Written by: Johanne Tremblay
Translated by: Penelope Kerr
Culture pour tous is a non-profit Quebec organization whose mission is "to help ensure that the arts and culture are recognized as essential aspects of individual and collective development by promoting citizen participation in cultural life."
With 17 years of experience under its belt, supported by the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec and by numerous private and public sector organizations, Culture pour tous is recognized for its expertise in taking action to promote citizen access to and appropriation of the arts and culture. The following is a retrospective on an organization that has embedded itself in the cultural, political and social landscape of Quebec, notably through its creation of les Journées de la culture.
Les Journées de la culture
Considered an important movement for cultural democratization in North America, the concept of les Journées de la culture came out of European Heritage Days, which was established in 1991 by the Council of Europe and modelled on the "Journées portes ouvertes des monuments historiques" (Historical Monuments Open Doors Days) created in 1984 in France. The Journées de la culture movement continues to grow, with the rest of the Canadian provinces having adopted these days in 2010 under the banner of Culture Days.
The idea of creating a movement to promote cultural democratization in Quebec was formulated in 1996 by leaders of Quebec's cultural milieu at the Sommet sur l'économie et emploi (Summit on economy and employment). The project was well-received by the government, who agreed to propose, at the National Assembly of Quebec, the adoption of a decree proclaiming the last Friday of September and the two following days of each year to be Journées nationales de la culture ("national days of culture"). The motion carried unanimously on June 17th, 1997.
For their 17th edition, les Journées de la culture took place in 353 Quebec municipalities, where over 3,200 free activities were put on by as many organizers. The public responded enthusiastically to the invitation: 232,000 citizens participated in the activities offered on September 27th, 28th and 29th, 2013.
Les Journées de la culture have become a much-anticipated autumnal gathering, steadily gaining more and more recognition. Indeed, according to a Léger research report completed in October 2013, 66% of Québécois know about les Journées de la culture and 65% have a good understanding of les Journées' mission, which is to make cultural accessible to all.
More than a promotional platform, Les Journées de la culture have become a laboratory in which to develop cultural practices and forge new connections between artists and the community. They also provide an opportunity for collective reflection on the place that arts and culture occupy in our lives.
While at the very beginning les Journées de la culture were carried out by professional artists and cultural organizations only, they are now done in collaboration with municipalities, schools, and multiple stakeholders in local cultural life," explains Louise Sicuro, President and CEO of Culture pour tous.
Les Journées de la culture benefit from alliances with numerous associations such as the network Les Arts et la Ville, which invites Quebec municipalities to download and adopt a resolution proclaiming the last Friday of September and the two following days "Journées de la culture."
A significant advantage not to be left out of the equation: the original promotional campaigns, designed by one of the best publicity agencies in Quebec and graciously retransmitted by various media partners. These campaigns have allowed les Journées de la culture to become a platform for foregrounding the value that Quebec attaches to arts and culture.
Looking at this information, and taking into account the fact that 81% of event organizers want to repeat the experience and say that their participation has positive effects, we can safely conclude that the movement is here to stay.
Les Journées de la culture need to play a role in transforming the way we understand what art, culture and heritage consist of, and need to help us better grasp the importance of supporting the arts and culture long-term."
From Journées de la culture to Culture pour tous ("Culture for all")
It was in 2006 that the Secretariat of les Journées de la culture, which wished to "better reflect its mission," changed its legal name to Culture pour tous ("Culture for all"). The scope of its action has expanded to today encompass spheres as diverse as youth, cities and districts, health, territories, social inclusion, the workplace, cultural development and participatory practices.
Culture pour tous is constantly playing a significant role by proposing alliances with businesses, schools and municipalities and by multiplying zones of exchange and discussion to highlight the value of culture in our neighbourhoods, our towns and our cities," says Yves Dupré, President of the Culture pour tous Board and Committee.
The organization actively works to increase the presence of culture in the social milieu with numerous initiatives such as Culture in Business, Cultural Logbook for elementary schools, and Passeurs de rêves, a cultural mentorship project for high school students. Using the cultural mediation model, Culture pour tous works with cultural workers and artists to develop strategies for strengthening ties between the arts/culture and the public.
Educational and research activities in cultural mediation are at the heart of Culture pour tous' actions. Ever year, symposiums, seminars, conferences and workshops are offered and shared via a web portal on cultural mediation.
