The 2020 cycle of the Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship (ACE) program opened last week with the launch of its first workshop in Beirut, bringing together the program’s 16 participating Cultural Managers along with 18 regional and international experts from the Arab region, North Africa, Brazil, India, and the UK.
The intense five-day ACE workshop worked as an ice-breaker, giving the ACE participants the chance to meet and exchange first ideas about their context, their success stories and challenges with the program’s specialists and mentors, as well as with the regional and international experts. The experts in turn offered valuable insights about the latest trends in their respective geographical areas, while representatives of the corporate world presented their needs, requirements and visions. Burning topics such as social enterprises, the creative industries, cultural policies and audience cultivation were at the heart of the first workshop, spurring vibrant discussions and raising pertinent questions. Group reflections, peer visits to local cultural institutions, and a final pitching exercise created the space for the participants to engage, rethink and question the relevance of their work in their respective communities.
The ACE 2020 participants hail from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, and Lebanon, thereby bringing a wealth of experiences and perspectives into the discussions, yet at the same time, revealing striking similarities in their challenges and concerns, whether at the regional level or with the Global South at large. Lively exchanges expanded the horizons of the participating institutions and opened up possibilities for future collaborations.
In the framework of the ACE workshop, a public discussion was organized around the theme of “Adapting to Challenging Contexts: Stories and Experiences”. The session allowed for an open exchange between a panel of three seasoned practitioners from the ACE 2020 line-up of experts - Arundhati Ghosh (India), Leandro Valiati (Brazil), and Dounia Benslimane (Morocco) - and representatives from cultural entities in Lebanon, in the presence of the ACE participants. The three panelists shared their challenges and respective stories with the audience, thereby opening up the discussion about the role of cultural institutions in volatile and often repressive environments.
This first ACE 2020 workshop will be followed by two others, in end-April and end-July respectively, and will be intersected with customized mentorships, culminating with an incentive grant which will allow each participating institution to fund a specific institutional activity that has been inspired by the program.
ACE is a special program launched in 2018 by AFAC, in partnership with Drosos Foundation and with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office. Envisioned to complement existing institutional capacity-building initiatives in the region, ACE offers a creative environment and an intimate space to reflect on challenges and sustainability, exposing the participants to different mindsets and allowing for reflection and adaptation of experiences that resonate with opportunities back home.