for residencies: environmental, urban, ethnic or other, which a foreign artist should research in our region and create a corresponding project to then present it to the world. Such residencies do not require significant expenses, compared to the large budgets allocated for the maintenance of a considerably numerous staff of the city’s department of culture and holding of concerts and festivals ‘for them only’.”
Reforming the department of culture is the main goal set by the Ivano-Frankivsk artists in the strategic planning of the city’s culture. Because if reforms do not take place, the independent cultural figures of the city will be able to implement their initiatives only due to the interest of patrons and entrepreneurs. And the Culture Strategy may not have a chance to be implemented at all.