Culture pour tous is also at the root of a publication from the Presses de l'Université du Québec à Montréal entitled La médiation culturelle: le sens des mots et l'essence des pratiques (Cultural mediation: the meaning of the words and the essence of the practices) under the direction of Jean-Marie Lafortune, as well as an informative toolkit on Agenda 21 compiled at the request of the Ministry of Culture and Communications. In partnership with Canal Savoir, Télé-Québec and l'Université du Québec à Montréal, Culture pour tous also produced a television series, Cultural Mediation: Creating Together, which can be viewed on the web portal on cultural mediation (and here with English subtitles).
Cultural mediation is gaining ground
At Culture pour tous, cultural mediation refers to the processes of establishing contact between cultural and social spheres and taking action to put individuals at the heart of the cultural appropriation process.
In 2006, on the 10th anniversary of les Journées de la culture, Culture pour tous organized the first collective creation project (The Convertibles), inspired by the community art branch of the Biennale of Contemporary Art of Lyon.
Taking place on the Plains of Abraham at the foot of the Musée national des beaux-arts de Québec, the event illustrated Culture pour tous' stance on cultural mediation: a wide, inclusive definition of the concept with collaborative processes at its core. It also engaged researchers in dialogue, in the form of a research group that combined the forces of Culture pour tous and l'Université du Québec à Montréal, à Chicoutimi and à Trois-Rivières with the aim of developing professional and academic expertise in the field of cultural mediation. Culture pour tous has in this way contributed to the emergence of the term "cultural mediation" in the public cultural sphere of Quebec.
On June 4th, 2013, at a professional day titled "Behind the scenes of cultural mediation," Culture pour tous noted the presence of a real passion for cultural mediation-related issues and practices.
In the coming years, the organization will work at establishing regional cultural mediation innovation groups – CRIMC – structured around collaboration between diverse regional bodies whose focuses are cultural development and citizen participation. The CRIMCs will implement training and networking activities and support the launch of local initiatives.
Surrounding the person appointed to coordinate the CRIMCs in each region are the regional management teams of the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec, regional cultural councils, municipal cultural services, local development services, Chambers of Commerce, university departments, and units of the Centre for research on social innovations.
The CRIMCs' objectives are threefold:
- To promote the economic contribution of arts and culture to the development of communities;
- To further the consolidation and growth of cultural mediation initiatives as well as the emergence of new fields of activity;
- To better equip those who are engaged in local development for cross-industry work with the goal of improving the quality of life and well-being of their communities as a whole through arts and culture.
The project aims to develop connections between regional bodies in cultural, social and economic fields in order to contribute to the implementation of integrated sustainable development principles and practices," explains Eva Quintas, Project/Cultural Mediation Director.
Culture pour tous has noted a dual effect of its actions in Quebec: its research and training activities have interested national and municipal government officers, and have also appealed to artists and cultural organizations who want to adopt and develop new artistic and cultural practices.
Click on the link to hear Louise Sicuro discuss the impacts of les Journées de la culture and of cultural mediation projects (in French):
Another observation: les Journées de la culture are rallying more and more municipalities, cultural organizations, artists and academic establishments to their cause. Louise Sicuro notes the visible effects of les Journées' work in raising awareness in the population, "which is more conscious of the value of the arts and culture in its living space."
After years of thinking of the role of artists only in terms of supply and demand, of distribution and support of creation, cultural policies now seem to be expanding their field of application to better take into account artistic practices in society," says Eva Quintas.
On the topic of cultural mediation and its future, Eva Quintas takes a positive view of the fact that "governments and cities get something out of it and the social function of art is recognized." She nevertheless draws attention to the need to put the notion of mediation in action: "there are all kinds of cutbacks and not enough financial support," she says, the social and financial responsibility resting entirely on the shoulders of the cultural sector. "It's great to recognize that art has this function, but it's also necessary to give art the means to fulfill it, because it's a project of society."
Since 1997, Culture pour tous has been creating connections between art, culture and society, privileging the cultural mediation strategy. The organization has invested in research, the creation of innovative participatory projects, the development and exchange of resources and networks, and knowledge-sharing. It has built itself up, moving from a secretariat for les Journées de la culture to Culture pour tous, and has grown thanks to its ambassadors, sustained advocacy activities and the professionalization of its actions, which it has made sure to deploy in an increasing number of sectors.
The development of arts and culture in society inevitably involves a long-term process of constant work on the ground, accomplished with the efforts of people who are committed to creating a better shared existence.
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