CfP: 2018 Conference of the Association for Arts Management on Cultural Leadership & Innovation

The term “cultural leadership” has gained increasing attention in the discourses of cultural management and cultural policy, as well as in the curricula of international study programmes and higher education programmes. In many of these contexts, “cultural leadership” is presented as a force for innovation and transformation of organizations and societies. The 11th Annual Conference of the Association for Arts Management (Fachverband Kulturmanagement for Germany, Austria & Switzerland) takes this observation as a starting point for an interdisciplinary, international gathering of researchers and practitioners in the field of arts management. The conference will take place from 17 to 20 January 2018 at the University of Music and Theatre Hamburg. The Call for Papers is currently open, the deadline for submissions is 18 June, 2017.

Cultural Leadership and Innovation. Utopias, Strategies and Challenges of Arts Management

The conference focusses on two different aspects, reflecting two different readings of the concept of “cultural leadership”: Firstly, “cultural leadership” is often used as a (usually not clearly defined) term for management and leadership processes in cultural organizations in general. Secondly, the term can also refer more broadly to processes of cultural development and cultural exchange on a bigger social or even international scale, for example in the context of cultural diplomacy.

Focus Area 1: Cultural Leadership in organizations and projects

Arts management research and teaching often focusses on large-scale organizations such as mu- seums, theaters, orchestras, festivals or big players of the creative economy in the music and film industries. However, in many practice fields of arts management small organizations and freelancers form the majority. The conference takes a broad view of leadership in arts manage- ment, covering all artistic spheres and institutional forms ranging from large organizations to informal initiatives, projects and network structures.

In this context, a comparative view seems promising: While concepts such as “distributed lead- ership”, “post-heroic leadership”, or “democratic organization” have long been discussed in gen- eral leadership research, most major cultural organizations – particularly in the German-speak- ing world – are still dominated by a traditional understanding of leadership that is hierarchical and focused on the central figure of the artistic director. In terms of innovation, this traditional- ist perspective can be critically questioned. Increasingly the basis for innovation is seen as a co- creative process, with ideas emerging from the bottom-up without the need for rigid hierarchical structures. Thus, fundamentally conservative organizational cultures and leadership styles in arts organizations could be seen to run counter to pleas for greater innovation in the field, some- thing which has been raised for years by cultural policy makers, protagonists in the arts manage- ment field and audiences. On the other hand, smaller organizations, informal initiatives, or even start-ups in the creative industries might provide examples of an avant-garde for artistic and so- cial innovation, and could give the impetus for new leadership cultures and more courageous approaches towards innovation even in traditional organizations.

Thus, what can arts management research contribute to the subject of leadership in cultural or- ganizations (of all types and sizes)? Which models of leadership seem appropriate for the differ- ent organizational types? How can meaningful changes of the traditional structures that have grown over decades in organizations be implemented? How - if at all - can “cultural leadership” be taught and learned? What case studies can be instructive for research, teaching and practice? These are a sample of some of the questions that can be explored within this focus area of the conference.

Focus Area 2: Cultural Leadership for society and international cooperation

In the second focus area, the term “cultural leadership” is read as emphasizing the broader goal of empowering persons, organizations, or networks to take a leadership role in society as a whole, as well as to promote international cultural, social and political co-operation. Such an understanding can be found, for example, in the British discourse of “cultural leadership” for the “cultural sector” as well as in projects at EU level in the context of cultural diplomacy activities. In this context, too, the term “leadership” rarely seems to be well-defined: In what conditions can people, organizations or networks assume such a “leadership role” and how can “cultural leadership” be understood within the context of international co-operation, when for example assumptions of superiority by Western states have long been discredited? In light of the numer- ous social and cultural challenges at the local, regional, international and global level, what can be the contribution of arts management in general and “cultural leadership” in particular in ad- dressing contemporary crises? To what extent can the concept of "cultural leadership" be a help or a hindrance to innovation in research, teaching and the practice field? How can research help to answer these questions? What degree of value-oriented normativity can or should interdisci- plinary research and teaching have in this context? What role should cultural leadership play in teaching? What case studies exist in the practice of arts management and cultural policy - and what are the expectations of these fields towards academic research and teaching? Yet again, these are merely examples of the kinds of questions, which can be discussed in this focus area of the conference.

Utopias, Strategies and Challenges

The subtitle of the conference is intended as a transversal theme for both focus areas. Is the de- sire for new forms of leadership in cultural organizations a utopian ideal? Or could new forms of leadership contribute to the development of entirely new utopias for organizations or even soci- eties? How can such utopias be translated into strategic practice and what is the value of the concept of strategy in the context of cultural leadership and innovation? Finally, there is the question whether some - utopian as well as concrete strategic - expectations of new forms of cul- tural leadership might carry the risk of overburdening arts management. In times when cultural policy focusses primarily on the social and economic value of arts organizations, one might ask whether cultural management is able (and willing) to perform the roles which it is ascribed by policy makers. Possibly, concepts such as “cultural leadership” might have implications which are not even compatible with more fundamental values of the artistic and cultural spheres. These and other skeptical and critical perspectives are equally welcome at the conference.

Research, teaching, dialogue with the practice field

The conference aims to focus equally on the academic tasks of research, teaching and dialogue with practitioners in the field. We will offer formats for the discussion of (empirical as well as theoretical) research projects, for exchange on questions of curriculum design/ learning pro- cesses and conversations with arts management practitioners across all artistic forms, from large institutions to informal initiatives, projects and network structures. The conference is open to presenters of completed as well as ongoing projects. We are particularly interested in a plural- istic, transdisciplinary exchange, including the integration of international perspectives and those of experts in the field. In addition, alternative conference formats (such as Open Spaces, Roundtables, Workshops, Master Classes, etc.) will be integrated in addition to the established conference formats (lectures & panels).

Submit a proposal

Individual presentations, proposals for panel discussions (90 minutes) as well as suggestions for workshops or other - experimental - formats are welcome for the conference.

For individual contributions (presentations), the proposals should consist of an abstract with max. 2,500 characters plus a brief biography. For workshops, panel discussions or other formats an abstract of max. 2,500 characters for the overall format as well as further abstracts on the in- dividual contributions (if applicable) and short biographies of contributors should be submitted. The conference is open for contributions in English and German.

Deadline: June 18, 2017.

Papers should be submitted to:

The selection of proposals is carried out in a joint review process by the conference team and the advisory board. Notifications of acceptance and rejection shall be made by 31 July 2017.

Conference Website:
Website of the Association for Arts Management (in German):

Management Topic: Organisation & Leadership
Cultural Area: General
Submitted by editor-in-chief on Apr 25, 2017